James Jones column: High School football opens Thursday

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Prep football in Dallas County officially gets underway on Thursday night when Selma and Beauregard square off.

Morgan Academy and Keith High open their respective seasons on Friday night. Southside and Dallas County open on Sept. 1, Labor Day weekend.

This year will be my 34th straight year covering prep football.

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The journey goes back to 1990, when I was a Sports Correspondent with The Tuscaloosa News while a student at Stillman College.  I usually covered teams in Sumter County and Marengo County like, Linden, Sumter, Central and Demopolis.

Flash forward to the present, 33 years later, and I am still tied to those teams because Keith, Selma and Southside are region rivals with those same teams. 

The Bears are region rivals with Linden in 1A. The Saints are longtime rivals with Demopolis. The Panthers are rivals with Sumter Central in 3A.

In college, I occasionally covered Tuscaloosa Academy when they were in the Alabama Independent School Assocation (AISA) with Morgan Academy.  The Knights are in AHSAA now.

High school sports coverage was a great learning experience for me.

During the 26 years in between, I was a sports reporter, later sports editor, with the Biloxi Sun Herald on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Between eating hamburger po-boys, gumbo and Cajun chicken, covering prep football in the state of Alabama never left me.

During my time in Mississippi, some of the teams in Moss Point, Ocean Springs or Gulfport occasionally played teams in Mobile and Montgomery, and I got the chance to see the Mississippi vs. Alabama All-Star Football Classic, usually played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile during those days.

The last All-Star game I covered was in 2008, when a St. Paul quarterback named A.J. McCarron dominated that game.

I was so impressed with McCarron that I called my sports editor and said that Alabama is going to win a bunch of national titles under coach Nick Saban and that quarterback.

And I was right. The Crimson Tide won three national titles (2009, 2011, 2012) with McCarron on the squad.  Alabama almost won a fourth and would have if not for the Kick 6 in 2013 and a misfiring of Crimson Tide kicker Cade Foster. 

Two former Selma High standouts, offensive guard Jeremiah Wright and safety Dakaari Nelson, have a chance to make college memories now – at Auburn and Penn State, respectively.

Just like my memories with McCarron, Selma residents will be able to look back and recall the high school days of Wright and Nelson someday.