This will be the first of hundreds of blogs throughout the high school sports year on the all new “Prep Rally.”
And really, what better way to launch it than with a preview of one of the best football teams in the state of Florida playing one of the best football teams in the state of Alabama on national TV?
So, without further adieu, here’s a quick primer on Niceville vs. Clay-Chalkville.
Three things to expect
- Points. So many points. ESPN picked a good one to televise, pitting the highest scoring team in the state of Alabama (Clay-Chalkville scored 45 points per game last year en route to a 10-2 record) against a Niceville team who put up nearly 40 per game. Add in the fact that the Eagles return Eli Stove, took in Romeo Finley, and have a healthy Shi’Kim Coward while the Cougars return senior running back and Middle Tennessee State recruit Terrelle West (231 carries, 2,084 yards, 23 touchdowns in two years on varsity), and we’re going to have ourselves a high-scoring affair.
- Opened playbooks. In the long run, this game means nothing aside from a tally on one column or the other. A loss to an Alabama team is completely inconsequential for a Florida team’s playoff hopes and vise versa. There is no reason for Niceville coach John Hicks not to experiment a little with a few wrinkles he may have added in the offseason just to see what works.
- Heat. If you plan on attending the game, bring one of those awesome spray bottles with the little fan at the end, or a few tons of ice, or something. It’s forecasted to be 107 degrees on the field in Hoover on Saturday.
Three things to watch
- Colby Tuthill. It will be interesting to see how quickly the Fort Walton Beach transfer quarterback has meshed with his opponents-turned-teammates (Stove actually picked him off last year).Niceville has all the pieces on offense — running back in Coward, explosive receiving in Stove and Finley, stacked offensive line — so we’ll see how Tuthill does in his debut.
- Coward vs. West. Coward downplayed the significance of a running back battle between he and Clay-Chalkville’s speedy back, but this doesn’t mean there won’t be one. Coward is finally healthy, and West is coming off a huge year for the Cougars. There could be some large numbers put up between the two.
- Defense. It’s easy to look at the loaded offensive rosters and peg this to be a shootout, and I fully expect it to be one. But both Niceville and Clay-Chalkville are brimming with talent on the defensive side of the ball too. Clay-Chalkville returns nine starters from its 10-2 team from 2013, including three Division I recruits, while Niceville allowed more than three touchdowns just four times in its state final run last year.
Gary Lloyd of the Trussville Tribune was kind enough to provide a brief scouting report on the Alabama team. Here’s what he had to say:
“As far as Clay-Chalkville, very good team, obviously. Offense will be really good (scored the most point in Alabama high school football last season with 540) and defense returns nine starters.
Terrelle West (Middle Tennessee) commit is the main RB. He can bull some people over, but he's one of the fastest players in metro Birmingham. Junior WR T.J. Simmons has 3 scholarship offers and is a threat downfield and across the middle. Tyrell Pigrome is the new QB, a junior who can run it and throw it. He has a lot to prove Saturday. Offensive line is always stout at CCHS. They provide good protection.
Defensively, LaDarius Harris is a senior DL who's committed to Southern Miss. Played LB until this year, but has gained a lot of weight and muscle. He's the strongest guy on the team, no doubt. He's a force. Kendell Jones is a DE committed to Mississippi State, and I think he still hasn't reached his potential. His size is great -- 6-4, 250 -- and he can play standing up or with the hand in the ground. He's primed for a breakout season. Kam Prewitt is a senior CB committed to Memphis. He's played safety throughout high school until this season, and I look to him as a ballhawk. The rest of the defense is comprised of "glue guys," but they're all really good. Small at LB positions but really fast.”
Niceville 42, Clay-Chalkville 28.
This requires some transparency on my part. I’m still fairly new here. I have never seen a high school football game in Florida. I have never seen a high school football game in Alabama.
I have never seen Niceville play and had never heard of Clay-Chalkville prior to the release of the schedule.
I am, for lack of a more flattering description, completely clueless. The only thing I know about either of these teams comes from the dozen or so interviews I have done, several newspaper articles, emailing with Lloyd, and watching an hour of a Niceville practice in which they wore shorts and helmets.
I know next to nothing.
That said, I’m a sports writer, which means I always think I’m right when it comes to predicting games, and I stand by it.
Also, Lloyd offered his own prediction: Clay-Chalkville 38, Niceville 31.