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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.

By Stan J. Griffin: December 7, 2015

Photos by Stan J. Griffin

Heading into this past Friday's Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 4A state championship game, Fayette County High School head coach Lance Tucker noted that he felt his team was a group of winners, whether it was able to collect the blue state title trophy at the Super 7 or the red trophy designating runner-up status.
And entering the title tilt against defending champion Leeds at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Tigers certainly appeared to have peaked at just the right time, with a 4-0 playoff run that included a convincing 32-0 victory on the road against Class 4A Region 5 champ Cordova in the semifinal round.
Unfortunately for Tucker's team, a slow start, and a prolific performance by senior Greenwave tailback Trey Nation was too much to overcome as Leeds rolled to the 55-7 win and another state title for Keith Etheridge's squad.
Fayette County finished a superb season at 10-5 while the victorious Leeds team finished 13-2.
Nation, the game's Most Valuable Player, carried the ball 27 times for 186 yards, while also breaking Class 4A championship game records with five rushing touchdowns and 30 total points.
He led a Leeds attack which tallied 23 first downs and amassed 463 total offensive yards, while the swarming Greenwave defense held the Tigers to 155 total yards.
In the end, after first expressing pride in his own team for its postseason march to Bryant-Denny Stadium, the place where he once suited up in crimson and white as a University of Alabama quarterback, and praising the heart and grit of Tigers such as senior quarterback Drew Guy among others, Tucker was effusive in his praise for the Greenwave juggernaut.

By Stan J. Griffin: December 1, 2015:

Photos by Ron Harris of Daily Mountain Eagle (Jasper)

Back in late October, in their final regular-season football game of the 2015 season, Lance Tucker's Fayette County High School Tigers dropped a 20-18 decision to Class 4A Region 5 rival Cordova, costing them an opportunity to claim the region crown.
Little did the Tigers know at that time that they would get a rematch with the Blue Devils, with even higher stakes coming into play.
That was indeed the scenario which materialized at Cordova High School last Friday night as the 13-0 host Blue Devils hosted the 9-4 Tigers in the Class 4A semifinals, with a shot at the Super 7 state championships at Bryant-Denny Stadium on the line.
And although the matchup was identical to that Oct. 23 showdown between Cordova and Fayette County, it proved to be the only similarity as Tucker's squad improved to 10-4 on the season, romping past the Blue Devils 32-0 to earn its rightful appearance at the University of Alabama's tradition-rich football cathedral and a shot at the Class 4A state title.
It will not be easy for Drew Guy, Kondarius Wilson, Mario Wilson, Kerieq Sparks and company, however, as they face another formidable task in Friday's 11 a.m. title tilt.
The Tigers will battle Keith Etheridge's 12-2 Leeds Greenwave, the defending state champions.

Leeds enters the title game coming off a 48-20 semifinal win over Munford.
Fayette will make its first appearance in the state finals since 2012.
Against No. 2 Cordova, the Tigers dominated early and often against the home team, leading 6-0 after the first quarter, and seeing that advantage balloon to 20-0 by halftime.

By Stan J. Griffin: November 25, 2015

Next stop, Bryant-Denny Stadium.
That is the hopeful mission for the two remaining West Alabama schools still alive in the state high school football playoffs, as they gear up for semifinal action on Friday night.
For Lance Tucker's 9-4 Fayette High School Tigers and Andro Williams' 10-2 Linden High School Patriots, the task is clear, take care of business with their semifinal tilts, and then it will on to the University of Alabama's tradition-rich football cathedral for the Super Seven state championship games, which begin on Dec. 2.
But it will not be easy work for the Tigers or the Patriots Friday night.
After getting past Brooks 19-12 last Friday in the quarterfinals, Fayette County must hit the road for what is sure to be tough test against a 13-0 Cordova team, which won the championship of Class 4A Region 5.
The Blue Devils are coming off of a 30-20 win against Hamilton last Friday.

By Stan J. Griffin: November 23, 2015

Heading into the quarterfinal round of the state high school football playoffs this past Friday night, six schools from the Tuscaloosa/West Alabama area still had visions of a trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the Super Seven, as well as championship dreams.

Now as we head into the semifinal round of postseason play this Friday evening, only two remain standing from our area.

On the Class 4A level, Lance Tucker's Fayette County Tigers are still alive and kicking after defeating Brooks at home 21-12 while in Class 1A, Andro Williams' No. 2 Linden Pat
riots kept their aspirations in full gear by romping over Brantley on the road 41-0.
Ousted from the title chase in the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs were Demopolis, previously-undefeated and No. 2 Gordo, and No. 9 Berry, while in the AISA ranks, Webb Tutt's Marengo Academy Longhorns fell in the Class AA championship game to Edgewood Academy 40-30 in a contest played at Troy University.

The following is a rundown of last Friday's postseason play involving area teams:

Fayette County 19, Brooks 12: The Tigers improved to 9-4 on the season and advanced to the semifinals with a gritty win over visiting Brooks. Now the Tigers must hit the road to face a powerful 13-0 Cordova team.
After a scoreless first quarter, Brooks scored on a passing play to go up 6-0, but Fayette County came back to lead 7-6 at the intermission thanks to a 48-yard run by Mario Wilson.

By Stan J. Griffin: November 18, 2015

After a long regular season, and then two rounds of the state high school football playoff following that weekly grind, the season is still alive for six schools in the Tuscaloosa/West Alabama area.
Also alive are dreams of possibly advancing to the Super Seven state title games at Tuscaloosa's Bryant-Denny Stadium, with those contest set to begin on Dec. 2.
First things first, however, and those title aspirations must be put on hold for now as most of the remaining area teams must be focused on taking care of business in quarterfinal play Friday night.
One team, however, that will actually be playing for a state title this Friday is Webb Tutt's Marengo Academy Longhorns.
The Longhorns, led by quarterback/running back Hayden Huckabee and defensive end/tight end Cason Cook among others, have rolled to a 10-1 record, and are now set to play for the AISA Class AA championship at Troy University in Tutt's first season as Longhorn coach.
No. 4 Marengo Academy, which ousted Pickens Academy last week 48-7 will go up against 12-0 Edgewood in a rematch of last season's title game, which Edgewood captured 55-25.

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


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