Local players picked for all-star game

FLORENCE — The 40-man roster was released Tuesday for the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star football game that will be played Dec. 13 at Montgomery's Cramton Bowl.

The contest, which showcases the top seniors in each state, features Florence's Keaton Anderson and Dee Smith along with Muscle Shoals kicker/punter Rhett Morrison and coach Scott Basden, who will be an assistant under former Florence coach Jamey Dubose, now at Central-Phenix City.

Anderson, who is committed to Alabama, leads the Falcons with 75 tackles and two forced fumbles, while Smith, who holds multiple SEC and ACC offers, boasts two interceptions and 38 tackles.

"It's definitely an honor," Anderson said. "There are so many good high school football players, and it's an honor to represent my school and state.

"It's going to be great having Dee with me and having a chance to play with him. It'll also be cool to play with some of the guys I've played against and reunite with coach Dubose and play one last game with him."

Smith said he won't take the opportunity for granted.

"It's a really big deal to me," Smith said. "My brother was a part of this, so it's good to keep it in the family.

"I won't feel any pressure going up against (top receivers). I love the competition."

Morrison, who is listed as the only kicker/punter on the roster, has done his part for the Trojans, averaging 40.2 yards per punt and has added two field goals.

"It's like a dream come true," Morrison said. "I've watched the game these past few years and my dream was to be in one. It's exciting I can't really believe it. I feel like it's a great opportunity that's been handed to me."

No small role
Florence High’s Olive may be undersized, but not overmatched

FLORENCE — At 5-foot-10, 178 pounds Tyler Olive is undersized at the center position, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he plays.

The Florence senior offensive lineman has helped the team to a 5-2, 4-0 record in Class 6A, Region 8.

The Falcons, who are averaging 30.7 points per game, will clinch first place in the region with a win against Hartselle on Friday.

“I just come out every day and know that I am the underdog in the situation,” Olive said. “I’ve got to try that much harder every day. I just know to keep myself grounded and respect my opponent because they have the size advantage.”

Olive regularly goes up against defenders more than 6-feet tall and about 230 pounds, but Olive is able to withstand the push.

Olive said he grades out between the high 70s and mid 90s.

“He’s a die-hard (player),” coach J.B. Wallace said. “He doesn’t quit and works hard, and that’s what I like about him. He gets after it every play. He’s dealing with adverse situations around 90 percent of the time because he’s going against somebody bigger than him, but he never quits and always wins.”

The Falcons primarily use a zone-blocking scheme, and Olive is in charge of making most of the calls at the line.

“Because I’m the center, I have to know the scheme and it helps,” Olive said. “I do work on technique a little bit more because it helps. It’s all about coming off low when you have a bigger guy. It’s not about who’s stronger, but who has the leverage.”

Wallace said Olive’s technique is outstanding, but he also has a winning mentality that is difficult to teach.

“A lot of it is technique, but when you start dealing with a guy that’s (bigger) than you, a lot of it is mentality,” Wallace said. “It all depends on how you step to the challenge and approach it. He does have great technique, but his mentality wins a lot of battles for him because he doesn’t know how to quit.

“That’s probably the most improved position that we have on our team.”

Olive said being a senior comes with a lot of responsibility, and the team has done a great job of bonding and trusting one another.

“We have a lot of chemistry,” Olive said. “We hang out outside of school and during school we have a lot of classes together. We’re really just close friends, so we work well together.”

Junior right guard Mike Beasley said Olive surprises defenses when he’s able to endure a powerful defensive tackle.

“He’s an amazing athlete,” Beasley said. “Despite his size, he goes up against guys a lot bigger and a lot stronger and he beats them almost every time. He just shrugs off (the trash talk). He knows that he’s better, so he doesn’t need to talk back.”

Playoff picture shapes up
Florence already clinches berth in 6A Region 8

FLORENCE — With only three weeks left in the high school football regular season, teams are jostling for playoff positions.

Florence (5-2, 4-0) has already clinched a playoff berth and sits atop Class 6A, Region 8. The Falcons will host a first-round playoff game if they defeat Hartselle (5-2, 2-2) on Friday night, and could clinch the top seed if Decatur (5-2, 3-1) loses at Cullman (4-3, 2-2).

Decatur's loss to Muscle Shoals dropped it to second, while the Trojans (5-2, 3-2) have surged to third place, tied with Hartselle. Muscle Shoals has an off week before playing its final region game at home against Cullman. The Trojans, which defeated Hartselle and Decatur in head-to-head meetings, own the tiebreaker.

"I think our guys are doing what we asked them to do," Muscle Shoals coach Scott Basden said. I think we've gotten better each week.… I don't think any night you can overlook anybody or you can get beat. It's happened to us and happened to some other people."

Russellville will secure second place in Class 5A, Region 8 with a win against Lawrence County on Friday. The Golden Tigers (6-1, 4-1) trail first-place East Limestone by a game and will likely finish the season in second and host a first-round playoff game, as the Indians can wrap up the region with a win against West Point or Ardmore.

In Class 4A, Region 8, Deshler (6-1, 5-0) can clinch first place in the region with a win over Brooks (4-3, 3-2) or Rogers in its last two region games. Wilson (6-1, 4-1) is in second and should seal its position with a victory over winless East Lawrence, while Elkmont (5-2, 3-2) will finish third if it beats Rogers (2-5, 1-4) and East Lawrence. A lot of uncertainty hangs with the fourth playoff spot, which could be decided when Brooks travels to Central (3-4, 2-3) on Oct. 24.

"We have some momentum going because of the leadership of our guys," Deshler coach Jake Linville said. "We've developed a consistency on offense and defense. It's been very exciting for us. The community has been very supportive and has been great."

Fayette County (5-2, 4-0) is atop Class 4A, Region 5 and should finish first with a win over second-place Cordova (5-2, 3-1) on Oct. 24, while Haleyville (6-2, 3-2) is in third place with only one region game remaining. If the Lions beat Danville and Fayette County defeats Cordova, they will move into second place since they own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Hamilton (5-2, 2-2), which topped Haleyville, will secure a playoff spot if it wins its final two region games.

Madison Academy (6-1, 5-0) will take first place in Class 3A, Region 8. Lauderdale County (6-2, 4-1) is currently in second and should host a playoff game if it takes care of business against West Morgan and Clements, teams that have combined for only one win. Colbert County (4-2, 3-2), Lexington (6-2, 3-2) and Sheffield (4-3, 3-2) are tied for third, but will separate themselves Friday when Lexington plays Sheffield. Colbert County, which owns the tiebreaker over Lexington, will play Sheffield on Oct. 24.

Red Bay (7-1, 5-0) clinched first in Class 2A, Region 8 with its win over Hatton (4-2, 2-2). Sulligent (3-4, 3-1) is in second place, but will drop if Phil Campbell (4-4, 3-2) wins during their meeting Friday. Hatton's game at Tharptown (2-5, 2-2) on Friday will likely decide the final team to make the playoffs.

"Our kids put us in this position and this gives us time to work on ourselves," Red Bay coach Michael Jackson said. "We have an open week and then senior night to get healthy and ready for the playoffs.

"The Red Bay community supports our team so well and these guys are getting better and better each week."