James Jones column: Is football ready to surpass basketball in Dallas County?

Published 10:48 am Wednesday, December 27, 2023

When I arrived at The Selma Times-Journal during the spring of 2018, one of the first things I heard was about Selma-Dallas County being known for its high quality basketball.

Football has caught up to the hoops and may soon pass it. The Alabama Sportswriters Association (ASWA) All-State football team is strong evidence of my theory.

Six Dallas County players made the all-state: Southside wide receivers Derick Smith, Erick Smith and quarterback MJ Reese, Morgan Academy defensive back Milton Hand, offensive lineman Caine McLaughlin and Keith linebacker Jarius Sanders.

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I am proud and honored to play a big role in the selection process for the kids in our area. I get recommendations from head coaches, not parents, relatives, fans or co-workers that have friends that play football.

I assure the coaches that I will do everything in my power to get Selma and Dallas County players onto the team. Sometimes it works. Other times, it does not work.

I did so much begging that you would think I was proposing to a woman for marriage.

For example, my goal was to get Derick Smith on the Class 3A first team, Smith made the squad as an athlete. In 2022, he made the first team defense at defensive back.

I saw some comments on Social Media during Christmas weekend that Smith’s twin brother, Erick Smith, should’ve gotten first team honors. Getting Erick Smith either second team or honorable mention worked for me. The same went for Reese, who got honorable mention honors.

I was also pleased that Morgan Academy got a pair of second-teamers on the Alabama Independent School Association (AISA) team with McLaughlin and Hand, especially that the Senators went 1-9.

Keith linebacker Jarius Sanders getting honorable mention recognition was one I sold hard because Keith lost to Georgiana 61-0 in the 1A state playoffs. Some folks might see that another way. My words to the committee were: “Believe me, this kid can play. His statistics are the real deal.”

I enjoy fighting for recognition to Dallas County athletes and look forward to doing this again next year.