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Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

The No. 2 Alabama football team enters Thursday's College Football Playoff semifinal contest against Michigan State as a prohibitive favorite according to the Las Vegas odds, and most of the national analysts are also tending to lean toward Nick Saban's 12-1 and SEC champion Crimson Tide squad as well in the Cotton Bowl.

Of course that hardly means anything at this point in the season, when all four playoff teams are battered and bruised after a long season, but must still find the resolve, focus and motivation to battle for college football's ultimate prize.

By Stan J. Griffin: December 21, 2015

As the University of Alabama basketball team was able to maintain a double-digit advantage for a good portion of the first half against Oregon Monday night, it appeared that Avery Johnson's Crimson Tide team had a great shot of extending its win streak to six games, while gaining another impressive victory for the non-conference resume.
The  Ducks had other ideas, and a strong second-half surge by Dana Altman's team was able to overcome a career game by Tide sophomore guard and Birmingham native Justin Coleman as Oregon nipped Alabama 72-68 in an entertaining affair at Birmingham's Legacy Arena.
The Tide fell to 7-3 on the season while Oregon improved to 10-2.
The early portion of The Vulcan Classic was dictated by runs from both teams.
With Alabama up 5-2, the Ducks used a 6-0 run to go up by three points at 8-5, but Coleman had a personal 9-0 run for the Tide as Alabama moved back on top 14-8 at the 12:08 mark of the first half. The overall Tide run grew to 12-0 and put UA up 17-8.
With the lead at 17-14 after Oregon scored six in a row, Alabama tallied five-straight points as the Crimson Tide built its advantage to 22-14 at the 8:05 mark.
Riley Norris hit a trey with just under seven minutes remaining to boost the lead to double-digits at 28-18. and a Brandon Austin dunk built the Alabama lead to 32-20 at the 5:32 mark.
Oregon cut the lead to nine points on one occasion after this, but at the half, Alabama maintained a 38-26 advantage, thanks in large part to the 12 points of Coleman.
With the Tide up 40-28 in the second half, the wheels began to wobble a bit for the Crimson Tide and the Ducks began to heat up offensively while also turning it up a notch on the defensive end.

By Stan J. Griffin: December 16, 2015

Avery Johnson's University of Alabama basketball team finally returned to Coleman Coliseum Wednesday after nearly a month on the road, although that stretch away from home may have seemed like an eternity at times for Johnson and his Crimson Tide players.
Still, the Tide entered its game against the Winthrop Eagles riding a four-game win streak, and despite the fact that the visitors put forth a stubborn effort against Alabama the entire way, a 17-2 run by the home team in the second half proved pivotal as Johnson's team gained a 72-60 triumph.
Alabama, with its fifth-straight win, improved to 7-2 on the season while Winthrop fell to 6-3.
The first half was close the entire way as Alabama, playing without junior forward Shannon Hale due to an undisclosed medical condition, struggled offensively most of the first 20 minutes.
Both teams traded leads early, but with Alabama up 11-9, the visitors used a 6-0 run to take a lead of 15-11 at the 8:34 mark of the half.
With Winthrop still leading 18-15, Tide freshman guard Brandon Austin hit a trey and another bucket to put Alabama back in the lead 20-18 at the 6:30 mark.
With the Tide up 25-20 after consecutive buckets by Arthur Edwards, Keon Johnson, who had a game-high 17 points in the first half for Winthrop, led the Eagles on a 7-0 spurt to give them a 27-25 advantage.
Sophomore Jimmie Taylor, however, scored five-consecutive points for the Crimson Tide to put Alabama back on top 30-27 at the 1:17 mark.
The Tide led 32-27 at the intermission after finishing the first half on a 7-0 run.

By Stan J. Griffin: December 16, 2015

As the high school football season was winding down for schools in the Tuscaloosa/West Alabama area, the prep basketball season was just beginning to heat up.
Now with the gridiron season totally over following the Super 7 championships, basketball teams from all over the area can focus on big seasons on the hardwood, with hopeful roundball titles to come down the road.
A few local teams have begun the season in good form, and in fact several of those squads were included in the ranks as the Alabama Sports Writers Association (ASWA) released its first basketball poll of the season recently.
On the boy's side in the 5A ASWA rankings, the Central Falcons were ranked No. 6 after a 7-2 start while in Class 4A Bibb County was ranked No. 3 after the Choctaws won five of their first seven games.
A couple of local schools are included in the Class 3A rankings, including the No. 3 Hale County Wildcats (who started 7-2) and the No. 5 Winfield Pirates (5-0).  Hale County improved to 9-2 Tuesday with 62-61 nailbiter over Francis Marion. Herbert Jones led the Wildcats with 26 points, 16 boards and 10 steals.

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

By Stan J. Griffin: December 14 2015

After seeing standout running back Derrick Henry gain the University of Alabama football program's second Heisman Trophy on Saturday, the Crimson Tide gained more big news Monday.
UA head football coach Nick Saban announced that strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran, considered one of the nation's best in that category, will remain in his current position with the Crimson Tide.
There had been speculation that Cochran might join Kirby Smart at the University of Georgia, where Smart was recently named as the Bulldogs' new head coach.
Cochran has been a part of the Alabama football program for each of the last nine seasons, and is one of the most popular members of the Crimson Tide staff due to his familiar "Yeah, Yeah Yeah!" chant and his endless energy on the sidelines and in the Tide strength and conditioning room.
“I appreciate everything The University of Alabama has done for me and my family during our nine years here," said Cochran in a statement by UA Athletics Communications. "It’s a privilege and an honor to work at such a special place. What makes it so special are the people here and all of the fans who support the Crimson Tide. I’m just fired up to be a part of this program and helping to continue the success we’ve had. I’m grateful for the chance to work with our players each day, and that’s what this is really about. Coach Saban has been great to us, and I want to thank him for all the opportunities he has given us. Roll Tide!”
“I’m very happy that Scott Cochran will continue to lead our strength and conditioning program, added Saban. "He’s an important part of our program and does an outstanding job. The players really respond to him, and his role has been a big part of what we have been able to accomplish in terms of our success here both on and off the field.”

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

By Stan J. Griffin: December 12, 2015

After a record-breaking season which saw him break numerous University of Alabama and Southeastern Conference records, while leading Nick Saban's Crimson Tide football team to a repeat SEC title and also a repeat appearance in the College Football Playoff,  junior tailback Derrick Henry was rewarded for his amazing season Saturday night with college football's ultimate prize.
Henry, the University of Alabama’s junior running back from Yulee, Fla., became the second player in Crimson Tide history to win the Heisman Trophy.
The junior, who has led Alabama to a 12-1 record heading into a College Football Playoff semifinal matchup against Michigan State Dec. 31,  was presented the 81st Heisman Memorial Trophy at PlayStation Theater in Times Square in a live announcement on ESPN.
He tallied 1,832 points to beat out Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
"Since [I've been] a kid it's been a lifelong goal and a dream of mine I'm just so thankful," Henry said. "Everybody's always asking me about carries, what I thought about it, how I felt," Henry said. "When you've got teammates like that who love you and care for you, it doesn't matter you feel or how bad it hurts or what hurts you. You've got to make sure you're making those guys happy by helping them get a victory."
Henry is the first running back to win the Heisman Trophy since 2009, when former Alabama running back Mark Ingram became the first player in school history to win the prestigious award.
He is the 41st running back to win the Heisman Trophy, but just the ninth since 1985. He is the 12th player in Southeastern Conference history to win the Heisman Trophy and the first since Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) in 2012.

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

By Stan J. Griffin: December 10, 2015

The array of college football awards continued Thursday night for University of Alabama standouts at the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show.
Junior running back Derrick Henry and senior center Ryan Kelly were presented individual national awards on the show, which took place at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Henry took home the 2015 Maxwell Award, given by the Maxwell Football Club to the college player of the year. Kelly, meanwhile, captured the Rimington Trophy, which goes to the nation's best center.
Henry is only the second Alabama player to win the prestigious Maxwell Award, joining former Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron (2013). Henry is also the first running back to receive the honor since Larry Johnson (Penn State) in 2002.
Henry was the recipient of the 2015 Doak Walker Award as well, presented by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum to the nation’s top running back. This is the second time in program history a Tide running back has won the honor, with Trent Richardson being the only other recipient (2011).
Earlier in the evening, Henry, who helped lead the Tide to the 2015 Southeastern Conference title, was also named the school’s first winner of the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, given annually to the nation’s top college football player. He is the first player to win all three awards in the same season since 2002 (Johnson).
Henry, a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and recent recipient of SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors, has rushed for a school- and SEC-record 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns on 339 carries. He leads the nation in rushing yards and touchdowns and is second in yards per game with 152.8.
Henry, the Yulee, Fla. native, has recorded four 200-plus yard performances this year, joining Herschel Walker (Georgia) and Bo Jackson (Auburn) as the only backs in SEC history to record four in one season. He has matched the all-time SEC single-season rushing touchdown mark and has recorded a rushing touchdown in 18 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the country and the most by any player in SEC history.
Kelly is the second Alabama player to take home the Rimington Trophy, joining Barrett Jones (2012) as the school’s lone recipients.

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

By Stan J. Griffin: December 9, 2015

The 12-1 and Southeastern Conference champion University of Alabama football team continued to rack up on postseason SEC awards Wednesday.
The Crimson Tide trio of linebacker Reggie Ragland, running back Derrick Henry and center Ryan Kelly were selected as recipients for four separate individual conference awards, the SEC announced.
The honors were voted on by the league’s 14 head coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their own players.
Henry, who is a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year. In his first season as the team’s starting tailback, Henry has rushed for a school- and SEC-record 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns on 339 carries. He leads the nation in rushing yards and touchdowns and is second in yards per game with 152.8. Henry has recorded four 200-plus yard performances this year, joining Herschel Walker (Georgia) and Bo Jackson (Auburn) as the only backs in SEC history to record four in one season.
This past Saturday, he took home SEC Championship Game MVP honors after rushing for 189 yards and a touchdown, tying the SEC single-season record for rushing touchdowns. The score also brought Henry’s streak of consecutive games with a rushing touchdown to 18, the longest active streak in the country and the most by any player in SEC history.
Ragland, a finalist for the Senior CLASS, Nagurski, Butkus and Bednarik awards, was selected as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He has captained an Alabama defense that is widely regarded as the best in the country. The unit ranks first nationally in rushing defense (74 ypg), second in total defense (258.2 ypg), third in scoring defense (14.4 ppg) and fourth in pass efficiency defense (100.98).

By Stan J. Griffin: December 8, 2015

Photos by Stan J. Griffin

As Fayette County High School football coach Lance Tucker, as welll as a couple of his players, arrived in the media room following the Tigers' 55-7 loss to Leeds in the Class 4A Championship Game this past Friday, there were no hung heads or tears from the trio as it prepared to discuss the defeat that ended Fayette County's sterling 10-5 season.
Any suspense regarding the game's outcome had been removed fairly early, and it was hardly a surprise that Keith Etheridge's Greenwave was able to claim another blue state championship trophy. Leeds has become quite the dynasty during the past four or five years, and Tucker rightfully noted that this year's edition of the Greenwave might classify as one of the best teams of all-time relative to the Class 4A ranks.
Instead of speaking about the pain of the defeat which ended the Tigers' championship aspirations, Tucker chose to focus on the positive.
He spoke glowingly about his own team, noting that it was a group of winners no matter what color trophy it wound up collecting at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and how great of an opportunity it was for the Fayette County High School team, and really for that fine community of Fayette overall, to be able to participate in the Super 7.
Tucker, the former University of Alabama quarterback, had a noticeable twinkle in his eye as he spoke of the pride he felt in bringing his team into the revered football cathedral where he once suited up in crimson and white.
He was classy in his remarks about his opponent, and actually very effusive in his praise of a Greenwave team that claimed state title supremacy for a second year in a row.
Of course Tucker, his coaches and his players have much to be proud of as it was yet another phenomenal season for a tradition-rich Tiger program.
While his team was solid all season long in putting together a 6-4 regular season, Fayette County really stepped it up a notch during the postseason, gaining wins against quality opponents such as Cleburne County and Brooks and earning its appearance to Bryant-Denny with a stunning 32-0 road victory against Class 4A Region 5 rival Cordova.

Courtesy of Crimson Magazine

By Stan J. Griffin: December 7, 2015

One of the main leaders of the No. 2, Southeastern Conference champion and playoff-bound Alabama football team is officially a candidate for the most prestigious award in college football.
Junior running back Derrick Henry is one of three finalists for the 2015 Heisman Memorial Trophy, which was announced Monday evening on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
The Yulee, Fla. native will be joined by quarterback Deshaun Watson (Clemson) and running back Christian McCaffrey (Stanford) in New York City on Saturday as finalists. The 81st Heisman Trophy will be presented at the Best Buy Theatre in New York City on Saturday, December 12.
The event will be broadcast live by ESPN from 7-8 p.m. (CT).   
"It is a very special honor for me to be selected as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy," Henry said following the announcement Monday evening. "First, I want to thank God for blessing me with his opportunity. The Heisman Trophy has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid and the chance to go to New York as a finalist is amazing, but none of this would be possible without my coaches and teammates. The offensive line, the quarterback, wide receivers and tight ends have done an unbelievable job all season and our coaches always put us in a position to be successful."

Lake Tuscaloosa Living (LTL) is the premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.


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