In junior high, or middle school football, coaches are routinely asked to run the offenses and defenses being used at the varsity level.
Last year for instance, new Arab coaches Oscar Glasscock and offensive coordinator Randall Martin installed the Wing-T offense. Thus, that meant Arab Junior High head coach Jason Guger and his offensive coor-dinator, Mike Shipp were to do the same with the seventh and eighth grade teams.
Guger was happy but Shipp was ecstatic. He’d had good success calling plays in the Wing-T before.
By the end of the season, Arab’s varsity offense was beginning to make some big plays. The eighth grade team went undefeated.
Then Glasscock moved on to Cullman and he was replaced by Lee Ozmint, who brought with him offensive coordinator Michael Darden. They would not employ the Wing-T but said Arab’s new offense would be similar in philosophy.
Even after watching a few varsity practices, I still wasn’t sure what that meant. Then I met with Guger and Shipp to talk about Arab’s junior high teams and I brought up the “new” offensive philosophy.
It’s not a new philosophy, it’s just run from a different formation, they said.
Shipp mentioned the new formation would replace a fullback with an H-back. Not to be confused with a halfback, the H-back is an offensive position where the player is set back from the line of scrimmage and carries out duties similar to those of a tight end and a fullback.
The player in this position runs passing routes, blocks and provides pass protection.
“There will be more shotgun,” Shipp said. “We and they will be in a pistol most of the time.
“We’ll move the H-back around a lot. That was the fullback last year.”
Shipp and Guger both said the subtle shift will be no problem, for the junior high teams or the varsity Knights.
Guger, though, was a little disappointed, for personal reasons.
“I played fullback, so that’s kind of a blow,” he joked.
Please note there is a late change for the seventh and eighth grade teams’ jamboree on Thursday. There will be two opponents – Meridianville and Locust Fork – rather than one – Hartselle.
A full listing of the games is on page 10B.
• The three high school teams featured in this special section all have legitimate reasons for optimism this football season.
Arab, with Ozmint now at the helm, is getting rave reviews from everyone close to the program, including the players. He’s brought an energy to the program unlike any I’ve ever seen.
Over the summer, after a particularly grueling workout, Ozmint left the field and then returned to get a big water cooler from the bench area at the Pit.
I was talking to Michael Pruitt about some wrestling matters – he’s also an assistant coach with the junior high football teams – and Ozmint came walking up beside us.
I joked to him, “Coach, if you win three games this year, people will carry that water for you.”
Ozmint didn’t say a word.
I continnued talking to Pruitt while Ozmint dumped water from the cooler he was carrying and another.
Finally, he said, “We’re not shooting for three wins. Three wins is not our goal.”
At that point, I knew Arab had the right man in charge.
At Brindlee Mountain, head coach Keith Garner is looking for better days for his football team. After a disastrous 2018 season, the Lions have a core of returning players, a few key transfers and some athletes in other sports who Garner has been able to recruit to the football field.
I won’t make a prediction for the season. The Lions have just one senior and more cheerleaders than football players.
But I do think the Lions will beat Asbury in the opener Friday, at home.
Brewer coach Geoff Walters lost two players who’ve gone on to play at the next level but he’s privately confident his Patriots can actually build on one of their best seasons in years.
Brewer went 8-3 last season and 5-2 in Class 5A, Region 8 to finish third and make the playoffs, where they lost at Southside-Gadsden in first round of the playoffs.
Walters doesn’t hope Brewer continues to make strides. He expects it.
“We’re at a level now where we can compete week to week,” he said. “A lot of hard work has put us in that position. Football here is year-round here now.
“It’s exciting for the kids and the school to be competitive every game.”
Walters also might have an elite kicker this season, too. He recruited soccer player Thomas Gipner to kick for the football team, and he’s had a lot of success on long field goals under pressure, Walters said.
How did he get the senior to play football?
“I convinced him I didn’t hate soccer,” Walters joked.