There is good reason second-year Eagles head coach Zack Holmes is optimistic.
Sumiton Christian, which is moving up to Class 2A in 2014, put 40 players through spring practice. The spring ended with an inter-squad game last week.
“We had a really good spring. I hated when it was over,” Holmes said. “We had a bunch of kids out and a lot that haven’t played before. Everybody had a great attitude and was extremely positive. The effort level was really high. We had enough to go 11 on 11 and compete on both sides of the ball.”
Last season, the Eagles were done in by injuries and a tough schedule. They missed the playoffs for the second straight year, going 3-6.
“Of course we weren’t as good as we wanted to be last year. We played three top five teams (Addison, Falkville and Ragland) and a 4A team (Corner). We also lost to Collinsville, which was also ranked. We almost beat them. That was sort of a pivotal game for us,” Holmes added.
Following the 33-32 home loss to the Panthers, the Eagles lost four of their next five games, including a 42-point loss to Corner in the season finale. Corner won’t be on the Sumiton Christian schedule this year for the first time since 2001.
Playing in a seven-team region in 2014, Sumiton Christian has four non-region games (Phil Campbell, Lynn, Meek and West End). The four non-region opponents combined to go 6-34 last season. The region schedule includes perennial state powerhouse Tanner as well as Cold Springs, Tarrant, Southeastern, Addison and Falkville.
While Sumiton Christian loses top play-maker DeMonte Hobbs from last year’s team, Holmes returns 10 starters on defense and nine on offense. His incoming senior class includes 13 players.
“They are a hard working bunch. They kind of know the deal. They’ve been playing since the ninth and 10th grades. I’m excited to see where this group goes. They are good leaders,” Holmes said.
Sumiton Christian suffered one injury during spring practice, a broken ankle to the team’s fullback.
“We were bitten by the injury bug last year. Hopefully we will be able to stay healthy and find out what they can do,” said Holmes, who added that his team is bigger and stronger than last season.
Sumiton Christian has made one addition to its staff for next season, adding former Dora High star Adam Russell as the Eagles’ new quarterback coach. Following his time at Dora, Russell played colleigately at Mississippi State and Troy.