Zayden Leonard Excels In Classroom

Senior Zayden Leonard has distinguished himself as an outstanding student and athlete at Shades Valley. Leonard, who has a 4.1 GPA and is ranked 10th in his senior class, will pursue a degree in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Pre-Med from Mississippi State University after graduation.

Leonard has received $756,000 in scholarship offers, is an Honor Graduate, a Top-20 Scholar, received the Distinguished Athlete award, the ACT Work Keys award, the Principal’s Leadership award, and WBRC FOX6’s Rising Star award. Leonard is a member of the National Honor Society, National Honor Society English, National Honor Society Spanish, Student Government Association, and Mu Alpha Theta.

“At Shades Valley High School, we take pride in being accountable, respectful, and empathetic,” said Principal Taki Sarhaan. “Zayden exemplifies those qualities, and he’s just an overall model student and young man. It has been a pleasure to serve as his principal.”

Leonard is humble about his success in the classroom. “I just always work hard in everything I do,” he said. “I have goals, and I want to achieve them.”

Outside of the classroom, Leonard played football for the Mounties last fall. Leonard thought his time on a football field was over after tearing an ACL as a sophomore and turning his focus to basketball. However, coach Rueben Nelson had other ideas. “Coach Nelson saw me in the hallway and asked me to play,” Leonard said. “That’s when I decided to give it a second chance.” Leonard was a great addition to the team as an offensive guard.

“Zayden is a good athlete with great potential,” said Nelson. “As his coach, I enjoyed knowing his grades were his top priority.”

Leonard was also a member of the Shades Valley basketball team. His hard work and dedication impressed the Mountie head coach.

“Zayden epitomizes the term student-athlete,” said coach Audwin Howard. “He was a pleasure to have as a part of this team. He is an outstanding young man with great character and an amazing work ethic.”

“He also has an amazing support system. His mother is a wonderful woman,” said Howard. “You can clearly see the educational foundation she has instilled in him.”

Leonard’s mom, Mimi Leonard, is the owner of Frozen Rooster restaurants. She shows her son what hard work looks like as a business owner. Leonard can be found working for his mom in his spare time. “Zayden has been self-motivated and laser-focused since he was young,” she said. “His unwavering work ethic & high aspirations have helped him excel in every aspect of life.”

The future is extremely bright for Leonard. “I’m super excited to see what the future holds for this young man,” said Howard. “He will be successful in whatever field he decides to pursue.”

Leonard knows that hard work is the key to his success. His favorite quote by Frederick Douglas sums up his work ethic perfectly. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

SHDegraffenried Saves Best For Last

Gulf Shores-Athletes want to go out on top. Whether it is hitting a game-winning jumper, hitting a walk-off home run, or making a clutch field goal, they want to save their best for last.

That’s precisely what Shades Valley’s Reah Degraffenried did. In her last high school meet, she ran personal bests in the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, 100 meter hurdles, and 300 meter hurdles.

The result was a state championship, a state record and the 21st fastest time in America with her 300 meter hurdles performance. Degraffenried was state runner-up in the 100 meter dash (7th fastest time in the state), 200 meter dash (5th fastest time in the state) and 100 meter hurdles (3rd fastest time in the state).

Degraffenried’s 34 points were good enough to give Shades Valley a 6th-place finish in 6A.

“I’m very pleased with my times from this weekend and I am more than excited to call myself a state champion and record holder,” said Degraffenried. “But my journey does not stop here. There is still more work to do and goals to accomplish as I get ready to compete at the collegiate level.”

Degraffenried will make her college announcement early next week.

Degraffenried Turns In Outstanding Performance At Sectionals

IRONDALE-Reah Degraffenried walked out of Husky Stadium Saturday with four Sectional titles. Degraffenried’s 40 points powered the Shades Valley Girls to a fifth-place finish at Sectionals.

Degraffenried won the 100 Meter Dash, 200 Meter Dash, 100 Meter Hurdles, and 300 Meter Hurdles. Degraffenried ran a personal best in the 200.

“I’m very pleased with my results from this weekend, and I am excited to perform at the state level,” said Degraffenried. The talented senior is .16 seconds away from breaking the state record in the 300 Meter Hurdles set by Britley Humphery of Hoover in 2014.

The 4×100 team of Trinity Farrier, Aubrey Moreno, Brooklyn Moreno, and Yari Crawford set the fastest time in 6A and punched their ticket to Gulf Shores.

Yari Crawford qualified for State in the long jump, and Abby Rotich qualified in the Javelin.

Johnny Steele qualified in the Shot Put for the Boys team.

Lady Mounties Advance To 6A Soccer Playoffs

IRONDALE- The Shades Valley girl’s soccer team rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to defeat Gardendale by a score of 3-2 this past Thursday. The victory ended the regular season on a high note for the Lady Mounties. Valley is currently on a four game win streak.

This season marks the third year in a row that Valley has advanced to the 6A playoffs under head coach Troy Cable. Shades Valley will face Homewood, the number one ranked team in 6A, Thursday.

Team captains Ashley Leon and Hope Migwi have been the foundation of the Valley team all season. Along with Leon and Migwi, Aaliya Carter, Caileigh Moose and Bella Kulczycka stepped up at critical times for Valley. Cable calls them “the anchor point” of the team.

The Lady Mounties, 10-5, played a challenging schedule this season. Valley’s losses were to Hewitt-Trussville, 4th in 7A, Indian Springs, 9th in 6A, Mountain Brook, 5th in 6A and 7A Chelsea.

“The thing that has made this team successful is they have one heart,” Cable said. “They are absolutely in it for each other. This team is not about just one player. When one hurts, they all hurt, and when one excels, they all excel.”

Leon echoes her coach’s assessment. “I felt the joy in helping out each day to make us a better team,” she said. “I love how the girls communicate with each other, not only on the field, but off of it. We try to keep each other close as a family.”

“I love being a part of this team because we are a family and always support one another,” said Migwi. “We have cried, laughed, sang, and even experienced similar injuries, but always overcome our challenges together. Our team’s positivity and our coaches’ constant support has helped all of us strive to work hard, even when times are hard.”

What the Shades Valley team lacks in depth, they make up in skill, conditioning, selflessness and toughness. Cable, a retired Marine Lt. Colonel and Shades Valley’s JROTC instructor, stresses mental toughness and conditioning. “Coach pushes us to become better players and to be a better team. He always puts us in the right mindset and really encourages us to excel,” said Vanessa Hernandez. “We have improved so much, and we are like a family.”

Goalie Karma Fitzpatrick summed up the spirit of the team. “Being a part of this team means getting to have fun and enjoy soccer,”she said. “This season has meant getting to enjoy the sport and getting to bond with teammates.”

Our team has been incredibly blessed to have such a successful season! Since conditioning, we have all gotten to know each other quite well. Personally, this season has meant so much to me, especially since I am an IB senior and team captain.

Mounties’ Degraffenried Continues Strong Season

MOUNTAIN BROOK – Shades Valley’s Reah Degraffenried put together another strong performance this past weekend. Degraffenried’s performance helped the Mounties to a 12th-place finish among 32 teams at the Mountain Brook Invitational. “I definitely enjoyed the meet,” said Degraffenried. “There were a lot of different athletes that I haven’t competed against this season.”

Degraffenried won the 300 meter hurdles with a time of 44.34, the third fastest time in the state this year. Her time of 42.89 at Mobile’s Challenge of Champions on April 1 remains the fastest in the state and 23rd fastest in the nation.

The Valley senior ran a Personal Record in the 100 meter dash with a time of 12.08. Degraffenried finished behind Destiny Roper of Foley. Degraffenried’s time is the 6th fastest in the state and second fastest in 6A.

Degraffenried finished 3rd in the 100 meter hurdles, finishing behind Tori Mack of Hewitt-Trussville and Lily Rigor of Chelsea. She holds the 4th fastest time in the state and the 2nd fastest time in 6A.

Degraffenried, who has her sights set on multiple state championships at the State Championship May 5-7, has run Personal Bests in the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, 100 meter hurdles, and 300 meter hurdles over the last two weeks. “I think my training is going very well overall,” she said. “I trust my coaches and know that I will be more than prepared for sectionals and state.”

Shades Valley head coach Gary Ferguson says, “Reah represents what a true champion looks like. She takes the good with the bad. She’s always learning. If a mistake is made in the race, we get back to practice and work on the area in which it occurred. Then she goes out to the next meet and corrects the mistake. Her hard work, along with her talent, is what’s pushing her to the next level.”

Lady Mounties Win Three Straight

With victories over Fultondale and Clay-Chalkville, the Shades Valley Lady Mounties went 3-0 this week to improve their record to 10-9. The Lady Mounties outscored their competition 48-9 and have now won seven of their last nine games.

Valley played a doubleheader against Fultondale Tuesday. The Lady Mounties came away with 15-0 and 14-0 wins. The Lady Mounties stole 39 bases in the two games against the Wildcats. Bethany Moran was the winning pitcher in the first game. The senior gave up two hits and had five strikeouts. Jenna Paxton picked up the win in the second game. The sophomore also gave up two hits and struck out four.

Valley defeated Clay-Chalkville Wednesday night, 19-9. “Clay has a great team, and I’m proud of my girls for working together to get the win,” said Shades Valley head coach Jo Amy Rollo.

The Lady Cougars came out on fire. Kaidyn Williams drove in two runs with a triple. LaDonna Scott’s homer gave Clay a 5-1 lead.

The Lady Mounties exploded for eight runs in the second. A single by Carleigh Blackwell scored Kyla Franklin to start the scoring barrage. Kharly DeLaine and Brookelyn Cossey scored on an error to pull Valley within one run. Blackwell then stole home to tie the game. Mayah Tarver’s single scored Jenna Paxton to give Valley a 6-5 lead. Haylee Knight and Alyssa Butts scored on an error to push the Shades Valley lead to 8-5. Tarver then scored on a walk to close out the scoring. Valley held a 9-5 lead as the teams headed to the bottom of the inning.

The Lady Cougars battled back and cut the lead to 9-8 on a Williams’ inside-the-park homer that scored Jerica Tyree and Skylar Swain.

The Lady Mounties weren’t done scoring. Valley pushed the lead to 18-8. Knight, Trinity Collier, Tarver, Tailyn Louis, and Cossey scored on three errors and a walk. Jenna Paxton closed out the scoring on a steal of home.

The Lady Mounties picked up their final run on an error that scored DeLaine. The Lady Cougars scored on an RBI by Williams to make the final score 19-9.

Jenna Paxton was the winning pitcher, giving up two hits, one run with one strikeout. “I’m really proud of how the team played,” said Rollo. “Tailyn and Jenna both pitched great, and we had several good hits.”

Shades Valley’s Degraffenried Shines In Mobile

IRONDALE – Shades Valley’s Reah Degraffenried competed at the Mobile Challenge of Champions Invite this past Saturday. Degraffenried, the 2023 6A State Indoor 60 Meter Hurdle Champion, competed against top hurdlers from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia. “This past weekend was exciting,” said the Valley senior. “I got to compete against state champs from surrounding states.”

Degraffenried ran a personal best of 42.89 on her way to winning the 300 Meter Hurdles. Her winning time is currently the fastest time in Alabama and the 17th fastest time in the nation. Degraffenried finished second in the 100 Meter Hurdles with a personal best of 14.82, the fourth fastest time in the state.

“Reah has worked so hard over the past few year,” said Coach Gary Ferguson. “She came up a little short the past few years and finished second in the state as a junior.”

At the 2022 AHSAA 6A State Championship Degraffenried finished 5th in the 100 Meter Dash, 4th in the 200 Meter Dash, and 4th in the 100 Meter Hurdles to go along with her runner-up finish in the 300 Meter Hurdles.

“We are looking to do big things this year at State,” Ferguson said. “As one of the top hurdlers and sprinters in the state, she is looking forward to trying to become a multiple state champion.”

Degraffenried also recently ran a personal best of 25.01 in the 200 Meter Dash. Her time is the 5th fastest in the state and 3rd fastest in 6A.

Degraffenried is not only a standout on the track but also in the classroom. She holds a 4.1 GPA and has received $500,000 in scholarship offers. “I intend to major in Business Administration with a concentration in Supply Chain Management,” she said.

Outside of her academic scholarship offers, Degraffenried has several opportunities to run at the collegiate level. “I am currently entertaining scholarship offers from Morgan State University, the University of North Texas, and Jackson State University,” she said. “I am still communicating with more schools, and I am still undecided, but I plan on making a decision very soon, though.”


Mounties Get Back On Track

IRONDALE-Shades Valley (8-9) bounced back from a six-game losing streak with two wins over Jackson-Olin 13-3 and Midfield 15-0 Saturday.

Mountie head coach Darryl Dunbar said the break helped his team. “We took the week to clear our minds mentally,” he said. “We agreed that this would be the day we turn our season around one game at a time.”

The Valley pitching was solid, with fourteen strikeouts, no hits, and three runs. Offensively the Mounties banged out 18 RBIs, 12 hits, and stole 25 bases in the two games.

In the first game against Jackson-Olin, Valley used a trio of Mountie pitchers to keep the Mustangs off balance. The Mounties recorded seven strikeouts against the visitors.

Valley’s Avery Prichard, Steve Brown, Izzy Davis, and J’Cauis had RBIs in the fourth inning, and the Mounties exploded for seven runs to put the game away.

The Mounties faced off with the Patriots in the night capper and held Midfield hitless and scoreless.

The Mountie bats remained hot and scored twelve runs in the second inning to put the game out of reach. Prichard led the team with three runs, while Clayton Garrison, Jacaryous Burrow, Davis, and Brown scored twice. Ty Tippett and Burrow had two RBIs against the Patriots. Brown stole four bases against Midfield.

Shades Valley plays at Mountain Brook Tuesday.

Mounties Tame Mustangs

Justin Miller steals third. Photo Credit: Chris Prichard eXp Realty

Birmingham – The Shades Valley Mounties (6-3) squared off with the Jackson-Olin Mustangs (3-6) in the confines of the 113-year-old Rickwood Field Tuesday afternoon. The Mounties’ bats remained hot, pitcher Eli Nelson was sensational on the mound, and Valley walked away with a 14-0 win.

Coach Darryl Dunbar had a simple message for his team. “Every game has a purpose; play it with a purpose and work on something that makes you better.”

The Mounties put two runs on the board in the first inning with RBIs by Avery Prichard and Steven Manley that scored J’Caius Moore and Jacob Mahand.

Valley added a third run to their tallie in the second inning when Moore scored again, this time on a Steve Brown double.

The hot-hitting Mounties scored seven runs in the third inning to push the score to 10-0. Mahand, Manley, Brown, Moore, and Clayton Garrison had RBIs in the inning.

Manley and Justin Miller scored runs in the fourth inning to give Shades Valley a 12-0 lead.

A hard grounder by Miller to left field scored Garrison and Moore to make the score 14-0.

Nelson got the win for the Mounties. The righty went the distance, threw 51 strikes on 69 pitches, gave up only three hits, no runs, and struck out 11 Mustangs.

The Mountie defense played well and didn’t commit an error against the Mustangs. Garrison, returning from an injury, had the most opportunities in the field with seven. Miller went two for two from the plate with two RBIs. The Mounties stole nine bases, with Manley and Moore leading the team with two apiece.

Shades Valley hosts Minor Thursday afternoon.

Lady Mounties Upset Mountain Brook

Irondale- The Mountain Brook Spartans (12-7, 1-1) came into the game against Shades Valley (14-5, 1-1) as the 7th ranked team in 6A and left with a 60-49 loss.

Before the game, Angela Williams was honored for scoring 1,000 career points. Before the evening was over, the junior added 21 more points to her total, along with 11 rebounds and 6 steals.

Angela Williams with Coach Gary Ferguson

Mountain Brook jumped out to an 11-2 in the first five minutes of the game. The Mounties battled back and cut the lead to 13-10 at the end of the opening period.

Shades Valley turned up the intensity on both ends of the court in the second period and outscored the Spartans 15-7 to take a 25-20 lead into the break.

Shades Valley pushed their lead to seven points early in the 3rd quarter, but the Spartans were able to cut into the lead and junior Sarah Passink hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to one with 3:05 remaining in the period. Mountain Brook then took a one-point lead at the 2:30 mark and extended it to three points with 1:38 remaining. The Mounties put together a run and took a 42-37 lead as the period came to a close.

Shades Valley turned up the defensive intensity and took advantage of their trips to the free throw line, and pulled away to a 60-49 victory.

Shades Valley head coach Gary Ferguson was happy with the way his girls played. “We played a complete game,” he said. “We had other people to step up and we shot the ball a lot better from the free throw line.”

Kyliah Ravizee had 14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals and Kiya Crayton scored 15 points to complement Williams for the Mounties.

Shades Valley plays Cornerstone Tuesday night and hosts region foe Pell City Friday for Senior Night.

Area Teams Compete At MLK Indoor Track Classic

Birmingham-Hewitt-Trussville, Shades Valley, Clay-Chalkville, Center Point, Pinson Valley, Springville, and Moody joined 230 plus teams and over 2,000 athletes from Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, at the Birmingham CrossPlex Monday for one of the south’s biggest indoor track meets.

Shades Valley’s 4×200 team. Photo Credit: Drew Goolsby

The CossPlex is known as a world-class venue in the world of track and field. There are only eight tracks of its kind worldwide. The 4,000-seat facility has hosted multiple Indoor NCAA and Conference championships.

The 12th edition of the Martin Luther King Indoor Track Classic was again divided into a morning session and an afternoon session this year.


Girls 4×800 meter: Hewitt-Trussville, 4th in the second session (10:09) and Springville, 10th in the second session (11:09:87)

Boys 4×800 meter: Hewitt-Trussville, 5th in the second session (8:31:91)

Girls 60-meter hurdles: Reah Degraffenried, Shades Valley, 1st in the second session and MLK Champion (8.87), Tori Mack, Hewitt, 2nd in the second session (8.96) and Haley Melton, Hewitt, 12th in the second session (9.74)

Boys 60-meter hurdles: Manny Cazeau, Hewitt, 7th in the second session (8.48), Tyrone Reese, Hewitt, 10th in the second session (8.74), Jaileb Ballard, Center Point, 3rd in the first session (8.90) and Demarco Allen, Center Point, 11th in the first session (9.51)

Girls 60 meters: Reah Degraffenried, Shades Valley, 2nd in the second session (7.68), Brianna Beckham, Hewitt, 4th in the second session (7.73), Alexis Anthony, Center Point, 3rd in the first session (7.89), Makiyah Davis, Pinson, 18th in the second session (8.05), Victoria Pyles, Moody, 10th in the first session (8.27) and Ramiya Taylor, Center Point, 12th in the first session (8.32)

Boys 60 meters: Jaylen Mbakwe, Clay-Chalkville, 3rd in the second session (6.88), Michael Igbonoghene, Hewitt, 4th in the second session (6.96), Nathan Thomas, Hewitt, 11th in the second session (7.09), Jadon Loving, Hewitt, 15th in the second session (7.13), Amon Lane, Moody, 5th in the first session (7.25), Jabari Collier, Center Point, 7th in the first session (7.28), Camron Bonner, Center Point, 15th in the first session (7.44) and Troy Bruce Jr., Center Point, 18th in the first session (7.48)

Girls 400 meters: Alexis Anthony, Center Point, second in the first session (58.85), Aniya Johnson, Clay-Chalkville, 5th in the second session (58.90), Hailey Tolbert, Hewitt, 14th in the second session (1:01.11) and Libby Armstrong, Hewitt, 20th in the second session (1:01.75)

Boys 400 meters: Manny Cazeau, Hewitt, 8th in the second session (50.42), Roderick Alexander, Clay-Chalkville, 11th in the second session (51.61), and Daniel Hickman, Hewitt, 15th in the second session (51.87)

Girls 1600 meters: Callie Armstrong, Hewitt, 28th in the second session (5:51.18), Elizabeth Harris, Shades Valley, 44th in the second session (6:17.58), Claire Hutchinson, Springville, (6:24.42) and Lauren Lindsey, Shades Valley, 55th in the second session (6:33.37)

Boys 1600 meters: David Robles, Springville, 13th in the second session (4:30.75) and Wes Ellison, Hewitt, 19th in the second session (4:36.10)

Girls 4×200 meters: Shades Valley, 3rd in the second session (1:45.48), Hewitt, 4th in the second session (1:46.09), Center Point, 2nd in the first session (1:47.74), Clay-Chalkville, 15th in the second session (1:50.47) and Moody, 13th in the first session (1:57.70).

Boys 4×200 meters: Hewitt (A), 2nd in the second session (1:30.23), Hewitt (B), 5th in the second session (1:32.09), Moody, 4th in the first session (1:34.32), Clay-Chalkville, 14th in the second session (1:34.50) and Center Point, 6th in the first session (1:35.16).

Girls 800 meters: Avery Cahoon, Hewitt, 4th in the second session (2:18.86), and Sophia Knox, Hewitt, 10th in the second session (2:26.22).

Boys 800 meters: Elliott Green, Hewitt, 36th in the second session (2:10.37), Garrett Yokeley, Hewitt, 51st in the second session (2:15.10), Cole Broome, Springville, 53rd in the second session (2:15.74) and Demarco Allen, Center Point, 17th in the first session (2:17.16).

Girls 3200 meters: Caroline Summy, Springville, 22nd in the second session (13:57.21) and Claire Hutchinson, Springville, 23rd in the second session (13:57.45)

Boys 3200 meters: David Robles, Springville, 6th in the second session (9:49.58) and Elliott Denard, Springville, 27th in the second session (10:34.94).

Girls 4×400 meters: Shades Valley, 9th in the second session (5:06.31)

Boys 4×400 meters: Center Point, 10th in the first session (3:46:17).

Girls Shot Put: Madisyn Hawkins, Hewitt, 6th in the second session (11.13), Jaliya Edwards, Hewitt, 12th in the second session (9.84), Karmen Russell, Center Point, 9th in the first session (8.33), Jessica Kennedy, Center Point, 15th in the first session (7.98) and Simone Davis, Center Point, 20th in the first session (7.57)

Boys Shot Put: DJ Carter, Hewitt, 3rd in the second session (14.10), Skyler Carrillo, Hewitt, 14th in the second session (12.74), Jeremiah Hayes, Center Point, 8th in the first session (12.27) and Demario Hicks, Jr., 20th in the first session (11.38)

Boys Long Jump: Michael Igbinoghene, Hewitt, third in the second session (6.58), Micah Sanders, Shades Valley, 16th in the second session (6.15) and Jaylen Amison, Center Point, 8th in the first session (5.80)

Boys Triple Jump: Michael Igbinoghene, Hewitt, 7th in the second session (13.12), Ayden Walton, Springville, 13th in the second session (12.64), and Will Owens, Hewitt, 16th in the second session (12.32)

Girls Long Jump: Ramiya Taylor, Center Point, 3rd in the first session (4.93), Keri Edwards, Clay-Chalkville, 6th in the second session (4.85), Haley Melton, Hewitt, 8th in the second session (4.78), Haven White, Hewitt, 9th in the second session (4.75), Brooklyn Moreno, Shades Valley, 18th in the second session (4.57), Aubrey Moreno, Shades Valley, 25th in the second session (4.48), Chornithea Cowan, Center Point, 14th in the first session (4.27), and Desirae Muhammad, Center Point, 25th in the first session (3.80)

Girls Triple Jump: Haley Melton, Hewitt, 11th in the second session (9.97) and Haven White, Hewitt, 22nd in the second session (9.61)

Boys Pole Vault: Daniel James, Hewitt, 4th in the second session (4.27), Shaw Helfrich, 14th in the second session (3.51), and Alex Jones, Hewitt, 19th in the second session (3.20).

Girls Pole Vault: Haven White, Hewitt, 8th in the second session 2.59) and Sarah Johnson, Hewitt, 16th in the second session (2.59)

Girls High Jump: Aniya Johnson, Clay-Chalkville, 3rd in the second session (1.57), and Taylor Thomas, Hewitt, 19th in the second session (1.37).

Boys High Jump: Will Owens, Hewitt, 7th in the second session (1.83), Jamal Hobbs and Sam Simmons, Hewitt, tied for 9th in the second session (1.78) and Jaylen Frazier, Center Point, 7th in the first session (1.73).

Most schools will be participating in the Last Chance meet at the CrossPlex on Jan. 27.

Mounties Drop Region Game To Spartans

Irondale-The 7th ranked Mountain Brook Spartans (14-6, 2-0) made the short drive down Old Leeds Road and handed the Shades Valley Mounties (8-10, 1-2) a 71-44 region loss.

The Spartans got off to a quick start and held a 6-0 lead three minutes into the game. The Mounties battled back and tied the game at 11 as the two teams headed into the second period.

Behind the three-point shooting of junior Ty Davis and senior John Colvin, the Spartans pushed the lead to 31-19 at the half.

The Spartans came out of the break on fire. Aggressive offensive play and defensive pressure pushed the Mountain Brook lead to 41-21 with 3:45 remaining in the 3rd period.

Behind solid defense, 10 points from freshman Jeremiah Williams and a big three-pointer by JaMarcus Jackson, the Mounties cut the Spartan lead to 9 with 45 seconds remaining in the third period.

Mountain Brook then stepped up defensively and held the Mounties scoreless on their next seven possessions. Senior Julius Clark came up big for the Spartans in the fourth period, and the experienced and deep Spartans pulled away to a 71-44 victory.

The Spartans hit 55% from the field and connected on 47% behind the three-point arc.“We played our most complete 32 minutes of the season,” said Spartan head coach Tyler Davis. “Shades Valley is a good team, and when they made their run in the second half, we responded.”

The Mounties are a young team, and headman Audwin Howard is optimistic about the future. “Our guys are competing,” he said. “We have got to get better.”

Williams led the Mounties with 16 points, Sean Crawford added 10 points, and Jackson chipped in 9 points.

Mountain Brook had four players in double-figures: Davis 18, Clark 16, Colvin 13, and Lawson Gardner 10.

Shades Valley plays Minor Monday in the MLK Classic at Fairfield. The Mounties return to region play when they host Pell City Friday.

Mounties Open Region Play With Win

Irondale-The Shades Valley Mounties (8-8, 1-0) got a 58-47 win at home over region opponent Woodlawn (3-8, 0-1) Friday night.

By: John Goolsby

The Mounties jumped out to a 11-5 lead in the first period behind an aggressive defense.

Shades Valley’s defense continued their intensity and held the Colonels to 8 points in the second stanza. Offensively, the Mounties hit four three-point shots in the period: a pair by JaMarcus Jackson and one by Jeremiah Williams and Carter Berry. Rashad Bryant was a presence in the paint. The sophomore pulled down seven rebounds and added a block. Valley took a 29-13 lead into the locker room.

The Mounties came out in the second half, continued to play aggressively, and pushed the lead to 45-23 at the end of the third period. Kendarius Irvin scored ten points during the quarter, and Ethan Johnson provided great defensive intensity in the paint for Valley.

The Colonel turned up the defense pressure in the third quarter with Valley senior point guard Sean Crawford on the bench with foul trouble. Woodlawn outscored the Mounties 24-13 over the last 8 minutes to cut the final Valley lead to 11 points.

We have to learn how to close teams out,” said Valley head coach Audwin Howard. “We were up big and allowed them to creep back…that’s a sign of youth and inexperience.”

Irvin and Jackson led the Mounties with 14 points apiece. The freshman duo of Williams and Berry scored 9 each. Bryant added ten rebounds and two blocks.

Howard sees progress in his young team as the Mounties get deeper into region play. “I think we are trending in the right direction.”

The Mounties travel to Pell City Tuesday night for another region game at 7:30.

Mountie Girls Blast Leeds

By John Goolsby

Irondale – The Shades Valley girl’s basketball team defeated the visiting Leeds Greenwave girls 68-15 Thursday night.

The Mounties raced to an 18-5 lead at the end of the first period and extended their lead to 41-10 at the half.

The Valley girls came out with an aggressive defense and held Leeds to five point in the second half.

Shades Valley continued their offensive momentum and put 17 points on the board in the third period, and headed to the fourth quarter with a 58-13 lead.

The Lady Mounties closed out the fourth quarter with hard play and ended the night with a convincing non-region victory.

Kyliah Ravizee led Shades Valley with 16 points, Rhaegan Evans scored 15 points, and Kiya Crayton chipped in 13 points.

“We were trying to work on the small stuff tonight and just execute,” said Shades Valley head coach Gary Ferguson. “We tried to push the ball and be aggressive on defense.”

Shades Valley improved to 7-2 on the year, while Leeds dropped to 0-6.

Mounties Hold Off Greenwave

By John Goolsby

Irondale – Shades Valley held off a second-half comeback by Leeds and escaped with a 55-53 win at home Thursday night.

Valley entered the non-region contest with a 5-5 record and a win over Center Point Monday night. The Greenwave came into the game with a 2-5 record and a loss to Oak Mountain Tuesday night.

The first period was a defensive affair, and Shades Valley closed out the first eight minutes with a 10-7 lead. Freshman Jeremiah Williams ignited the Mountie offense with two three-pointers late in the period.

Twelve of Shades Valley’s seventeen second-quarter points came from the free throw line. Sean Crawford made four trips to the charity stripe and came away with eight points. Leeds kept the game close and went into the locker room trailing by six, 27-21.

Shades Valley’s Ethan Johnson came up with six big points in the third period and was a defensive presence in the paint. Leeds continued to play hard, and behind two three-pointers by KD Jones, another three-pointer by Ronald Miller, and five points by Tabari Davis, cut the Mountie lead to three, 40-37, as the two teams headed to the final period.

In the fourth quarter, the Mounties saw their lead evaporate and found themselves trailing, 43-44, after a Jones three-pointer with 4:38 remaining in the game. The game was a back-and-forth affair over the next three minutes with the two teams swapping the lead. A Miller three gave Leeds their final lead of the night, 51-50, with 1:33 to play.

Shades Valley regained the lead with 1:11 to play on two Crawford free throws. A solid defensive effort by the Valley defense and three of four free throws from Crawford down the stretch preserved the win for the Mounties, 55-53.

While Mountie head coach Audwin Howard was happy with the win, he sees room for improvement with his team. “We’ve got to learn to close out games, and we aren’t doing the simple things,” he said. “We just didn’t play our best brand of basketball.”

Leeds head coach and Trussville native Jeremiah Millington was pragmatic about the loss. “We had the lead with about a minute to play, and they made the plays, and we didn’t,” he said. “Free throws and a slow start hurt us.”

The Greenwave struggled from the free throw line, making only 6 of 15 attempts.

Shades Valley capitalized on their trips to the line and made 27 of 32 attempts. “We shot the ball well from the free throw line.” Howard said.

Crawford led the Mounties with 22 points, Johnson added 10 points and Williams chipped in 9 points.

Jones led the Greenwave with 14 points, Davis contributed 13 points, and Miller added 6 points.

The Greenwave falls to 2-6 and squares off against Minor.

Shades Valley improves to 6-5 and will play Huffman Friday night.

Mounties Avenge Loss

By John Goolsby

Irondale – Shades Valley (4-4) went into their rematch with Clay-Chalkville (3-5) on a three-game losing streak. From the opening tip, it was apparent this was going to be a different game than the Cougars’ 73-49 win last month. This time the Mounties came away with a 62-59 win at home. “The guys have done everything we have asked them to, and we’ve had some tough, rigorous practice to try to end this losing streak,” said Mountie head coach Audwin Howard.

The Mounties got off to a fast start with a thunderous dunk by senior Kendarius Irvin, 10 points, and 4 rebounds. “Kendarius stepped up,” Howard said. “He did some really good things offensively and defensively for us tonight.” Shades Valley led 20-6 at the end of the first period.

Behind a solid defensive effort and the shooting of Jamarcus Jackson, 19 points, and Sean Crawford, 14 points, the Mounties went to the locker room with a 38-21 lead at the half.

The Cougars, led by Devon McKinnon’s 29 points and Kevin Kirk’s 9 points, stormed back in the third quarter and cut the Valley lead to nine, 49-40, as the two teams entered the final period.

Clay-Chalkville continued to cut into the Mountie lead with big baskets and crucial defensive stops. The Cougars tied the game at 54 apiece with 3:28 remaining.

Shades Valley broke the tie with a pair of free throws by Crawford that pushed the Mountie lead to 56-54 with 3:03 to play.

A steal by Jeremiah Williams, 8 points, and an outlet pass to Erin Callens for a layup extended the Mountie lead to four with 2:49 to play.

A Cougar three-pointer was waived off due to an official’s timeout, but Clay was able to pull within a basket, 58-56, on a short McKinnon jumper.

A pair of Callens’ free throws, after a foul by the Cougars on a drive to the basket, extended the Valley lead back to four with 1:49 to play.

A huge three-pointer by the Cougars’ Victor Odiari, 8 points, pulled Clay to within one, 60-59, with 61 seconds to go.

Valley’s Crawford drew a foul while driving to the basket. The senior calmly sank two free throws with 25 seconds on the clock to push the Mounties to a 62-59 lead.

The Cougars had one last opportunity to send the game to overtime but missed a three-pointer at the buzzer and the Mounties escaped with a win after a tremendous comeback by Clay-Chalkville.

“We got off to a fast start but went back to our old ways,” Howard said. “I like how the guys fought hard and finished.”

Shades Valley takes on Auburn this Saturday and Clay-Chalkville faces Pell City Thursday night.

Mounties Compete In Heritage Thanksgiving Tournament

By John Goolsby

Fairfield – The Shades Valley Mountie boys basketball team (3-3) took part in the Heritage Thanksgiving Tournament at Fairfield High earlier this week. The Heritage Thanksgiving Tournament features 16 teams from across the state. The Mounties faced off against the Lee Generals of Montgomery Monday. The talented 2020 7A state champions downed Valley 54-37 in the opening round. JaMarcus Jackson led the Mounties with 12 points.

Shades Valley, missing two players due to injury and illness, then dropped a tight game to Jackson-Olin, 36-37, in the consolation bracket Tuesday morning. “Slow starts are beginning to really hurt us,” said Mountie head coach Audwin Howard. “The past two or three games, we’ve gotten off to slow starts, and it is starting to catch up with us.”

The Shades Valley program, in the 3rd year under Howard (160-85), opened the season with wins over Huffman, Minor, and Carver and a loss on the road to Clay-Chalkville.

Howard during a timeout against Lee

The 2022-23 edition of the Mounties, led by senior guard Sean Crawford, is looking to improve on last year’s 17-9 record. “We are a small-stature team,” Howard said. “We are going to be a very uptempo team that shoots the three ball and plays pressure defense.” The Mounties have several threats behind the arc. Freshman Jeremiah Williams hit 57 three-pointers as an eighth grader last year.

Shades Valley will face Mountain Brook, Woodlawn, and Pell City in Area 10 play. The Mounties will also face Gadsden City in the 256-205 Challenge on January 28.

The tough non-area schedule will pay off for the young Mounties later in the season. “We will keep working; our best basketball is ahead of us,” said Howard.

Shades Valley Alumni Hold Fundraiser For Football Program

This article also appeared in the Trussville Tribune:

Irondale-A large number of Shades Valley alumni gathered at Shades Valley this past Saturday for a fundraising barbeque. The goal of the fundraiser was to raise funds for new helmets.

“This was an opportunity for graduates of the school to come together,” said organizer John Goolsby. “Many grads from the old school never stepped foot on the Irondale campus; we wanted this event, in part, to begin bridging the two.”

Among the returning Mounties were former head coaches Robert Higginbotham and Bill Smith. Former basketball head coach and defensive coordinator Owen Butts also attended along with long-time assistant Rob Crawford.

Higginbotham, Butts, ‘92 QB Wes McDanal and Crawford

Former Mountie and 2022 Auburn SEC Legend Ben Tamburello was also in attendance. “I really believe this can grow and cultivate support from so many that couldn’t make it this weekend,” said Tamburello.

Higginbotham and Tamburello

Brian Moore, former Mountie, Samford Bulldog, and owner of B.Moe Apparel, was optimistic about the event’s future. “It was epic,” he said. “The response definitely shows the willingness to support another event,” he said.

The event raised almost $10,000 for the football program. “It was so much bigger than the money,” Goolsby said. “This was the first step in mobilizing the alumni base, possibly the largest in the city, to support Coach Nelson’s program.

Coach Rueben Nelson was very pleased with the event. “I want to thank everyone for coming out and supporting our kids and for their generous donations,” he said. “We want to make sure the kids have a great experience through sports at Shades Valley.”

“The late Frank Nix did so much for Shades Valley sports programs over the years,” Goolsby said. “Part of the legacy he left was an example for the alumni to follow.”

Cougars defeat Mounties

By John Goolsby

This article also appeared in the Trussville Tribune:

Clay – The Clay–Chalkville Cougars (3-0) jumped out to a big lead early Tuesday night and cruised to a 73-49 win over Shades Valley (2-1).

Junior point guard Kevin Kirk, Jr. led the Cougars with 19 points and 5 rebounds. “He’s the heart and soul of our team,” said Clay head coach Chris Richardson.

The senior-laden Cougars raced out to a 21-2 lead at the end of the first period. “We got off to a slow start,” said Shades Valley head coach Audwin Howard. “We really got a reality check,” he said.

The young Mounties team settled down in the second period and cut the Cougar lead, with the help of the 3-point shooting by freshman Jeremiah Williams, to 13. Williams scored 21 points on 6 of 8 shooting behind the arc. Clay held a 33-20 lead at the break.

The 3rd period was a back-and-forth affair, and Valley managed to pull within a dozen at 51-39 as the two teams headed to the final period.

The fourth quarter was all Clay, and the Cougars pulled away to a big win, largely on the experience of their seven seniors and two juniors.

I thought my guys played really hard,” said Richardson. “My guys have been working really hard and have a lot to prove.” he said.

Cordae Avettette had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds and had 3 blocks. Devon McKinnon added 11 points and Tiawan Hardy chipped in 9 points and 6 rebounds for Clay.

“This game showed us how much work we have to do,” said Howard. “I’m still proud of the guys, but with that being said, we are still building a culture and making guys realize how important it is to compete every night.”

Senior Kendarius Irvin added 11 points and 4 rebounds. Erin Callens chipped in 8 points and handed out 4 assists. Sean Crawford had 8 points and 3 assists for the Mounties.

The Shades Valley girls defeated the Clay-Chalkville girls 54-51 earlier in the evening.

Area Teams Compete At State Meet

By John Goolsby

This article also appeared in the Trussville Tribune:

Danville – This past Saturday, runners from 220 Alabama high schools converged on a wet, and muddy Oakville Indian Mounds Education Center for the 2022 AHSAA XC meet.

Hewitt-Trussville, Shades Valley, Center Point and Springville had runners to compete at the championship event.

The Hewitt-Trussville boys and girls teams finished in 7th place in 7A. “We’re proud of all the work these kids put in all summer and fall and excited to come away with top-7 finishes and two runners making All-State,” said Hewitt head coach Matthew Michalke. Hewitt battled sickness leading up to the meet and found themselves limited. “We were missing three of our runners on Saturday; that’s what kept them out of the top 5.”

Photo credit: Chris Wells, almilesplit

Junior Kinley Harris, 14th place, and senior Tristan Teer, 5th place, made the 7A All-State team for the Huskies.

Scoring points for the girls, along with Harris, were Avery Cahoon, Kylee Sisk, Sophia Knox, and Lauren Ruf.

Wes Ellison, Russ Lachina, Jacob Mullinax and Garrett Yokeley scored points with Teer.

Shades Valley qualified six girls for the 6A championship. Sophomore Lauren Lindsey led the Mounties. “It was muddy, but definitely a race to remember,” said Lindsey. “It felt incredible to be at State with my teammates, and I’m proud of all of them and the other runners.”

Shades Valley had not qualified more than three runners in a season since 1997. “The course was wet, muddy, and slow, but the girls ran hard despite the conditions,” said Shades Valley coach Melinda Estes. Elizabeth Harris, Grace Lindsey, Ashley Leon, Kayleigh Brasher, and Sara Bailey also qualified for Shades Valley.

Photo credit: Allyson Harris

Springville qualified a pair of girls and boys runners in 5A. Avery Daniel was All-State with a 15th-place finish, and Carmen McMaster finished 28th. David Robles also made All-State with a 9th place finish, and Houston Colley finished in 44th place.

Keymon Steele-Johnson and Joshua McDaniel competed in 6A for the Center Point Eagles.

Clay-Chalkville Dominate Mounties

By John Goolsby

Irondale – Clay-Chalkville rolled up 452 yards of total offense and held Shades Valley to just 80 yards on their way to an undefeated region record.

The Mounties lost their starting and backup quarterbacks this week and we’re forced to start Jacari Wedgeworth, a wide receiver, at the position. The Valley offense struggled all night against an aggressive Clay defense. Wedgeworth competed 6 of 11 passes for 58 yards.

The powerful Cougar rushing attack rolled up 374 yards on 29 attempts and scored 5 rushing touchdowns.

Backup quarterback Marlon Compton threw three touchdown passes and rushed for 112 yards and scored once on the ground.

Allan Cotton added 103 yards on 10 attempts and scored twice.

Receiver Mario Comprom caught all 6 of Clay’s completions and tallied 78 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Mario Byrd returned the opening kickoff for 88 yards to start the scoring for Clay. Daniel Diaz’s PAT was good.

Rodreckus Johnson then ran for a 6-yard touchdown with 5:39 remaining in the opening quarter. The PAT failed, and Clay led 13-0.

Marlon Compton completed a 7-yard pass to Mario Craver for a touchdown with 2:40 remaining in the quarter. The PAT failed again, and the Cougars extended the lead to 19-0.

Marlon Compton hooked up with Mario Craver again for a 17-yard touchdown. The PAT was good, and Clay led 26-0 with 10:31 remaining.

Aaron Osley ripped off a 52-yard touchdown run with 6:20 remaining in the half. Malique Steele intercepted the two point conversion pass by Coda Cooper. The Cougars headed to the locker room with a 32-0 lead.

With 1:45 remaining in the third period, Allan Cotton capped off a Cougar driven with a one-yard touchdown drive.

Marlon Compton streaked 54 yards for a touchdown. The PAT was successful and Clay led 39-0 with 7:15 remaining in the third.

Allan Cotton scored his second touchdown on a 29 yard run to take a 52-0 lead with 7:53 remaining in the contest.

“I’m proud of my team and how they played, Clay-Chalkville head coach Drew Gilmer said. “I can’t say enough about Marlon Compton. We threw him in a tough situation and he responded.”

The Mounties finish the season with a 5-4 record and the first winning season in five years.

Clay finishes rhe regular season with an 8-1 recod (6-0 Region)

“We won three games last year, and we won five this year,” said Mountie head coach Rueben Nelson. “We are going to get better; it just takes time.”

Senior Spotlight: Darius Ford

By John Goolsby

“Don’t Quit!” is Darius Ford’s mantra said his mom, Areatha Ford. If that mantra ever fit anyone, it is Ford. He was looking forward to playing his senior year. He had been working extremely hard on his conditioning and strength for his second year with the Mounties. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in the preseason.

Instead of sulking and withdrawing, Ford chose to focus on the positives. “One thing I learned through the injury is unexpected things happen sometimes,” he said. “The important thing is to stay positive, keep a smile and try to improve your situation.”

Ford continued to be involved with the team anytime he had the chance. “Darius has been here with the group cheering them on each week,” said defensive line coach Robert Nelson, Jr. “He was having a good off-season in the weight room before his injury.”

Ford wants to be remembered “as a hard worker, someone who doesn’t back down from a challenge.” Anyone that follows Ford’s social media presence is aware of how hard he works in the weight room. “His passion is bodybuilding,” his mom said.

Ford has put the injury behind him and is looking to be a positive role model for those facing challenges. “Right now, my goal is to make a full recovery, and if I do decide to play another sport, come back stronger and even more motivated,” he said. “I also want to inspire someone not to lose all hope even if their situation doesn’t look good.”

Even though his season was cut short, he cherishes his time with his teammates. “My favorite football memory was hanging out with the team after a hard practice or workout,” he said.

Ford is considering his options after school. Logistics is one career he is interested in. No matter what Ford does, there is no doubt he will find success with his positive attitude and tremendous work ethic.

Senior Spotlight: Roderick Craig

By John Goolsby

The quiet and hard working Roderick Craig joined the football team for his senior year. In preparation for the season he attended an HBCU camp and camps at Florida State and Austin Peay.

Even though he was new to the game, it didn’t take long for Craig to find a home at wide receiver. “I love the position,” he said. “I want to keep working so I have an opportunity to play when I get out of high school.”

“I want my legacy to be that I didn’t quit and worked hard to win,” he said. Craig helped indeed. He came up with big catches to help Valley to their first winning season since 2017.

“Roderick is a player that any coach would love to have,” said wide receiver coach Martee Pope. “He is one of the most dedicated, hard working, and consistent players in our receiver corp.”

Craig is in the ROTC at Valley. The teamwork and discipline that he learned there translates to the football field. “Roderick is a player that always places the team first,” Pope said. “He is a player that never complains; he just smiles.”

“Roderick is smart, respectful and kind,” said his mom, Thelma Rose. “He helps around the house, helps take care of his siblings, and goes to church every Sunday.”

“Roderick is another player that will truly be missed amongst the receiver for and the entire Mountie Nation,” said Pope.

Senior Spotlight: David Hunter

By John Goolsby

David Hunter, who began playing football when he was five years old at Crestwood, has been a constant on the Shades Valley offensive line this year. “From the spring until now, David made great strides on and off the field,” said defensive line coach Robert Nelson, Jr. “He became one of the leaders for the offensive line.”

“David is a bubbly, lovable, and God-fearing young man with an open mind,” his mom, Felicite Hunter, said. “I love the aspirations that he has for life.”

Hunter has high aspirations and plans to attend Alabama State, Alabama A&M, or FAMU to be a Biomedical Engineer and design prostheses. The thought of helping people in need is what inspired Hunter to pursue that particular career path.

“I really love his enthusiasm and willingness to learn,” said his mom. Hunter’s willingness to learn and work hard has played a big part in the Mounties having their first winning season in five years.

“I want to be remembered as a happy, joyful person that would do anything to win,” said Hunter.

Hunter’s favorite verse is Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

Senior Spotlight: Jacari Wedgeworth

By John Goolsby

From a state championship at Pinson to a program in transition at Valley last year, Jacari Wedgworth has seen the highs and lows of high school football.

Wedgworth got his start in football playing little league in the Eastlake league at the age of four. After transferring from Pinson, he played quarterback on last year’s Mountie team but switched to wide receiver for his senior year.

Wide receiver coach Martee Pope was happy to have Wedgeworth join his receiving corp. “He may not have had the breakout season he anticipated, but he never let that deter his hard work and determination to get better,” Pope said. “His sacrifice has paid off for him and the team as his name has been called to lead the team in the biggest games of the season.”

“I want to be remembered as a brick in building the new Shades Valley,” Wedgeworth said. “I want to be known as being part of the team that built and paved the way for Shades Valley.”

“Jacai is extreme smart, well rounded and calm,” said his mom, Jenece Wedgeworth. “The quote Jacari and I always use is: why fit in when you can stand out.

Standout Wedgeworth does. After graduation Wedgeworth will attend Alabama, Georgia, or Mississippi State on a full academic scholarship to major in Business and Marketing.

Wedgeworth is a thoughtful and mature young man. “Anything can be taken in an instant,” he said. “If you aren’t cherishing your talents and not doing right by them, God can take those in various ways.”

“I am so proud of the young man he’s become,” said his mom. “He’s a great young man on the field and in the classroom.”

“Jacari has been an awesome athlete for us,” said Pope. “His hard work and dedication prepared him; he will be missed in the program.”

Senior Spotlight: Kendarius Irvin

By John Goolsby

Like most high school players, Kendarius Irvin started playing football at a young age. “As soon as I was allowed to play at the age of 6, I was playing on 7u teams,” Irvin said. “I played up to my 8th-grade year.”

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Irvin, a standout basketball player for the Mounties, decided he wanted to focus on basketball. “I had just picked basketball up in the 7th grade but was much better at it,” he said. Irvin returned to football for his senior year “because I knew that Coach Nelson was building something great and something that I hadn’t seen since I’ve been at Shades Valley.”

Kendarius is a true pleasure to coach,” said wide receiver coach Martee Pope. “He is the type of player that is always looking for ways to improve his game and the entire receiver group.”

One of Irvin’s strengths is that he is a team player. “Kendarius doesn’t mind being whatever piece of the puzzle we need him to be,” said Pope. “That speaks volumes to the type of athlete he is.”

The selflessness that Irvin exhibits can be attributed to his maturity. “He is very kind and very mature,” says his mom, Kendora Barnfield. “He has always clicked with older people.”

Irvin’s goal for the year was to “go deep into the playoffs and change how people think about Shades Valley Football.” Even though the Mounties missed the playoff this year, Irvin can rest in knowing that the 2022 team has people thinking differently about the program. The Mounties had a winning record for the first time since 2017.

Irvin has interest from one school to play football, and several schools are interested in him for basketball. He has an offer from Virginia University of Lynchburg.

Irvin feels he can play football in college. “I feel like I could be a next-level wide receiver if I am given some work due to me not playing for the past couple of years,” he said.

“I want to be remembered as a smart, fun, athletic, and hardworking person that always put the important things first,” said Irvin.

The future is bright for the IB student from Pleasant Grove. “He’s going to go pre-med wherever he decides to go,” Barnfield says. “He will make a good doctor because he is kind and smart.”

“His leadership in our receiver group will truly be missed,” said Pope.

Senior Spotlight: Kaleb Tolbert

By John Goolsby

Some guys are just made for football. Kaleb Tolbert, who started playing football when he was five years old, is one of those guys. “I love the hitting and tackling part the most,” said Tolbert. “There is just something about the contact that I love.”

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Defensive line coach Robert Nelson, Jr. has been pleased with Tolbert’s play this season. “Kaleb has been the most consistent guy for us all year with his play.”

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While Tolbert is fierce on the field, “he’s the life of the party” off the field, says his mom, Barbara Tolbert. “He is thoughtful, caring, respectful, and shows love to his three younger siblings,” she says.

Tolbert’s favorite saying is “all you have to do is believe.” He has turned that saying into his goal for his senior year: excel in the classroom and on the field. “I want to give myself the best opportunities for my life,” he said. “Opportunities aren’t just given out to you; you have to go and take them.”

Tolbert wants to be remembered as someone dependable and realistic. “I just want to leave a positive impact in all that I do,” he said. “If you can help someone or make a change, why not go for it?”

Tolbert is looking to attend the University of Alabama and major in engineering next year.

Barbara Tolbert penned a short poem that sums up the years of hard work and the excitement of the future for her son:

Engineer bound is his choice of career.
Striving for excellence is all you will hear; look out, Alabama, because he’s coming next year.

Senior Spotlight: Rashad Morris

By John Goolsby

One of the most disappointing things for a player is losing their senior year. For Rashad Morris, a starting offensive lineman, the season came to a premature end on September 9th. Morris’ vehicle was struck by a drunk driver. Morris sustained a neck injury in the accident that forced him to miss the remainder of the 2022 season.

Morris, looking to have a big year, started as a Wenonah Young Dragon at five. He took his junior year off from football but returned and attended football camps at UAB, Alabama A&M, and West Florida this past summer.

While the injury certainly put a damper on his season, it definitely didn’t erase the smile on his face or take away from his sense of humor. “I want to keep my classmates laughing,” he said. “I want to be that chill-out guy.”

Morris would like the opportunity to play football again. “I feel like I can play on the defensive side of the ball if I can pick my speed up,” he said. However, if he doesn’t get that opportunity with a school, he has a backup plan.

“After high school, I want to go to school and get into welding,” Morris said. “I also want to get my commercial driving license.”

“Rashad had the dream of becoming an entrepreneur from an early age,” his mom, Carmenlita Morris, said. “He wants to own his own construction company eventually.”

Whatever path Morris chooses, he will be successful. One thing is for sure, the Mountie football team will miss Rashad Morris and that big smile.

Senior Spotlight: Zayden Leonard

By John Goolsby

Zayden Leonard is a self-starter that excels on the gridiron and in the classroom. He started playing football at Moody High School, but a torn ACL cost him his sophomore year. After a transfer to Shades Valley, he began focusing on basketball as a junior.

Leonard thought his time on the football field was over, but Rueben Nelson had an idea that the big senior could help the Mounties. “Coach Nelson saw me in the hallway and asked me to play,” Leonard said. “That’s when I decided I would give it a chance.”

Because of his high character and leadership qualities, the right guard has been a great addition to the Mountie football team this year.

Leonard is an exceptional student. He has a 4.1 GPA and is in the top 10 in his class. After high school, he plans on getting an undergraduate degree in biology.

While most kids try to ease through their senior year, Leonard does not. “When he registered for his senior year, I told Zayden to take some easy classes,” his mom, Mimi Leonard, said. “I was not surprised when he told me he was taking all AP classes.”

In addition to maintaining exceptional grades, Leonard helps manage his family’s restaurant. “He has been a great influence on his little brother,” said his mom.

Leonard’s goals for the year are to finish the 2022 football season strong and have an excellent senior season with the Mountie basketball squad.

Leonard has left his mark on the football team and will be remembered as someone who always gave their best as a scholar-athlete.

Senior Spotlight: Caleel Holifield

By John Goolsby

Caleel Holifield didn’t expect to be on the sideline for the last two games of the year, but an ankle injury against Pell City ended his season early. Even though Holifield won’t be contributing on the field, he’s helping his teammates by reading what the offensive line is doing and helping the defensive line make adjustments.

That’s typical of Holifield, who helps his teammates academically and at home with his two younger sisters. The “gentle giant,” as his mom, Rachel Holifield, calls him, always looks to help others. “We have always taught him to be a leader,” she said.

Holifield, who started playing football at Clay in the 3rd grade, spent his summer working on getting stronger and faster. That hard work paid off for him. “Caleel has grown to become the leader of our group this year. Even when he had to move from playing end to tackle, he didn’t gripe; he just did what the coaches asked to the best of his ability,” said defensive line coach Robert Nelson, Jr.

Academics are extremely important to Holifield, and he wants to set an example for younger players. “I really want to let people know that even doing the IB program; you can still be a good student-athlete and excel in both,” he said. “You don’t have to compromise either one.” Holifield is also part of the Engineering Academy.

Holifield won’t be finished competing when the football season ends. Last spring he took up golf. “Golf opened up a whole new perspective and thought process within him as well,” said his mom. “It requires focus, precision and commitment.”

“He shushed me numerous times at the first match I attended because I wanted to ask questions and cheer for him like I do in football,” his mom said. “He let me know quickly that golf doesn’t require that kind of support!”

Caleel would like to major in Agricultural Engineering because it combines the things he likes: engineering, problem-solving, math, science, food, and animals. He ultimately wants to have a “farm-to-table” business.

Whatever path the laid-back and thoughtful senior chooses, he knows that being versatile in life, like balancing sports and academics, will continue to open the doors for him in unexpected places and ways.

Mounties Drop Region Game

By John Goolsby

This article also appeared in the Trussville Tribune.

By John Goolsby

Pinson-Pinson Valley overcame four turnovers and a gritty performance by Shades Valley to punch their ticket to the playoffs with a 23-6 win over Shades Valley.

The Indians got off to a fast start and scored on their first two possessions to take an early 13-0 lead. Pinson’s first score came on a three-yard run by Taurus Chambers with 7:35 remaining in the opening period and a 68-yard touchdown pass to Amari Thomas from Cameron Jennings to close out the first quarter

Shades Valley’s Christian Thomas came up with an interception on the Indians’ next possession, but Valley was forced to punt for the third straight time.

The Indians once again turned the ball over on their next drive. Shades Valley recovered a Pinson fumble and moved the ball into scoring position, but two penalties forced a field goal attempt. Jair Aguilar’s 36-yard field goal was wide, and the Mounties remained scoreless with 4:42 remaining in the half.

The Indians, for the third consecutive time turned the ball over. Defensive back Erin Callens came up with the interception for the Mounties with 3:19 remaining before the break.

The Mounties were unable to move the ball and were forced to punt for the 4th time in the first half.

Pinson Valley got the ball back with 1:43 remaining in the half and drove to the Mountie 6-yard line but could not reach the end zone. Damian Gonzalez kicked a 23-yard field goal as the half expired, and the Indians took a 16-0 lead to the locker room.

Shades Valley received the opening kick of the half. The Mountie offense could not put together a drive and the Mounties were again forced to punt.

Pinson Valley gave the ball back to the Mounties with their second fumble of the night on their opening drive. Mountie quarterback Steve Brown, playing safety, recovered the ball with 7:06 remaining in the third quarter

On the next play, Christian Thomas raced 84 yards for the touchdown. The PAT failed, and Pinson Valley held a 16 to 6 lead with 6:53 remaining in the third.

After forcing a Pinson Valley punt, Christian Thomas sprinted 53 yards and gave the Mounties a first down at the Pinson 25-yard line. The Indians defense stiffened and on fourth down, Pinson’s Thomas Metcalf intercepted Brown’s pass in the end zone with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter.

The Indians extended their lead on an 8-yard touchdown run by Jennings after a short drive. The PAT was successful, and Pinson led valley led 23-6 with 11:32 remaining in the game.

Shades Valley mounted two more drives to the 36-yard line and inside the 10-yard line but could not score.

“I was pleased that we were able to come out fast, learned from last week’s mistakes, and overcame some early turnovers,” said Pinson’s Lee Guess. “Shades Valley had a lot of good schemes and forced us to keep pressing on them”

“Shades Valley fought the whole game. The kids fought,” said Shades Valley’s Rueben Nelson. “I made some mistakes as a head coach, but Shades Valley will fight.”

Red & Black Players of the Week: Pell City

By John Goolsby

The Offensive “Cuff ‘em” Player of the Week award goes to Steve Brown. The junior quarterback had 305 passing yards and 3 passing touchdowns. Brown also rushed for 103 yards on 8 carries.


The Defensive “Headhunter” Player of the Week award goes to Clayton Garrison. The junior defensive end had 5 total tackles (3.5 tackles for loss), 3 quarterback pressures and 1 sack.


Mounties Get Homecoming And Huge Region Win Over Pell City

By John Goolsby

Irondale -Shades Valley (5-2, 2-2) hung on in the 4th quarter to pull out a 35-29 victory over Pell City (0-7, 0-4) in Class 6A, Region 6 play. The Homecoming win keeps Valley’s playoff hopes alive.

Running back Micah Thomas scored on a 1-yard run to open the scoring. The Mounties led 7-0 with 7:39 remaining in the first period after the Jair Aguilar PAT.

The Panthers offense was unable to get on track early and was forced to punt on their first two drives.

After the Mounties fumbled near midfield, Pell City put together a scoring drive that ended with a 37-yard field goal by Jake Blackstone. Shades Valley led 7-3 with 36 seconds remaining in the quarter.

With 11:16 remaining in the half, the Mounties extended their lead to 14-3 on a 41-yard completion to Christian Thomas from Steve Brown.

Pell City put together a 15-play drive and moved to the Valley two-yard line, but the Mountie defense, with the help of a Johnny Steele tackle for loss, held the Panthers out of the end zone. The Mounties took over on downs with 3:04 remaining in the half.

The Mountie offense went to work quickly and moved the ball to their 46-yard line. Brown hit Korda’e Harper on a 54-yard pass for a score, but a penalty on the play took the points off the board, and the Mounties were forced to punt.

Before halftime, Pell City quickly moved the ball to their 46-yard line. Gross was set to pick up a big gain and a first down on a scramble. Valley’s Clayton Garrison tracked him down and tackled him short of the first down marker, and the Panthers were forced to punt.

The two teams headed to the half with the Mounties holding a 14-3 lead.

Shades Valley opened the second half with a 52-yard run by Micah Thomas, but a penalty nullified the play and the Mountie drive stalled.

After the two teams traded punts, Shades Valley extended the lead to 21-3 on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Korda’e Harper with 6:19 to play in the 3rd quarter.

Pell City answered back a minute later on a 52-yard touchdown run by Carlos Herring. Jacob Mahand blocked the extra point, and Shades Valley held a 21-9 lead with 5:14 remaining in the quarter.

Shades Valley’s offense went on a six-play 85-yard drive and scored on an 11-yard pass from Brown to Ji’Quez Daniel. The Mounties led 28-9 with 3:19 in the third quarter.

The Panther offense put together a nine-play, 70-yard drive. James Lucas cut the Valley lead to 28-15 on a five-yard run with 9 seconds remaining in the period. Shades Valley cornerback Kendall Odom came up with the interception on the two-point conversion attempt.

Pell City forced another Shades Valley punt and got the ball back near the 50-yard line.

It was then Shades Valley’s defense’s turn to stiffen and the Mounties forced the Panthers to turn the ball over on downs,

Pell City once again forced a punt and drew within six points on a 59-yard touchdown pass from Gross to Herring. The Shades Valley lead was cut to 28-22 with 5 minutes remaining in the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, Christian Thomas showed why he is one of the most dangerous players in the state. The senior took the ball at the two-yard line and raced 98 yards to give Valley a 35-22 lead with 4:40 seconds remaining.

Pell City wasn’t finished and put together a nine-play scoring drive. Herring scored on a 28-yard pass from Gross to again pull within six with 2:16 remaining.

The Panther’s onside kick failed, and the Mounties picked up a key first down on a scramble by Brown on 3rd down. Christian Thomas sealed the victory with a darting 26-yard run for a first down. Valley then ran the clock out to secure the win.

Head Coach Rueben Nelson was pragmatic about the win. “We’ve just got to get better,” he said. “I’m proud of them, but we have just got to get better.”

Christian Thomas, who had nine receptions, tallied over 275 yards of total offense, and scored two touchdowns, was excited after the win. “We did well as a team, and without each other, this wouldn’t be possible,” he said.

The Mounties travel to Pinson Valley next week for a huge Region 6 matchup.

Pell City faces Huffman in another Region 6 game.

Center Point Secures Playoff Bid With Huge Region Win

By John Goolsby

Irondale- The Center Point Eagles went on the road and pulled off a huge 36-20 region win at Shades Valley. With the victory, the Eagles secured a trip to the playoffs in their first year in 6A.

The Eagles’ powerful offense was led by senior running back Troy Bruce, Jr. Bruce came into the game averaging 147 yards per game and having scored 14 touchdowns. Bruce rushed for 225 yards on 13 carries and accounted for all five Center Point touchdowns.

Bruce was pleased with his performance. “It was a great game for me thanks to my teammates, offensive line and coaches,” he said. “We had a great week of practice and we were able to come out and play fast and physical.”

The Eagles struck quickly on a 69-yard touchdown run by Bruce. Senior quarterback Jabari Collier converted the two-point conversion, and the Eagles led 8-0 before most fans were in their seats.

Shades Valley was unable to generate any offense and was forces to punt the ball away on their first series.

The Eagles took over at the Valley 27-yard line after a short punt. Two plays later, Collier connected with Bruce for a 13-yard touchdown pass that extend the lead to 15-0 with 8:23 remaining in the first quarter.

On Shades Valley‘s next possession, the Mounties moved the ball to the Eagle 32-yard line, but the drive stalled, and Valley turned the ball over on downs with 4:35 remaining in the first quarter.

During Center Point’s next series, the night’s most controversial play occurred. Senior linebacker Malique Steele appeared to score on an Eagle fumble recovery. After an official’s conference at midfield, Bruce, the ball carrier, was ruled down and the Eagles retained possession of the ball.

Collier completed a 57-yard pass on third down to keep the drive alive. Bruce scored on a 2-yard run, and after a successful PAT, Center Point pushed their lead to 22-0 with 2:27 remaining in the first quarter.

On the Mounties’ next series, quarterback Steve Brown connected with Korda’e Harper for a 70-yard gain to the Eagles 8-yard line. The drive came to an end when Brown threw an interception at the goal line with 39 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

The two teams traded punts over the next two series.

Center Point’s next drive saw the Eagles pick up a crucial third down conversion on a 39-yard completion. The Eagles steadily moved the ball down the field, and Bruce scored his third rushing score of the night on a 15-yard run with 4:35 remaining in the half. After the successful PAT, Center Point led 29-0.

Shades Valley moved the ball to the Center Point 6-yard line but once again could not get the ball in the end zone and turned the ball over on downs with 1:01 remaining in the half.

On the first play of the ensuing Center Point drive, Bruce ripped off a 94-yard run for his fifth touchdown of the night, and the Eagles led 36-0 with 45 seconds remaining in the half.

The Mounties were again able to move the ball deep into Eagle territory. The drive reached the 10-yard line, but the Mounties could not come away with any points and headed to the locker room trailing 36-0.

The biggest play of the 3rd period was an interception by Shades Valley’s Kendall Odom who returned the ball to the Eagle 49-yard line. However, neither team could generate any offense, and the two teams headed to the fourth quarter with the Eagles holding a 36-0 lead.

The Mounties finally got on the board with 8:05 reminding in the game with a 9-yard strike from Brown to Korda’e Harper. Jair Aguilar converted the PAT, and the Eagles’ lead was cut to 36-7.

The Mountie defense held the Eagles short off a first down and forced a punt.

Freshman quarterback Zayvian Bolden hit senior wide receiver Christian Thomas for a 34-yard touchdown. The PAT failed, and the Mounties trailed 13-36 with 4:36 remaining.

The Mountie defense once again forced an Eagle punt.

With 29 seconds remaining in the game, Bolden hit sophomore receiver, Ji’Quez Daniel with an 8-yard pass in the back of the end zone for a score. The PAT was good and the score stood at 20-36.

Head coach George Bates was excited about the win. “It was a huge win for us,” he said. “Weve been told since December we couldn’t compete in 6A. To come out and clinch a playoff birth in our first year in 6A is huge for our community. It is a testament to the hard work of our players and coaches.”

Mountie head coach Rueben Nelson, who saw his team come away from the Eagle red zone four times without a score, was pragmatic about the game. “Center Point was the better team tonight,” he said. They beat us in every aspect of the game, and we just have to get better.”

Center Point hosts Pinson Valley in another huge region game next week. “Pinson is only seven minutes away from us, and we have them at home,” Bates said. “We are going to enjoy this, but then go get ready to improve our seeding.” and

Shades Valley will host Pell City in another Region 6 matchup.

Senior Spotlight: Jacob Mahand

By John Goolsby

Senior year is a special time. For Jacob Mahand, his senior football season is extra special. Mahand and his father are getting to experience it together. Chris Mahand, a long-time head coach in the state, retired last year so he would have the opportunity to watch Jacob play his senior year. Mahand thought he’d be watching his son from the stands. However, Shades Valley’s Rueben Nelson had other plans. Nelson saw the opportunity to add the veteran coach to his staff and convinced Mahand to roam the Alabama sidelines for one more season.

The two Mahands spend Friday nights trying to shut the opposing offenses down. It is a special time for Coach Mahand, too. “It’s like getting everything you wanted for Christmas,” he said. “This is the best coaching decision I have made in my twenty-five years of coaching. I wish I had made this decision early on in my career.”

For the younger Mahand, the experience has been nothing but positive. “It’s good to have him as a coach because he knows me best and understands how I learn,” he said. “He knows how to teach me when I don’t understand.”

When Mahand, the coach, evaluates his son, the player, he says, “his strength is his willingness to learn. He is coachable, has a positive attitude, is respectful, but most of all, I see his work ethic.”

The talented 6’2 defensive back, who his mom, Angel Mahand, calls “the humble beast” had a busy summer. He went to Troy, West Alabama, Mississippi State and UAB for football camps.

Mahand recently picked up an official offer from Miles College and has interest from Jacksonville State and Austin Peay.

Mahand expects to play defensive back in college. He has the versatility to play either safety or corner. “I prefer to play corner because that’s the position that I am most skilled,” he said.

Mahand, who had a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown against Huffman, wants to be remembered as being humble and “for having the most picks in one season.”

When the football season wraps up, he’ll starting preparing for the diamond as Mahand plays baseball for Valley.

Big things are ahead for the “humble beast,” whose motto is “Stay humble and hustle hard.

Red & Black Players of the Week: Bessemer City

The Offensive “Cuff ‘em” Player of the Week award goes to Steve Brown. The junior quarterback had 221 passing yards and two passing touchdowns. Brown scored the game-winning touchdown on an 8-yard run.

The Defensive “Headhunter” Player of the Week award goes to Ethan Johnson. The junior linebacker had 14 total tackles (2 tackles for loss) in the Mountie victory.

Senior Spotlight: NyDarius Whetstone

By John Goolsby

NyDarius Whetstone decided he didn’t want his high school experience to end without giving football a shot. “NyDarius always wanted to play football and decided to go out for his senior year,” said his mom Tiffany Wallace.

Sports is nothing new to NyDarius. “He was five years old when he started playing sports for the Western YMCA,” Wallace said. “He also played basketball, baseball, and Newcomb ball for Irondale Middle School.”

One of the reasons he wanted to play his senior year is “this is his last chance to accomplish something he wanted to,” said Wallace.

The start of the 2022 season has not been an easy one for Whetstone. Before fall camp started, his family’s apartment caught fire. The defensive lineman then suffered a nerve injury in his neck after the first game.

Although the neck injury has kept him from playing so far this year, Whetstone remains positive. “The experience has been good for me by learning new things on the sideline,” he said. “One of my goals is to have everybody on the same page.”

Whetstone’s resilience has impressed his position coach, Robert Nelson, Jr. “NyDarius has shown a special ability to press on through adversity by not letting both on and off the field situations stop him from coming out and being with his teammates.”

If football after high school is not in Whetstone’s future, he has another plan. “I’m focused on finishing school and starting my business,” he said. He plans to attend Barbering school at Lawson State.

Once the season ends and he hangs up his jersey for the last time, Whetstone wants to be remembered “as a guy that would help anyone that needed help.

Mounties Pull Out Road Victory

By John Goolsby

Bessemer – The Bessemer City Tigers hosted the Shades Valley Mounties in a non-region game Friday night. The first game between the two teams was played in 1921, and the most recent game was played in 2015. The Mounties and Tigers have played 26 times previously, with Bessemer holding a 14-11-1 edge in the series.

Captains: Kordell and Malique Steel

The first quarter was a defensive affair, with both teams trading punts and unable to get on the scoreboard.

The Tigers scored first on a 59-yard run by Jalen Williams. The PAT was good, and the Tigers led 7-0 with 11:44 remaining in the half.

Mounties look to score

On the next drive, the Mounties converted a fourth down conversion on a 28-yard pass from junior quarterback Steve Brown to junior wide receiver Kendarius Irvin. An apparent 10-yard touchdown run by junior Ethan Johnson was called back due to a penalty. Three plays later, Valley scored on a 15-yard strike from Brown to Irvin. Jair Aguilar converted the PAT, and the game was knotted at 7-7 with 7:40 remaining in the half.

On Bessemer’s next possession, the Tigers converted a third and ten with a 40-yard pass. Two plays later, Bessemer completed a 16-yard pass to the Valley four-yard line. The nine-play drive was capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Chris Whittsett. Bessemer City held a 14-7 lead with 1:39 remaining in the half after the successful PAT.

The Mounties began their next drive on the Tiger 35-yard line and answered back quickly with a 10-yard completion to sophomore Ji’Quez Daniel, a 5-yard run by sophomore David Ware and a 15-yard completion to Irvin. Valley tied the score at 14-14 on a one-yard touchdown run by Johnson and a successful PAT with ten seconds remaining before the half.

The Mounties received the opening kick but were forced to punt.

The Shades Valley defense held the Bessemer offense from picking up a first down. Senior Jacob Mahand blocked the Tiger punt, and fellow senior Malique Steele recovered it at Bessemer’s 26-yard line.

A Valley penalty moved the ball back to the Tiger’s 36-yard line. Brown connected with senior Roderick Craig on a 25-yard completion to the Bessemer 11-yard line. The Tiger defense stiffened and sacked Brown on fourth down and took possession of the ball.

The Mountie defense came up with a big stop on third down. Seniors Kordell Steel and Landon Saxton pressured Whittsett out of the pocket and forced a scramble. He was forced out of bonds by junior Clayton Garrison and senior Kaleb Tolbert before picking up the first down.

After the Tiger punt, the Mounties broke the deadlock on a 36-yard lateral from Brown to senior Christian Thomas for a 36-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked, and Valley held a 20-14 lead with 11:42 remaining in the game.

The two teams were unable to move the ball and traded punts on their next two possessions.

The Tiger offense moved the ball 65 yards in seven plays and scored on a 1-yard Chris Whittsett run. The extra point sailed wide left, and the game was tied at 20 with 4:43 remaining in the contest.

The Mounties took over on their 35-yard line and moved down the field on two completions to Thomas and two to Daniel. A carry by Thomas and three consecutive carries by Johnson pushed the ball inside the Tiger’s ten-yard line. With 12 seconds remaining, Steve Brown scored on an 8-yard run. The PAT failed, and the Mounties led 26-20.

Shades Valley brought the Bessemer City returner down on the ensuing kickoff and escaped with a 26-20 victory.

Brown with the game-winning run

“It was a hard-fought win,” said head coach Rueben Nelson. “The kids fought hard, and I think they learned some things tonight. We will go back and get ready for next week,” he said.

The Mounties move to 4-1 and will host Center Point in an important region contest next week at Frank Nix Stadium.

Red & Black Players of the Week: Huffman

By John Goolsby

The Offensive “Cuff ‘em” Player of the Week award goes to Christian Thomas. The senior wide receiver had 209 yards rushing on eight carries and four touchdowns.

(Video credit Shane Paschal)

The Defensive “Headhunter” Player of the Week award goes to Jacob Mahand. The senior defensive back returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown and had another interception on a Huffman 2-point conversion attempt. Mahand had three pass breakups and two tackles.

(Video credit Hudl)

Mounties Get First Region Win

By John Goolsby

IRONDALE – Shades Valley hosted Region 6 foe Huffman in the season’s first home game at Frank Nix Stadium. The Mounties defeated the Vikings 35-20.

(Photo credit Lamar McAdams)

Head coach Rueben Nelson was pleased with the win. “I think our players played hard last night,” he said. “The coaches are pushing, and the players are starting to respond.”

Senior wide receiver Christian Thomas had an outstanding performance for the Mounties. Thomas tallied over 200 yards rushing on laterals and direct snaps and scored four rushing touchdowns for Valley.

The Vikings took an early lead on their first possession with a 35-yard touchdown pass. The PAT failed, and Huffman led 6-0 with 10:14 remaining in the first quarter.

The Mounties answered quickly and scored on a 56-yard touchdown run by Christian Thomas on a pitch from quarterback Steve Brown. Valley led 7-6 after the successful PAT by Jair Aguilar with 9:49 in the first quarter.

The Vikings put together a 15-play drive that went deep into Mountie territory. On second and goal, senior defensive back Jacob Mahand intercepted a Huffman pass and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. The PAT was successful, and Valley held a 14-6 lead with 3:53 remaining in the first quarter.

The Mountie defense forced Huffman to punt on their next possession.

The Mountie offense took over on their 39-yard line after a personal foul against Huffman on the punt return. The Mounties moved the ball down the field and extended their lead to 21-6 on a 28-yard run by Christian Thomas with 7:30 remaining in the half.

The Vikings put together another long drive only to be turned away by a Jacaryous Burrow tackle at the Mountie 8-yard line on fourth and goal.

The two teams traded punts on their next possessions.

Valley started their next possession from their 27-yard line with 1:52 remaining in the half. It only took three plays before the Mounties found the end zone again. Christian Thomas took a pitch and raced 63 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. The Mounties led 28-6 after the successful PAT.

An 8-yard sack by junior defensive end Clayton Garrison ended the Viking’s drive and the half.

The Mounties received the opening kickoff and drove to the Viking 39-yard line on hard running by junior Ethan Johnson and a 22-yard screen pass to junior running back David Ware. However, the drive stalled, and Valley was forced to punt.

The Mountie defense held and again forced a Huffman punt.

On Valley’s next possession David Ware went to work for the Mounties and moved the ball 39 yards to Huffman’s 6-yard line on five consecutive touches, but the Mounties could not get in the end zone and turned the ball over on downs.

Huffman then drove the ball 87 yards and scored on a 20-yard run. The two-point conversion attempt failed with an interception by Jacob Mahand. The Mounties held a 28-12 lead with 10:40 remaining in the game.

The Vikings executed an onside kick and took possession at the Mountie 29-yard line. Huffman moved the ball to the Valley 5-yard line but fumbled the ball. Senior linebacker Kordell Steele scooped the ball up at the 11-yard line and raced 72 yards to the Huffman 12-yard line.

On first down, a penalty backed Shades Valley up 5 yards. On first and fifteen, Christian Thomas took a direct snap and scored on a 17-yard run up the middle of the Viking defense. After the successful PAT by Aguilar, the Mounties led 35-12 with 7:27 remaining in the contest.

The Vikings were not done, though. Huffman took possession of the ball at their 35-yard line and moved to the Mountie 5-yard line in 10 plays. The Valley lead was cut to 35-20 on a five-yard quarterback keeper and successful two-point conversion with 3:13 remaining.

The Mountie offense took almost three minutes off the clock on their next possession. Thomas converted a crucial third down conversion on a 12-yard run to give the Mounties a first down. Valley was forced to punt with 20 seconds to go in the game.

Huffman could not move the ball, and the Mounties moved to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in region play with the 35-20 victory.

(Photo credit Roderick Morning-Trice)

“I feel like we played a good game; we didn’t underestimate them,” said Christian Thomas. “We came out and did what we needed to do to take home the W.”

Shades Valley travels to Bessemer City this Friday for a non-region game.

Senior Spotlight: Micah Thomas

By John Goolsby

Micah Thomas decided to lace up the football cleats and snap on the chin strap one more time. The senior running back took off his junior year to focus on baseball but decided to make a return to the gridiron. “The team said they needed another running back, so I stepped up,” Thomas said. Thomas plays second base and outfield for the Mountie baseball team.

“He missed sharing the football field with his friends, so he decided to play again during his senior year,” said his mother, Bridget Thomas. “He really wants to create lasting memories with his friends because he realizes his high school journey will be coming to an end very soon.”

Thomas’ decision to return to football was a good decision. He made an immediate impact and added depth to the running back position. Thomas scored on a 48-yard run in the spring game.

Thomas began the 2022 season as the Mountie’s starting running back. Unfortunately, he sprained an ankle in the first half of the opening game and has been on the sideline since the injury. Despite the injury, Thomas has had a very positive impact on the team.

“Micah has become one of the leaders behind the scenes,” said offensive coordinator Baniko Harley. “He’s stepped up in other ways by helping the other running backs at practice with reading the linebackers, accelerating through the hole, and having great ball security.”

Even though Thomas has missed the last two games, his season goals are still attainable. “My goal this year is to beat the odds,” Thomas said. “I want to make it known to everyone who doubted Shades Valley that we are fully capable of being a dominating team.”

Like many of his teammates, Thomas got his start in little league. He began playing with the A.G. Gaston Jaguars when he was five and is working hard to get the opportunity to play running back at the next level.

Thomas will be successful no matter what path he chooses. “Micah was born with an old soul,” says his mother. “He loves old-school music, and he is a very good singer. He is amazingly loving and humble.”

Thomas wants to leave his mark on the Shades Valley program. “I would like to be remembered as a loyal teammate who was not ashamed to be himself, someone who had a lot of love for his brothers and would do anything for them,” he said.

Thomas lives by 2 Timothy 1:7: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Thomas is looking to get back on the field and score touchdowns very soon. Until then, Thomas will continue to make the 2022 Mounties a better team on and off the field. “Micah is one of those kids you love to have around,” says Harley.

Mounties Drop Region Opener

By John Goolsby

OXFORD – The Shades Valley Mounties lost to the Oxford Yellow Jackets on the road 45-13 in Region 6 play.

The Mounties came away with no points on three drives inside the Oxford Red Zone as mistakes plagued Valley all night. Oxford returned a Mountie fumble for a touchdown, the special teams fumbled a punt return, the offense threw an interception and committed a costly intentional grounding penalty while in scoring position, and the defense gave up big plays due to missed assignments.

Ethan Johnson, Kordell Steele and Jacaryous Burrow gang tackle an Oxford runner
(Photo credit Kawanna Brickler)

The visiting Mounties got off to a strong start offensively despite starting two freshman linemen in place of two injured starters. Valley was able to open a 13-0 lead on two Steve Brown passes to Christian Thomas for scores of 37 and 32 yards in the first quarter.

(Video credit Shane Paschal)

The Yellow Jackets answered with a 33-yard touchdown from Mason Mims to Judd Syer with 3:47 remaining in the first quarter to cut the lead to 13-7.

After Erin Callens returned the kickoff 50 yards, the Mounties drove to the Oxford 14-yard line, but a penalty and sack ended the drive.

Oxford quickly moved the ball inside the Mountie ten-yard line, but the Valley defense stiffened and forced Oxford to settle for a field goal. Shades Valley led 13-10 with 9:33 remaining in the half.

The Mounties were forced to punt on their next possession. After a short punt, Oxford started on their 42-yard line. On first down, the Yellow Jackets scored on a 58-yard touchdown run up the middle. The Mounties trailed 17-13 with 7:03 remaining in the half.

Disaster then struck for the Mounties on their next possession. After moving the ball to midfield, Oxford freshman defensive end Keenan Britt stripped quarterback Steve Brown of the ball and returned it 32 yards for an Oxford touchdown. The Yellow Jackets held a 24-13 lead with 4:31 remaining in the half.

The Mountie offense was able to regroup quickly. Due to a penalty, a 50-yard Christian Thomas touchdown was taken off the board. The drive ultimately reached the Oxford 19-yard line, but an intentional grounding call moved the ball back to the 34-yard line, and the drive stalled. The Mounties headed to the locker room trailing 24-13.

The Yellow Jackets opened the second half with a bang. Quarterback Mason Mims hit Judd Syer with a 60-yard strike to take a 31-13 lead with 10:06 in the third quarter.

The Mounties then moved the ball to the Oxford 35-yard line, but the drive stalled again, and the Yellow Jackets took over with 8:33 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

The Jacket offense then went on an impressive six-play 65-yard drive and took a 38-13 lead after a 21-yard Mason Mims toss to Damious Wilson with 5:45 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

On the next Shades Valley possession, Brown threw an interception, and Oxford took over with 3:45 remaining in the period.

The Mountie defense forced a punt and drove the ball to the Oxford 12-yard line but again failed to come up with any points.

Oxford then marched 88 yards and sophomore Jamari Winn scored on a one-yard run to extend the Yellow Jacket lead to 45-13.

The two teams exchanged punts on their next two series with the Mounties fumbling the punt return at their 28-yard line with 5:42 remaining. The Yellow Jackets moved to the Valley 8-yard line but handed the ball back to Valley on downs with 2:50 remaining.

Shades Valley was forced to punt and Oxford ran out the final 55 seconds of the contest.

Senior Christian Thomas had nine receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the losing effort.

“We are learning how to finish games,” said head coach Rueben Nelson. “Football is an emotional game, and you have to play a complete game when you go up two scores, not five just minutes.”

Shades Valley has a bye week and will host Huffman at home on September 16 in another Region 6 game.

“We are disappointed, but we will regroup and correct mistakes and get ready for the next one,” Nelson said.

Senior Spotlight: Malique Steele

By John Goolsby

There was never a question that Malique Steele would be a Shades Valley athlete. His mother and his three uncles all played sports at Valley. “It was always in his blood,” said his mother, Kim Steele.

Kim Steele was a standout player on the Shades Valley varsity basketball team for four years. “I was a point guard, and she dominated the post position…strong in the paint,” said Steele’s teammate, Maribeth Butts. “I’d pass her the ball, and she had no fear in taking it to the basket…she was awesome.”

Kim Steele

Malique Steele showed his mom’s same fearless attitude early on. In his first year playing football as a 6th grader, he suffered a severe injury going for a touchdown. “He broke his humerus, which caused a lot of tissue damage to his shoulder,” his mom said. “They had to place pins in his arm to hold the bone together so it could heal.”

That setback didn’t slow Steele down. He rebounded from the early injury and hasn’t looked back. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound Steele is a talented athlete that plays football, wrestles, and runs track. He made it to the State wrestling championship in the 182 pound weight class and to Sectionals in the 400 meters.

Steel made State in the 182 pound class
Steele competed at 6A Sectionals

Steele, a hybrid defensive back-linebacker, is a long, rangy player with the athleticism to play on the offensive side of the ball as a receiver.

Steele went to camps this past summer at Austin Peay and Samford. He officially visited Lindsey Wilson College and will go back to watch a game this fall. Charlotte has shown interest as well.

(Photo by Roderick Morning-Trice)

“I think I can play any skill position,” said Steele. “I don’t prefer any position; as long as I get to play football, it doesn’t matter what position I play.” Steele’s frame and athleticism give him options at the next level. “They may keep me at defensive back, or they might make me put on 20 pounds and make me play outside linebacker,” he said.

Steele’s play over the summer earned the respect of Mountie quarterback Steve Brown. “Malique has good instincts for the ball,” Brown said. “When he sees the ball, he’s going to get it.”

(Photo by Roderick Morning-Trice)

Steele, now playing under his third head coach in four years, understands his role as a team leader. “My goal for this year is to win State, but I’m pretty sure that’s everybody’s goal,” he said. “If we don’t win State, I want to make sure I have prepared and made the underclassmen better so they can win State next year.”

While Steele has his priorities straight as a team leader, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have personal goals. “My personal goals are to have a 100-plus tackle season, 10-plus sacks, 5- plus interceptions, 20-plus tackles for loss, 5- plus touchdowns, and 15-plus receptions.

Defensive Coordinator Kordell Jackson is high on Steele. “Malique is a good football player with the potential to play at the college level,” he said. “I am excited to see him reach his potential this season and become a big-time player for the defense.”

Steele wants his legacy at Shades Valley to be that of building a foundation for the future of Mountie football. “I want to be remembered as a team member that turned the Shades Valley culture around and put the program on the good track; the way they used to be,” he said.

Red & Black Players of the Week: Fairfield

By John Goolsby

Players of the Week have been selected for the Fairfield game.

This week’s Offensive “Cuff ‘em” Award goes to: Christian Thomas.

Thomas had 97 yards on five receptions, four touchdowns, a two-point conversion, made two PATs, and accounted for 28 of the Mounties’ 34 points.

This week’s Defensive “Headhunter” Award goes to Landy Saxon.

Saxon had five tackles (one for a loss) and three sacks.

Mounties Pull Out Win In Double OT

By John Goolsby

FAIRFIELD – The Shades Valley Mounties escaped Fairfield with a 34-28 double overtime victory Friday night.

Christian Thomas
photo credit Roderick Morning-Trice

For the second week in a row, it took a Mountie defensive stand, and a Christian Thomas score to get the win.

“It was a good win and the kids are still learning,” said Mountie head coach Rueben Nelson. “We just couldn’t get things going all night.”

Rueben Nelson
photo credit Roderick Morning-Trice

The Mounties took the opening kickoff but could not pick up the first down and had to punt.

Fairfield started their opening drive from the Mountie 42-yard line. The Tigers came up with a big 4th down conversion to the Valley 18-yard line. The Valley defense stiffened and got a big sack by Malique Steele on 4th down.

The Mountie took over on their own 17-yard line but were forced to punt again.

Fairfield began the drive from their 30-yard line with 5:04 in the first quarter. Landy Saxton and Caleel Holifield came up with another big sack on third down for the black helmets, and the Tigers were forced to punt.

The Mounties started the possession on their 39-yard line and drove deep into Fairfield territory. With 30 seconds remaining in the quarter, quarterback Steve Brown hit Christian Thomas with an eight-yard scoring strike to get on the board.

Thomas, filling in for an unavailable Jair Aguilar, kicked the PAT and the Mounties led 7-0.

Christian Thomas
photo credit to Roderick Morning-Trice

Fairfield then put together their own scoring drive and got on the scoreboard with a 1-yard pass with 9:46 remaining in the half. Senior Jacob Mahand blocked the PAT, and the Mounties held a 7-6 lead.

It didn’t take the Valley offense long to answer after starting on their 44-yard line. Brown hit Thomas with a 23-yard TD pass. Thomas again converted the PAT, and the Mounties held a 14-6 lead with 6:18 remaining.

The two teams traded punts on their next two possessions. The Mountie defense held again and forced Fairfield to punt. The Tigers were penalized for kick catch interference, and the Mounties started from the Fairfield 36-yard line. Valley drove to the Tiger’s 16-yard line, but the drive stalled, and the Mounties turned the ball over on downs.

Fairfield ripped off an 80-yard run, but a penalty backed the Tigers up to the Valley 40-yard line. The Mountie defense held, and the Tigers threw two incompletions in a row to end the half.

Malique Steele and Kendall Odom
photo credit Roderick Morning – Trice

Fairfield received the second half’s opening kick and began their first drive from their 26-yard line. The Tigers drove to the Shades Valley 16-yard line before senior Jacob Mahand intercepted the ball in the endzone.

The Mounties were forced to punt and the Tigers got the ball back on their 41-yard line with 6:02 remaining in the quarter.

The Tigers put together an impressive drive and scored from one yard out with 2:41 remaining in the half. Fairfield converted the two-point conversion, and the game was knotted at 14.

Valley was forced to punt on their next possession, and the Tigers gave the ball right back in good field position after a bad snap while punting.

The Mountie offense struck quickly. Brown hit Thomas for a 46-yard touchdown pass with 10:31 remaining in the game. Thomas converted the two-point conversion, and Valley led 22-14.

Fairfield started the series from their 43-yard line and methodically drove to the Mountie’s 30-yard line. The Valley defense held, and the Tigers turned the ball over on downs with 5:31 remaining in the game.

Kordell Steele
photo credit Roderick Morning-Trice

Valley had an opportunity to run the clock out but was unable to and had to punt. The Tigers got the ball on their 39-yard line with 2:54 remaining. Fairfield threw a 12-yard touchdown pass with 60 seconds on the clock to pull within 2. The Tigers converted the two-point conversion and tied the game.

The Mounties could not move the ball, and the two teams headed to overtime. Valley had not played in an overtime game since 2017 and had not had an overtime win since 2000.

Fairfield went on offense first and scored on 4th down from two yards out. The PAT was blocked, and the Tigers led 28-22.

Junior Ethan Johnson scored from 1 yard out to tie the game at 28. Thomas attempted the PAT for the win, but the kick sailed wide left by less than a foot.

The Mountie defense rose to the occasion and held the Tigers out of the endzone on their next possession. On first down, Malique Steel made a tackle for a loss of five yards. On second down, junior cornerback Kendall Odom broke up a pass in the endzone. On third down, Carterius Ford got a finger on the ball and forced an incompletion. On fourth down, Fairfield attempted another pass. Odom got a hand on the ball and ended the Tiger’s scoring opportunity.

Credit: WVTM

On first down, Christian Thomas took a screen pass from Brown and scored on a physical 10-yard run to end the game.

Credit: WVTM

Steve Brown ended the night 11 of 21 for 153 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Christian Thomas had five receptions for 97 yards and four touchdowns. He scored a two-point conversion and kicked two extra points.

David Ware was the leading rusher for the Mounties.

Brown and Ware
photo credit to Roderick Morning-Trice

Nelson was happy to escape with a win but sees room for improvement for his young team. “We are in a building phase,” Nelson said. “We’ve got to get better and get better fast.”

Credit: WVTM

The Mounties move to 2-0 with the 34-28 victory. The Mounties travel to Oxford and open region play next Friday.

Red & Black Players of the Week: Stanhope Elmore

by John Goolsby

Players of the Week have been selected for the Stanhope Elmore game.

This week’s Offensive “Cuff ‘em” Award goes to two players: Steve Brown and Christian Thomas.

Brown completed 17 of 29 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown. He also had a rushing score.

Thomas had 124 yards on seven receptions and the game-winning score.

This week’s Defensive “Headhunter” Award goes to Ethan Johnson.

Johnson had 16 tackles, a fumble recovery and one rushing touchdown.

Senior Spotlight: Christian Thomas

by John Goolsby

Christian Thomas may not be the tallest or the biggest player on the field, but there is a very good chance that he is going to be one of the most talented. Thomas’ mother, Sheunna Thomas, says Christian has a saying, “People say I’m too small, but I’m going to show them how great I can be.”

Not being the biggest is nothing new to Thomas. He started playing football when he was three or four years of age. “He was the youngest and smallest because he was playing against older kids in 6U pee wee ball for the West End Panthers,” says his father, Michael Thomas. “He was always the scorer, though.”

The muscular, 5-foot-6, 160-pound wide receiver plays much bigger than his size. Thomas is an athletic and versatile player that continues to be the scorer all these years later. “At any given time, he can make a highlight reel, rather it’s on offense, special teams, or defense,” says Shades Valley offensive coordinator Baniko Harley. “C.T. is one of those players that just makes coaching a little less stressful.”

Thomas showcased all his hard work over the offseason in the spring game. Against Springville, he came up with a diving, highlight-worthy, over-the-shoulder catch for a touchdown. He then did his best David Palmer impersonation by escaping eight tacklers on a 50-yard run after a short catch for a score.

Thomas, who runs a 4.4 forty-yard dash, is a handful for opposing defenses. “He’s so quick coming off the line,” says Mountie cornerback Ken Odom. “That makes him so hard to defend.”

Thomas carried the momentum from the spring into the seven-on-seven seasons this summer and came up with big play after big play for the Mounties.

Thomas attended football camps at Troy, Middle Tennesse, and Austin Peay this summer. He currently has interest from UCF, Austin Peay, Shorter, and Faulkner. Thomas doesn’t know what position he will be playing at the next level. “I just want to try to dominate,” he says.

Off the field, Thomas is a fun-loving, dancing, wing-loving jokester that helps the homeless in his spare time. “I just want to be remembered as the cool guy, the respectful guy, the funny guy, but most importantly, the one and only number 6,” said Thomas.

Prior to kickoff, “The Ghost,” as Thomas is known, breaks out his special pregame gear. “He’s got a mask from the movie Scream that he wears before every game to get himself going,” said Harley. “That seems about right because he’s scary good.”

Thomas has set some lofty goals for himself and his teammates this season. “I want to score 15 to 20 touchdowns, get over 1,000 all-purpose yards, and help my team win state,” Thomas says.

Thomas is off to a fast start in accomplishing those goals. In the Mountie’s opener against Stanhope Elmore, he caught seven passes for 114 yards and had the game-winning touchdown.

There is no doubt that “the Ghost’s” primary goal is to leave opposing defenses screaming at the end of the 2022 season. “The sky is beyond the limit for him,” said Harley.

Mounties Start Season With Road Win

by John Goolsby

The Shades Valley Mounties defeated Stanhope Elmore, 20-13, on the road in Foshee-Henderson Stadium Friday night. The game was a back and forth affair, but the Mounties got a late score and a big defensive stand to secure the win.

2022 Shades Valley Mounties

The Mustangs took the opening kick and drove to the Mountie 12-yard line, but the Mountie defense forced a fumble on the the next play and Caleel Holifield came up with the recovery.

The Mountie offense could not find a rhythm and had to punt. The Mustangs then turned the ball over on downs after driving into Shades Valley territory.

The Mounties put together a long drive and drew blood first on an 8-yard scamper by junior quarterback Steve Brown as time expired in the first quarter. The PAT failed, and Valley led 6-0.

Brown with the touchdown

The Mustangs struck quickly on a 48-yard strike from Jacob Bryant to Jackson Thomas. The PAT was successful, and Stanhope Elmore held a 7-6 lead with 11:24 remaining in the half.

The Mounties turned to their deep stable of backs after starter Marcus Thomas left the game with a sprained ankle. Valley was able to put together a scoring drive just before halftime. Junior Ethan Johnson scored on a 2-yard run with 1:33 to play in the half. The two-point conversion failed, and the Mounties led 12-7. Geordan Clarke, Braylen Hart and Micah Sanders all had carries on the night in relief of Thomas.

The Mustangs mounted one last drive before the half but it was thwarted by senior Malique Steele’s interception as time expired. The two teams headed to their locker rooms, with the Mounties holding on to a 12-7 lead.

The Mounties opened the second half with the ball but had to punt after struggling to gain a first down. The Mustangs put together an impressive drive and moved inside Valley’s 10-yard line. The Mountie defense stiffened and forced a field goal attempt. The Mustangs missed a 23-yard try.

Neither team could muster a scoring drive in the third quarter. Stanhope Elmore put together a drive culminating in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Bryant to Thomas with 11:35 to play in the game. The two-point conversion failed, and the Mustangs held a 13-12 lead.

Both teams were forced to punt on their next possessions. The Mounties began a drive from their own 23 with 6:02 remaining in the game and went to work. Freshman running back Geordan Clark took a screen pass for a 21-yard gain, and sophomore receiver Ji’Quez Daniel came up with a big 23-yard reception to keep the drive alive. With 3:40 remaining senior receiver Christian Thomas took a short pass from Brown, made one tackler miss, and went untouched up the middle for a 29-yard touchdown. Ji’Quez Daniel converted the two-point conversion on a sweep, and the Mounties led 20-13.

Stanhope Elmore was not quite through, though. The Mustangs drove to the Mountie 7-yard line with less than a minute remaining. The Valley defense rose to the occasion and held them out of the end zone. The Mountie offense took over and ran the clock out.

Game highlights below:

Head coach Rueben Nelson was pleased with his team. “I’m proud of them; they played with heart,” he said. “They took a step towards learning how to win tonight.”

The Mountie defense played well in a hostile environment against a talented offense. “We had good team win against a good opponent,” said defensive coordinator Kordell Jackson. “We will get better and get ready for week two.” Jackson singled out linebacker Ethan Johnson and cornerback Ken Odom for their play.

Quarterback Steve Brown had an extremely productive night for the Mounties. He was 17/29 for 216 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a touchdown. What the numbers don’t tell is that he made several intelligent plays by throwing the ball away and avoiding sacks. He was able to scramble out of pressure multiple times to avoid sacks or pick up first downs and gained 25 yards on 7 carries.

Geordan Clarke played exceptionally well in place of Thomas. The freshman had two big catches for 46 yards, including a 21-yard screen reception in the last drive.

Christian Thomas had a huge game with 114 yards on seven receptions. “I feel like we played well and I had a good night,” he said. “I wanted to leave my mark down there.”

Christian Thomas

Sophomore Ji’Quez Daniel also had a big game with five receptions for 65 yards. His 23-yard reception kept the game-winning drive alive.

Special recognition goes out to the Shades Valley Athletic Trainer Assistants for keeping the players hydrated on a hot and humid night. The assistants are: Jamiah Edwards, Adaishya Turner, Rokehria Tarver, Kynedy Odom, Tremarion Jones, and Lauren Nelson.

A number of the Shades Valley Mighty Mountie Marching band members made the trip and gave Mountie nation the familiar “Go U” after each big play.

Mighty Mountie Marching Band

The visitor’s section was well represented by the Mountie faithful that made the trip.

Mountie Nation

The Mounties travel to Fairfield High Prep next Friday night. Kick off is at 7 pm.

2022 Mountie Season Preview

by John Goolsby

2022 Shades Valley Mounties

The 2022 Shades Valley Mounties open their season Friday night on the road at Stanhope Elmore. The Mounties are looking to bounce back from last year’s 3-7 season. Valley advanced to the second round of the 6A playoffs in 2020, and the Mounties are hungry to get back to postseason play.

The Mounties are in Region 6 in 6A this season. Region 6 is possibly the most challenging region in the state, with the region teams winning five consecutive state titles. Valley will face defending state champion Clay-Chalkville, Pinson Valley (state champions in 2017, 2018, and 2020), Oxford (state champion in 2019), Pell City, Center Point, and Huffman in region play.

An interesting non-region scheduling note is that the Mounties will not face the Vestavia Hills Rebels for the first time since 1974. The two teams met for 48 straight years.

Rueben Nelson’s second Mountie team will have a different look on the sidelines as the veteran coach had to replace multiple assistant coaches in the offseason.

The Mounties have perhaps the two youngest coordinators in the state. Baniko Harley will lead the offense while Kordell Jackson will head up the defensive unit. Additionally, Harley will coach the quarterbacks, and Jackson will coach the defensive backs.

The two coordinators were preparing to play their final collegiate season for the Austin Peay Governors a year ago. The pair have strong ties to Rueben Nelson, having played for him at Ramsay. They were standouts on the Rams’ 2016 State Championship team.

JaMarius Dismukes returns for his second year as the offensive line coach. Robert Nelson, Jr. returns as the defensive line coach.

Ocie Battle, IV returns and will coach the running backs. Long-time Alabama high school head coach Chris Mahand joined the staff in the spring and will lead the linebacking corps.

Justin Mitchell and Martee Pope are also new additions to the coaching staff. Mitchell will coach the wide receivers while Pope will handle the outside linebackers and special teams.

Russell Bradt, ATC, of ATI will serve as the Mounties athletic trainer.

Otis Leverette of Modernday Fitness has overseen the Mounties’ strength and conditioning program.

The Mounties will start a third new quarterback in three years. Junior Steve Brown, a Ramsay transfer, will lead the Mountie offense. Freshman Zayvian Bolden will back Brown up.

Senior Micah Thomas heads up an extremely deep stable of running backs. Braylen Hart, David Ware, Geordan Clark, and Kam Williams will all get considerable playing time. Wide receiver Christian Thomas and linebacker Ethan Johnson will get snaps as well.

The wide receiver corp is extremely deep and talented. Christian Thomas, Kendarius Irvin, Ji’Quez Daniel, Marcus Thomas, Tramel Rush, Sephan White, Dreyden Foster, Torez McCall, Korda’e Harper, and Jacari Wedgeworth will be in the rotation. Linebacker Kordell Steele will see time at tight end, and defensive back Jacob Mahand will get snaps at the wideout position. Quincy Crawford is recovering from a recent injury and will look to make an impact when he rejoins the team midseason.

The offensive line is young but deep. Expect Bryan Blackwell, David Hunter, Rashad Morris, Zayden Leonard, and Julian Maddox to be the starters. Ajari Jones, Peyton Kidd, and Jadon Ford will be in the rotation, while William Looney, Derrick Wilson, J’Darius Wedgeworth, and Cedric McIntyre will push for playing time.

On the defensive front, Caleel Holifield, Chris Ingram, and Landy Saxton are projected to be the starters. Johnny Steele, Zion Cathey, Justin Miller, Nydarius Whetstone, Kayvian Riley, and Kaleb Tolbert will be in the rotation. Kyle DeRamus, Carlos Ford, and Terrence James will be working to see playing time. Darius Ford continues to rehab from a knee injury.

The linebacker position looks to be a strength of the team. Kordell Steele and Ethan Johnson, another Ramsay transfer, will hold down the middle. Malique Steele and Clayton Garrison will play outside. Carterius Ford, Jordan Wright, Cameron Johnson, Jarred Brundidge, Brandon Handley, and Dorien Dansby will be looking to get snaps.

Senior cornerback Jacob Mahand will lead the secondary from one corner while Erin Callens will man the other corner. Ken Odom will start at one safety spot, with Roderick Craig and Jacaryous Burrow seeing action. Malique Steele will play the Star position when needed. Christian Thomas will get time at corner this season, as will Jamie Small.

Christian Thomas will return kickoffs and punts. Erin Callens will return kickoffs with Thomas. Callens and Ji’Quez Daniel will also have opportunities to return punts.

The place kicking duties will be handled by Jair Aguilar and Jacob Mahand will be the punter.

Shades Valley (Cahaba) fielded its first team in 1921. The Mounties have won 543 games, won 13 region/area championships, played in the first-ever playoff game in the state of Alabama (1966), made six semi-final appearances and two state championship game appearances.

Senior Spotlight: Kordell Steele

by John Goolsby

Kordell Steele is entering the 2022 football season with one goal: “to win them all.” The 6-foot 3, 225-pound linebacker will play a significant role in getting the Mounties back to the playoffs and their winning ways.

“Kordell is a very athletic linebacker; his strength is stopping the run and making big plays when we need them,” says junior linebacker Ethan Johnson. “What makes him a great player is his versatility.”

Steele, a mainstay on the Valley defense, is hoping to use that versatility to get snaps on the offensive side of the ball at tight end this season. “I’m excited about the opportunity to get the ball in my hands,” he said.

He gave the Mountie faithful a glimpse of his hands and open-field running ability on a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown in the spring game. “I’m going to need about twelve receiving touchdowns this year,” Steele joked.

While he may joke around when he is off the field, the humble Steele is all business when the black helmet goes on. “He is very aggressive on the field,” says his mother, Shay Steele. “He takes football very seriously. He says it is his job, and the payoff is his success; he’s always looking ahead to his future beyond high school.”

Steele is seeing his hard work payoff. He attended camps at Florida State, Troy and Middle Tennessee this summer and has garnered interest from UAB, Costal Carolina, Troy, and Middle Tennesse.

Steele put in a great deal of training in the offseason to prepare his body for the grind that is 6A, Region 6 football. The mental aspect of the game is something Steele worked on as well, as he has benefited from the experience of former head coach Chris Mahand. Mahand is coaching linebackers at Shades Valley this season. “He’s shown me new things about the position that I never knew,” said Steele.

Steele has loved the game of football ever since he stepped on the little league fields in Center Point. He wants his legacy at Shades Valley to be that of a winner. “I’m dedicated to this game,” he said. “I’ll do anything for this team.”

The first steps to cementing that legacy will be taken this Friday night when the Mounties travel to Stanhope Elmore. Steele is looking forward to the game, “we are not traveling down there for nothing.”

Where Are They Now? Coach Robert Higginbotham

by John Goolsby

If anyone ever had the right pedigree to be a successful high school coach, it was Robert Higginbotham, or Coach Higg, as he is known to many. Coach Higginbotham was born into a football family. His father, Morris, was a coaching legend in Alabama. The elder Higginbotham coached for 25 years and won multiple “mythical” state championships at West Blocton and Enterprise. “I was very blessed to learn from my dad,” Higginbotham said. “He taught me to work hard and pay attention to the little things.”

Higginbotham was a star player at Hueytown for his father from 1963-1965. His play at quarterback for the Golden Gophers ultimately earned him a scholarship to the University of Alabama to play for the legendary Paul Bryant. Higginbotham played as a sophomore in 1966 and lettered for the Crimson Tide in 1967 and 1968.

Higginbotham (33) in action for the Gophers

“For my first three years at Alabama, I was sure I wasn’t going to be a coach,” said Higginbotham. I was in the business school.” He had a change of heart, changed his major and was given the opportunity to be on Bryant’s staff as a graduate assistant for two years. “Coach Bryant was the best coach ever, in my opinion, and was very good to me,” Higginbotham said. Learning coaching under Bryant was an excellent experience for Higginbotham and accelerated his learning curve.

University of Alabama

Higginbotham says of Bryant, “He was very charismatic.” He recounted one particular instance in practice that showed Bryant’s, let’s say, charisma. “Coach Bryant always coached from his tower. As a player and a coach, you always had one eye on him up there,” Higginbotham said. “He would be quiet until he saw something.”

“Well, one Monday night, the offensive line had a terrible practice. Man, Coach Bryant came flying down from the tower and got on them pretty good,” said Higginbotham. “He always coached in hunting boots. He kicked every one of the linemen in their tails with those boots. That got their attention!”

After leaving The Capstone, Higginbotham joined “another great coach” in Jim Glover at Etowah High outside of Gadsden for the 1971 season. Higginbotham left Etowah after one season to fulfill his military obligation.

Higginbotham continued on the path to being a head coach by joining another famous Alabama high school coach. For the 1972 season, he would serve as an assistant coach on Shorty White’s staff at powerhouse Banks High School on the east side of Birmingham. The Jets would go undefeated that season and win the state championship with sophomore quarterback, and future Alabama star, Jeff Rutledge running the offense.

Strategizing with two Jets
1972 State Champs

Higginbotham quickly parlayed his success as an assistant at Banks into becoming the head coach of Mountain Brook High School for the 1973 season. The young head coach knew there was an opportunity to be successful at the affluent Birmingham suburban school. There were doubters though and they seemed to be right after the Spartans won only a single game that first year. However, Mountain Brook took a big step in the right direction in 1974 and finished the season with a 7-3 record.

Higginbotham’s third year leading the Spartans ended with an undefeated season and the 1975 state championship. Mountain Brook’s march to the title was led by All-State running back Major Ogilvie. Ogilvie originally wanted to play quarterback when he arrived from Vestavia, but Higginbotham had other plans. “I gave him about a week and a half at quarterback before I moved him to running back,” said Higginbotham.

1975 State Champions

That move proved to be the right one. Ogilvie was a highly recruited running back and signed with Alabama after the 1976 season. Ogilvie would later team up with Higginbotham’s former quarterback at Banks, Jeff Rutledge, in the backfield of Alabama’s 1978 national Championship team.

The 1975 season had an additional highlight. The two Higginbothams finally squared off against each other as head coaches. Morris Higginbotham took his Hewitt-Trussville Huskies to Mountain Brook for the season’s third game. Son prevailed over father as the Spartans won 22-20.

1975 Coach Of The Year

Despite all of his success at Mountain Brook, Higginbotham made a surprising career change for the 1976 season. He joined the staff at Shades Valley High School for George Miller’s final year as head coach.

Higginbotham took over at Shades Valley the next year and remained at the helm through the 1998 season. Higginbotham’s first Shades Valley team went 9-2, won the region title, and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1974.

Shades Valley, 1977-1998

Higginbotham had great success in his 22 years as the Shades Valley head coach, Higginbotham went 160-86-2. His teams won 11 region/area titles, made 14 playoff appearances, played in the state championship game twice, and made the semi-finals and quarter-finals once. The 1989 and 1992 teams were ranked in the top 25 nationally by USA Today.

Higginbotham carried the same attention to detail he learned from his father and Coach Bryant with him throughout his career. Former Mountie and Samford linebacker Brian Moore said, “one of the best things about Coach Higg is he knew how to coach us up. His attention to detail and working on the small things step by step.” Moore continued, “the conditioning and workouts we did prepared me for college. I was ready on day one because of it. He got the most out of every player, and it showed up when we played.”

Shades Valley High School has always been a different school from other schools in that it has never truly had a home community. “One of the things that was so rewarding about coaching at Shades Valley, and it was challenging too, was that we were so spread out,” Higginbotham said. “We were all the way from Bessemer to Irondale with our kids, and it was so rewarding to get them to play together when they sometimes didn’t really know each other when practice started.”

Despite the geographical challenges, the Mounties thrived, particularly from 1987 to 1998. One new trend in the high school scene seemed to benefit Shades Valley more than others. While 7-on-7 is common for high school teams today, in the late 80s, it was not. Shades Valley was one of the early adopters in the state. “We were one of the few schools that really got into 7-on-7 early,” said Higginbotham. “I thought it was so great for the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and defensive backs. You could really get a lot of work done in the summer.”

1987 Mounties: the first Shades Valley team to play for the state championship. Lost to Vigor 19-13
QB Brian Eiler led the 1989 Mounties to an unbeaten regular season, a number 1 state ranking and a number 16 ranking in USA Today
QB Wes McDanal & RB Jessie Feggins led the 1992 Mounties to an unbeaten regular season, a number 1 state ranking and a national ranking
1994 Mounties: undefeated in regular season, ranked number 1, won 14 games before suffering a 2 point loss in championship game

Higginbotham had experienced the thrill of winning state championships as an assistant and head coach early on in his career. While the two close losses in the championship games at Legion Field were extremely disappointing to him, Higginbotham says, “just getting to the games were highlights for me at Shades Valley.”

Higginbotham had numerous assistant coaches over the years. “Owen Butts and Rob Crawford were with me a long time, and they were great assets,” Higginbotham said. “Owen was with me the longest, and we had some great games and great times together.”

Butts, Higginbotham and Crawford

Former Mountie quarterback Wes McDanal says he remembers that Higginbotham, “was extra gifted at taking a team with not a lot of numbers, no elite talent, and molding and shaping us into winners.”

“We beat some more talented, bigger, and faster opponents because he made us disciplined, smart, and taught us to play together. We understood playing as a team, and most of our guys played both ways,” he said. “He taught us to love Valley. We would have died for him and the red and black!”

As good as Higginbotham was with the Xs and Os of the game, his true strength may have been in getting players to buy in and believe in themselves. Two-time Auburn All-American and NFL veteran Ben Tamburello played for Higginbotham at Shades Valley in the early 80s. “As a young man standing at the threshold of my future, when people told me I couldn’t, he told me I could. He really opened the door and gave me the confidence and encouragement to even go and try to play at TMI (prep school),” Tamburello said. “He was the type of guy that you need in your life and in your corner. I look back at all the football and things I’ve experienced, and I always tip my hat to Coach Higginbotham. Without the confidence, encouragement, and letting me know about the TMI opportunity, none of the other things would have happened.”

Patrick Hampton, a standout player on the 1987 team, said, “I have the utmost respect for him; he was a great coach. I loved playing for him and all of the coaches and my teammates. I gave 100 percent for him every day.”

Higginbotham’s final Shades Valley team in 1998 went 12-2, won the region title, and advanced to the semi-finals. The Mounties lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 35-42, to state champion Vestavia.

A change in the school administration at Shades Valley got Higginbotham thinking about exploring other coaching opportunities. Tuscaloosa County High seemed like the perfect fit at that time for the veteran coach, and so for the first time in 23 years, Higginbotham would don colors other than red and black on the sideline.

The transition to Tuscaloosa County was a good one for the long-time coach. “The kids were not spread out so much, and the community was great and really supported us,” he said. “We had a lot of success, so it worked out.”

Higginbotham indeed had a great deal of success in Northport. His ten-year record at County was 89-30. His Wildcats won 7 region titles, made ten playoff appearances, and advanced to the quarter-finals three times.

Ironically, the last game he coached in was against the school where his head coaching career began. Tuscaloosa County lost to the Mountain Brook Spartans in the second round of the playoffs in 2008.

Higginbotham ended his coaching career with a 270-127-3 record. Only fourteen coaches have won more games than him in Alabama. He ranks number two in the state, only behind Spence McCraken, with 19 region/area championships. His 25 playoff appearances rank 20th on the state list (31 is the most by Vestavia’s Buddy Anderson). He was the first head coach of the Alabama team in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game and coached the team a second time as well.

Higginbotham was awarded the Alabama Football Coaches Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. Higginbotham joined his father in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame with his 2002 enshrinement.

AHSAA Hall of Fame

These days Higginbotham is enjoying retirement. His mind is sharp, and he still sounds like he has more wins in him. “I’m enjoying retirement. I have a garden going, and my wife owns an embroidery business (Magic City Stitches). I go down and help her once or twice a week,” he said. “She put me in charge of collecting the money.”

Coach Higginbotham’s advice to the 2022 Mounties is the same message he gave to his previous 35 teams. “Get out there and work hard, and believe in yourself,” he said. “You have got to believe you can win.”

Mounties Gaining Valuable Experience This Summer

by John Goolsby

The Shades Valley football team welcomed Midfield and Oxford into Frank Nix Stadium Thursday. The Mounties went 2-1 in 7-on-7 competition with a win over the Patriots and a win over the Bulldogs to avenge a loss earlier in the day to Anniston.

QB Steve Brown, WRs Quincy Crawford & Ji’Quez Daniel

The Valley receiving corp continues to improve and is building depth for the upcoming season. Junior QB Steve Brown hooked up with Christian Thomas, Quincy Crawford, Korda’e Harper, and Ji’Quez Daniel for scores.

Mountie head coach Rueben Nelson singled out sophomore Ji’Quez Daniel, who had ten receptions and four scores. “Ji’Quez caught the ball well today. If he continues to work hard, he will come into his own as a receiver.”

Brown hits Daniel for a 20-yard touchdown
Quincy Crawford hauls in a scoring strike between multiple Midfield defenders

Nelson was pleased with the effort of his offensive line in 11-on-11. “Our offensive line got a chance to compete against some good competition from two good football programs,” he said.

The Mounties will be a young team when they take the field against Stanhope Elmore to start the season, but Nelson likes what he sees thus far. “The kids, overall, are learning how to compete on both sides of the ball,” he said.

The Mounties will host Bob Jones of Madison Monday at Frank Nix Stadium.

2022 Mounties Find Success At Spain Park

by John Goolsby

The 2022 edition of the Shades Valley Mounties got their first taste of competition today. The Mounties traveled to Spain Park to take on the Jags, Hueytown, and Helena.

Rueben Nelson addresses his team

The Mounties went 3-0 in the 7-on-7 competition. In the 11-on-11 competition, Shades Valley defeated Spain Park and dropped two close contests to the Golden Gophers, led by former Mountie QB Earl Woods, and the Huskies. “The boys showed some fight today,” said Shades Valley head coach Rueben Nelson.

Mounties prepare for action

The Mountie players feel like they are making solid progress as a team. “The team performance was great. I feel like we are coming together as a team,” said junior linebacker Ethan Johnson. “I feel like we performed great as a team, stepped up to the plate, and competed with some of the best,” added junior quarterback Steve Brown.

Brown had a big day throwing to the Mountie receivers. “I think his arm strength is amazing,” said standout junior wide receiver Christian Thomas.

Steve Brown to Kendarius Irvin

Thomas, who had a huge day, had possibly the most spectacular reception of the day.

Acrobatic catch by Christian Thomas

Wideouts Quincy Crawford, Kendarius Irvin, and Marcus Thomas also had big days catching the ball.

Junior cornerback Erin Callens and senior cornerback Jacob Mahand were standouts for the Mountie defense. Senior linebacker Kordell Steele said the defense played well overall, “but we need to start being more aggressive. Other than that, we are looking good.”

Mahand had four interceptions

The Mounties host Anniston next Thursday at Frank Nix Stadium.

Mounties Close Spring Camp With Win Over Springville

by John Goolsby

A big home crowd got a preview of the 2022 Mounties last Thursday night as Shades Valley defeated Springville 28-7 at Frank Nix Stadium.

Shades Valley drew first blood with 6:57 remaining in the first quarter on a 47-yard touchdown run by Micah Thomas after a Springville fumble.

Running back Micah Thomas

Springville then took over on offense and went on a 12-play, 70-yard drive that was capped off by a 26-yard touchdown strike to start the second quarter. The Tiger’s drive nearly ended on the first play. A backward pass that was deflected by senior linebacker Kordell Steele and recovered by the Mounties was missed by the officiating crew. The pass was ruled incomplete, and the scoring drive continued.

Linebacker Kordell Steele

The two teams traded punts on their next series. The Mounties got the ball back after a big 10-yard sack on third down and went to work.

The Mountie offense took to a ground attack with their “thunder and lightning” stable of running backs. Braylen Hart’s hard pounding runs up the middle and Christian Thomas’ big gains on the perimeter had the Tiger defense searching for answers.

Unfortunately, the most exciting play of the night was negated because of a Mountie penalty. Christian Thomas electrified the home crowd by doing his best David Palmer impersonation by turning a short reception into a 60-yard score.

Thomas’ scoring play was called back
Christian Thomas
Quarterback Steve Brown

Junior quarterback Steve Brown showed his big-play ability with two long scrambles late in the drive. His 37-yard strike to a diving Christian Thomas, who came up with an acrobatic diving catch, for the score with 5:00 minutes remaining in the half put the Mounties back on top for good.

Brown connects with Thomas for TD

On the next Springville possession, Kordell Steele turned in an athletic defensive play with an interception of a Tiger pass. Steele returned it 57 yards for a Mountie score with 2:09 remaining in the half. However, a penalty nullified the play, and the two teams headed to the locker with Shades Valley leading 14-7.

The Mountie defense played well and appeared to be much improved. The linebacking corps looks to be strong and deep. The addition of standout junior Ethan Johnson is a significant addition.

Linebacker Ethan Johnson

The two teams finished out the second half by playing a large number of younger players with a running clock. Mountie backup quarterback Zay Bolden scored on a 23-yard scramble and a 10-yard pass. The Mountie defense held the Tigers scoreless in the second half, and the Mounties came away with a win by a cumulative score of 28-7.

2022 Schedule:

Where Are They Now? Brian “B.Moe” Moore

by John Goolsby

Brian Moore wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when he entered Shades Valley as a sophomore in the fall of 1985. He just knew he was going to a new school, a predominantly white one, that required an hour-long bus ride each way that passed five or six other high schools. Moore grew up in Roosevelt City and attended all-black schools up to that point. Going from A.G. Gaston to Valley was a significant change in Moore’s life.

Once at Shades Valley, Moore flourished and looks back on his time at Valley with fond memories. “My experience at Shades Valley was great. Everyone was accepting, and it was a lot of fun,” he said. “The coaches and teachers were great. Mrs. Hodges and Mrs. Davis were especially impactful,” he said. Anyone who knew “B.Moe” loved his infectious personality. “I had a lot of great friends there,” Moore said. Not surprisingly, he was named “Friendliest”’ his senior year. “My experience at Shades Valley taught me that people are people,” he added.

Moore was named “Friendliest” along with classmate Lisa Keene

While Moore was known as a nice guy off the field, he played football as his Mountie position coach, Danny Foster, asked him to play: as a “reckless abandon tackler. The “reckless abandon” mentality allowed him to become the Defensive MVP of the 1987 6A State Championship game and turn in an “MVP worthy” performance in the first-ever Alabama vs. Mississippi All-Star game in the summer of 1988. In that game, Moore had a crucial quarterback sack and fumble recovery, which led to the game-winning Alabama field goal in triple overtime. Moore ended the game with eight tackles, one sack, and one fumble recovery.

Moore credits Head Coach Robert Higginbotham and Defensive Coordinator Owen Butts for his success in high school and helping to get him to the next level. “Coach Butts was also my basketball coach, and he really taught me to focus on the little things, the details. They help you do the big things better. I carried that with me to Samford,” he said.

Moore makes a tackle against Vigor in the 6A Championship game at Legion Field

Moore almost didn’t become a Bulldog. He was close to signing with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “I was set to sign with UTC. Their head coach, Buddy Nix, told me that I would come in, redshirt, and then get to play my second year,” he said.

Moore’s dominance during the Mounties’ 6A playoff run got the attention of Terry Bowden and Jimbo Fisher at Samford. Bowden would become the head coach of the Auburn Tigers a few years later. Jimbo Fisher is the current head coach of the Texas A&M Aggies. Moore first met the two coaches at the Birmingham Quarterback Club’s Awards Banquet. “They showed interest and started coming to see me at my basketball games,” Moore said.

Moore was a standout on the hardwood, too

Moore liked what he heard from Terry Bowden. “He told me that I would come in and have an opportunity to play at linebacker right away. As a player, that was a no-brainer,” Moore said. Samford seemed to be an excellent fit for Moore. “Beautiful campus, great academics, close to home, Christian school, and I could play early,” he said. A visit with a college football legend cemented his decision to attend Samford instead of UTC. During my recruitment, I went to a bank opening ceremony on Highway 280. I was sitting on a curb eating a hotdog, and Terry Bowden’s father, Coach Bobby Bowden of Florida State came over and sat down next to me on the curb and started talking to me about going to Samford.” Moore calls that experience surreal. “I was like, I am so going to Samford,” he said.

Moore as a Samford Bulldog. The 1991 team was the first Samford team to win an NCAA FCS (then known as I-AA) playoff game.

Moore often tells people that his college playing experience almost mirrors his experience at Shades Valley. “We weren’t very good our first two years but had a lot of success our last two…we were trailblazers that set the standard at both places,” Moore said. Moore says that Terry Bowden had a vision and laid out a plan. “Coach Bowden said we would win some games people wouldn’t expect us to win our first year, but we would play for the national championship our senior year,” he said. Samford went 5-6 in Moore’s first year while playing over twenty freshmen. The Bulldogs almost made it to the national championship game in Moore’s final season. The “road warriors,” as they were known, advanced to the semi-finals. Their incredible season came to an end in the freezing Ohio rain to eventual champion Youngstown State. That YSU team was coached by future Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressell. The Bulldogs finished with a 12-2 record, the most wins in school history.

During the Bulldog’s incredible run in the playoffs, Moore blocked a punt against New Hampshire for a safety and added another block against James Madison. “I blocked those punts because of what Coach Butts taught me at Shades Valley. He was so good at teaching us that,” he said. Because of his play in the playoffs, Moore was named Samford’s Special Team Player of the Year.

Moore graduated from Samford with a degree in Graphic Design. He was hired by a movie screen advertiser after graduation, and spent almost twenty years in that industry. If you saw a movie in a theatre anywhere in the southeast in the 1990s and 2000s, you will recall the trivia questions and advertisements that ran immediately before the upcoming movie previews. Moore was responsible for the majority of those. You probably got a glimpse of B.Moe on the screen, too.

Moore changed career directions after the ad agency he worked for was bought out. He went full-time with his T-Shirt printing business, BMoe Apparel, in 2009 and has seen it grow over the last 13 years.

Technology in printing has allowed BMoe Apparel to go mobile to events in Birmingham

Moore will celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary to Tara this August. They reside in Gardendale and have four boys: Jaxon, Xander, Kingston and Roman.

Please click on the links below to view his full product line and unique Shades Valley shirts.

Where Are They Now? Ben Tamburello

by John Goolsby

Like many young boys growing up in Birmingham in the 1970s, Ben Tamburello dreamed of playing in the Iron Bowl for Bear Bryant and the Crimson Tide. His dream of playing in the nation’s best rivalry would eventually come true. However, he wouldn’t run onto the turf of Legion Field in the crimson and white he loved as a youth. Instead, he would choose the Auburn Tigers and don the orange and blue.

Tamburello left Shades Valley in 1982 as an excellent football player who played on both sides of the ball. Still, at 6’2 and a little more than 200 pounds, he was considered undersized for a lineman and received not a single offer to play at the collegiate level.

Tamburello firing the Mounties up at a pep rally

“I was young for my age. I was just 17 when I graduated,” he said. Tamburello credits former Shades Valley head coach Robert Higginbotham for directing him to a prep school in Sweetwater, Tennesse. “He thought I had some potential and wasn’t through growing. He was the one that suggested I go to Tennessee Military Institute,” Tamburello said. Coach “Higg” turned out to be correct. Tamburello grew an inch over the summer after graduation and enrolled in Tennessee Military Institute (TMI) in the fall of 1982 at 6’3, 245 lbs.

In 1982 DI football programs fielded junior varsity squads. TMI played the junior varsity teams from Notre Dame, Tennesse, Kentucky, and South Carolina each year. These games allowed their players to gain exposure to coaches at the larger schools. Tamburello’s play at TMI ultimately got the attention of the biggest coach of all.

“Lo and behold, I got a call on a payphone in my dorm from Coach Bryant one night. I thought it was a joke before I realized it was really him. My knees were shaking. They were 5-0, had just beaten Penn State, and were ranked number one or two in the nation,” he said. Tamburello’s childhood hero offered him a scholarship that night. “That started everything for me. Once Alabama offered me, L.S.U., Kentucky, Tennesse, and Auburn offered,” Tamburello said.

As much as Tamburello had loved Alabama and looked up to Coach Bryant as a kid, he could see that the end was drawing near in Tuscaloosa. Coach Dye and the Auburn Tigers were to be his future. In November of 1984, John Bradley of the Washington Post wrote about Tamburello and Bryant:

“Ben Tamburello was a fine example of Bryant’s failure in the end. When the old man visited the gifted center at his home in Birmingham, Tamburello thanked Bryant with all his heart, and said it was a dream of his to shake the great man’s hand and have the opportunity to go to Alabama and play football. But that didn’t change his mind about his decision to sign with Auburn and play for Pat Dye. There was more opportunity…

More opportunity or not, there was still one last thing to do: tell the Bear he wouldn’t be coming to Tuscaloosa. A phone call to the legendary coach was made from Tamburello’s father’s insurance office in Hoover. “It was a very hard call for a young man to make to one of his boyhood heroes, to say the least,” he said. Even though it was a tough call to make, he knew it was something he had to do. “He let me explain my reasons. After our conversation, I wished him luck in the Liberty Bowl, and that was it,” he said. Bryant would pass away four weeks after the bowl game.

With the help of a plan his dad designed, consuming over 6,000 calories a day and weight lifting, Tamburello arrived on the Auburn campus bigger and stronger than ever. His weight was up to 260 pounds, almost 60 pounds heavier than his playing weight as a Mountie. He started at center as a freshman in 1983 for the Tigers and was named to the Football News’ Freshman All-American team that year. He was selected as an All-American in 1985 and was a consensus All-American pick the following year. In 1986 he was named the SEC’s lineman of the year and a team captain. He left Auburn as a Lombardi and Outland Trophy finalist, the Ken Rice Award recipient, an All-SEC Academic performer, and the Shug Jordan Award recipient.

“The greatest college memory I’ve got is when I was captain my senior year at Auburn, and I called the toss at the Iron Bowl in 1986. I walked out there and looked across the field at the crimson line of Alabama. I’m thinking, I’m from Birmingham, grew up an Alabama fan, and I am calling the toss here at Legion Field! That’s something that Shades Valley set me up for and put me in that position,” he said. For the record, Tamburello won the toss, and Auburn went on to defeat the Crimson Tide 21-17.

“The foundation that Coach Dye laid in my life: athletics, hard work, discipline, that was the greatest thing that could have happened to me,” Tamburello said. The hard work and discipline he learned from Dye and his offensive line coach, Neil Callaway, ultimately paid off for Tamburello. He was drafted in the third round by Philadelphia in 1987. After playing five years for the Eagles, he retired in 1992.

Photo Credit:

“It all started with Shades Valley and Coach Higginbotham. He was so good to me. They had me back for a Ben Tamburello Day and retired my jersey when I signed with the Eagles. I’ll always be grateful for him. The other coaches, Jackie Clayton, Owen Butts, and Jim King. I have such fond memories of them. What fun I had,” said Tamburello.

Mountie coaching staff: Clayton, Butts, King and Higginbotham (center)

“Shades Valley has always meant a lot to me. It was a good time and set the foundation for me to go on and do other things,” said Tamburello. The special Shades Valley community is what Tamburello remembers most. “We never won a championship or went to the playoffs while I was there, but more than anything, the friendships are what I remember. I was from Altadena. John Kelley was from Cahaba Heights, Glenn Sisk and Bobby McDanal were from Irondale. It was a melting pot of different areas because we were so spread out. It was a cool deal,” he said.

Had football not worked out, Tamburello may very well have had a career as a talent scout. Award-winning country music writer and former Shades Valley Mountie kicker, Neil Thrasher, was a frequent carpooler with Tamburello. “He lived down the street from me in Altadena, and I would take him home. We would be driving home from practice listening to WERC on the AM radio, and he would be back there harmonizing. I thought to myself, that guy can really sing,” he said.

Ben Tamburello was named to Auburn’s All-Decade Team for the 1980s and named to the Auburn All-Century Team in 1992. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

ASHOF Induction Video

Tamburello has had a successful career off of the gridiron as well. He has been in Real Estate in Birmingham for almost twenty years. He also serves as the Board Chair of the St. Vincent’s Foundation Board of Directors.

For all the success that Tamburello had in football, family is what he’s most excited to talk about. “Football is history; that’s behind me. It is my family that I’m most proud of. I’ll be married to Katy thirty-three years in February,” he said. Ben and Katy have three children: Ben, Anna, and Julia. Ben was a scholarship football player at the Naval Academy and played for four years. He then served as a Marine Corp Officer for five years after graduating from Annapolis. He currently lives in Hawaii and works for Stryker. Anna recently graduated from Appalachian State with a degree in Music Therapy and is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Counseling. Julia is a Spain Park senior and will follow in her parent’s footsteps and attend Auburn next fall.

Tamburello family

Tamburello has this advice for the 2022 Shades Valley Mountie football team, “I want you to understand Valley’s great tradition and the incredible opportunities and life lessons that football and being part of a team provide! I’m very proud of my affiliation with Shades Valley. Shades Valley athletics can provide you the opportunity to be successful for a lifetime!”

Where Are They Now? Richard Richardson

by John Goolsby

When Richard Richardson stepped off the football field in Mountie Stadium on November 7, 1986, he thought his playing days were over. Little did he know that almost a decade later, he would be playing on the west coast as a University of California Golden Bear.

Irondale’s Richardson was an extremely talented and explosive player at Shades Valley. He played running back, wide receiver, and defensive back for the Mounties. Richardson was a big-play threat for the Mounties whenever he touched the ball. He scored touchdowns in every way possible: kick returns, interception returns, pass receptions, and rushing. Richardson was named All-County and All-Over the Mountain at the end of the 1986 season.

Richardson was an integral part of the 1986 team that won a region championship for the first time since 1983 and brought the Mounties back to their winning ways after two losing seasons. Shades Valley’s resurgent season ended with a loss in the playoffs to state runner-up Jesse Lanier. Richardson had this to say about the team’s success, “we were a winning team because we had great team effort, great leadership, and we had the mental aspects that a team needs to win.”

Much credit is given to the ’86 team for laying the foundation for the program’s incredible run from 1987 through 2000. During that period, the Mounties record was 123-48 (72%). They made the playoffs twelve times, won nine region championships, played in two state championship games, and advanced to two state semi-finals

After Richardson graduated in 1987, he enlisted in the Navy for four years and was stationed in California. Six months before he was scheduled to leave the military, the itch to play football returned when he saw a junior college team, Laney College, practicing. “That got my juices flowing, and I ended up going over and talking to the coaches,” Richardson said.

After he fulfilled his commitment to the Navy, Richardson enrolled at Laney College. Laney College has most recently been highlighted on NETFLIX’s Last Chance U series. He was a star defensive back for the Eagles during the 1991 and 1992 seasons. The decision to give football another shot paid off big time. Richardson left Oakland with forty offers to play football at the Division 1 level.

Richardson ultimately signed with the University of California, Berkeley. “I chose academics over sports,” he said. That decision allowed him to play big-time college football in the PAC-10 and get a degree from one of the top academic universities in the nation.

After sitting out a year, Richardson saw playing time for the Golden Bears in 1994. Unfortunately, an injury during his senior season in 1995 cut his playing career short. Richardson graduated in 1996 and remained with the Cal football program as a graduate assistant for the 1996 season.

Even though his playing days were over, Richardson knew he could stay close to the game he loved by going into coaching. He left Cal to coach at Berkeley High School in 1997 and 1998. Richardson then made the jump to the collegiate level. He returned to where it all started, Laney College, for the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

After an incredible 14 years on the west coast, it was time for Richardson to return home to Alabama. He first landed at his alma mater, coaching at Shades Valley for the 2001 season. Richardson then joined Bobby Humphrey’s Birmingham Steeldogs staff from 2002-2005.

After the 2005 season, Richardson stepped away from coaching and joined the business world for a number of years.

Because of Richardson’s outstanding play as a defensive back at Laney College, he was inducted into the California Community College Football Coaches Association’s (CCCFCA) Hall of Fame (Player-post 1975 category) in 2013. Richardson is one of 63 members of a highly decorated group that includes dozens of NFL players, including Keyshawn Johnson, Steve Smith, Isaac Bruce, Greg Townsend, Jeff Garcia, Jason Seahorn, and Steve Sarkisian, to name a few.

After his break from coaching, Richardson joined current Mountie head coach Rueben Nelson at Ramsay High School. Richardson was Nelson’s defensive coordinator when the Rams won the 6A State Championship in 2016.

The following year Richardson joined Birmingham Prep, a post-graduate prep football program. In 2018 Richardson started his own prep program, Birmingham Sports Academy.

There are few opportunities outside of NCAA Division I, II or III for players in this state to continue playing after high school. Football is not played at the junior college level in Alabama. Compare that to California that has 68 junior college teams playing football. These post-graduate prep programs act as a substitute for junior college football. Programs such as the Birmingham Sports Academy give players the opportunity to improve academically and athletically without losing a year of collegiate eligibility.

Richardson’s Eagles have found success in the early years of the program. Off the field, they have helped numerous players find spots on college rosters. On the field, they have played in the league championship game for the last four years.

Richardson’s unique personal experience helps him to understand the need for and value of post-graduate programs in the state. He knows what it is like to fight to get a second chance, how hard you have to work once you get that chance, and how critically important education is. Richardson knows he is in a position to make a difference. “It’s just the good Lord putting me where He wants me to be,” he said.

Richardson has this parting advice for the current Mounties, “You may not get a second chance like me, so do things right the first time.”

You can read more about the Birmingham Sports Academy at:

End Of The Line

by John Goolsby

The Shades Valley Mounties saw their season come to an end last Thursday night. The Mounties lost to Vestavia Hills 17-0 in a hard-fought game at Frank Nix Stadium.

Valley saw their playoff hopes dashed when Chelsea lost to Calera. A Hornet victory would have sent Shades Valley to the playoffs. With the Chelsea loss, the Homewood Patriots advance to the playoffs instead.

The Mounties had an opportunity to get on the board first against Vestavia. Shades Valley drove to the Rebels eleven-yard line, but Vestavia blocked Wuilman Guerrero’s field goal attempt with 8:50 remaining in the first half.

Vestavia mounted a drive on their next possession and kicked a field goal with 5:20 remaining in the second quarter. The Rebels entered halftime with a 3-0 lead over the Mounties.

Shades Valley had a chance to get on the board early in the half. The Mounties moved the ball to the Vestavia nine-yard line but missed a short field goal with 6:50 in the third period.

On Vestavia’s next possession, the Rebels broke a 62-yard run down to the Mounties two-yard line. Vestavia then scored on the next play to take a 10-0 lead with 4:40 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

Shades Valley was unable to move the ball on their next possession. Vestavia blocked the Mountie punt and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown to take a 17-0 lead with 3:36 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

The Mounties found themselves down 17-0 in the span of 3:14 seconds after having the opportunity to tie the game.

Shades Valley was able to get to the Rebel’s red zone two more times, but the drives ended in an interception in the end zone and a fumble. The Mounties were unable to put points on the board for the 5th time this season.

The 2021 Mounties ended their season with a 3-7 overall record and a 3-3 record in Region 5. Their record does not tell the full story of their season.

This team found itself with a new head coach after Jamie Mitchell left for Hillcrest in early April. Rueben Nelson was named the head coach on April 22, three weeks before the spring game.

Nelson is looking forward to hitting the reset button. “Hopefully, over the next few days, we can get over it and get back to work,” he said.

Wide receiver coach Jarvis Houston summed the season up. “I’m extremely proud of the guys for fighting to the end. Things didn’t go as we all hoped, but we saw a lot of positive things this year. We had some bumps in the road, but overall these guys never gave up on this coaching staff and each other. Even though we didn’t win a lot of games, I saw some boys grow into young men this season, and that what’s this is all about. I wanted to win every game, but it didn’t turn out like that, but we did win by seeing these guys grow into young men.”

Even though the season comes to an early end for the 2021 team, they can be proud that they have started to change the culture and laid a foundation for the future.

Mounties Get Homecoming and Region Win

by John Goolsby

The Shades Valley football team gave the returning alumni something to celebrate on Homecoming. The Mounties defeated the Woodlawn Colonels 35-14 this past Friday night.

Photo Credit: SV Media Dept.

The victory gives the Mounties a 3-3 record in Region 5, and they are locked in a three-way tie with Homewood and Chelsea for a playoff spot.

Coach Rueben Nelson’s team must wait for the results of the Chelsea vs. Calera game and the Homewood vs. Pelham game tonight. For the Mounties to make the playoffs, Chelsea and Pelham must win.

The Mounties face longtime rival Vestavia Hills at home tonight in a non-region game to close out the regular season. The Mounties overall record stands at 3-6.

The Mountie offense got another huge game from running back Jordan Pearson. The senior rushed for 172 yards on 24 carries and scored three touchdowns.

Jordan Pearson
Photo Credit:
Damion Dick

The offensive line paved the way for a Mountie rushing attack that racked up 246 rushing yards. Senior Damion Dick played both ways and made key blocks from the left guard position. Kevin Lin and Xavion Webb both had outstanding games.

Kevin Lin
Xavion Webb

Sophomore quarterback J’Cauis Moore completed 6 of 10 passes for 101 yards.

The Mountie defense held the Colonels to 232 total yards. Kordelle Steele led the Mounties from his LB spot with eleven total tackles. Kendorius Turner and Caleel Holifield added eight total tackles. The defensive performance was indeed a team effort. A total of 21 players had at least one tackle assist.

Damion Dick, Caleed Holifield and Christian Thomas Photo Credit: SV Media Dept.

For just the second time all year, the Mounties gave younger players significant game experience. One player that excelled was running back David Ware. The sophomore scored on a 22- yard TD run and rushed for 51 yards. Sophomore Sephan White added a 23-yard run to the rushing totals.

Wedgeworth and Ware got valuable playing time in the fourth quarter. Photo Credit: SV Media Dept.

Coach Nelson says he can’t control the playoff situation but can get his Mounties ready for Vestavia. “We are going to keep on chopping wood and trying to get better,” he said.

Shades Valley faces the Rebels of Vestavia Hills for the 49th time tonight at Frank Nix Stadium at 7 PM. The NFHS Network will stream the game live.

Playoffs Still Within Reach For Mounties

by John Goolsby

Shades Valley (2-6, 2-3) takes on the Woodlawn Colonels (1-7, 0-5) this Friday night at Frank Nix Stadium. The Mounties are coming off of a disappointing 17-6 loss to region foe Chelsea last Friday night. Coach Rueben Nelson’s squad needs a win to remain in the hunt for a Region 5 playoff spot.

The Hornets took a 7-0 lead early. The Mounties had an opportunity to tie the game late in the second quarter. Shades Valley moved the ball to the Chelsea goal line. Running back Jordan Pearson clearly crossed the goal line, but the officials called him short.

Chelsea then took over at their 1-yard line and marched 99 yards for a touchdown just before the half. The Mounties entered halftime trailing 14-0.

Valley came out of the locker room and drew blood on their first drive of the second half. Quarterback J’Caius Moore hit Pearson on a 47-yard scoring strike to cut the Hornet lead to 14-6.

The Hornets then kicked a field goal on their next series to extend their lead to 17 – 6. The contest remained a scoreless, hard-hitting affair the rest of the way.

“I was so disappointed for my players and coaches after the game,” Nelson said. “I have got to keep working to make this thing better.”

Nelson is proud of how his team has responded to adversity and disappointment. “This group of seniors are some of the best kids I have ever been around,” he said. “They are building a foundation for Shades Valley Football in the future.”

One of the seniors Nelson is proud of is Kendorius Turner. “KT has had a great year of football. He has done everything that we have asked him to do from the beginning,” Nelson said of his DB/LB. “He has been a pleasure to get to know over the past five months, and I think that he can go somewhere and play college football.”

Kendorius Turner

Jordan Pearson continues to show his big-play ability and validate Nelson’s belief that “he is the most underrated player in the state.” In the last three games, Pearson has scored touchdowns on big plays of 70, 65, and 47 yards. He rushed for 85 yards Friday night and had 56 receiving yards. Pearson has rushed for 770 yards this year and has five rushing touchdowns.

Jordan Pearson

The Mountie defense continues to improve each week. “We continue to get great games out of Tyree Hines,” Nelson said of his junior cornerback. “He is probably our leading tackler from the secondary. He is a competitor and a great player.” Hines had one fumble recovery Friday night.

Senior Tyler Addie led all Mountie tacklers with eight total tackles. Christian Thomas added seven total stops. Kordelle Steele and senior Xavion Webb each added six total tackles.

Nelson remains optimistic about his first Mountie team. “I am delighted to see that there is still a willingness to fight for Shades Valley,” he said. “We have practiced well and are looking to play our very best game against Woodlawn.”

The Mounties celebrate Homecoming this Friday night. The game will be streamed live on the NFHS Network at 7 PM.

Shades Valley Alma Mater
Mountie Pep Song (Go U)
Pep song that was used up until the 1970s. Go U is the song that has been played for 50 years.

A View From The Sideline

by John Goolsby

I stood on the sideline for the Shades Valley football game at Chelsea High School last night. The game was the Mounties’ 1,000th football game and the 100th anniversary of the school’s first football win. While the outcome was not what anyone wanted, and Shades Valley fell 17-6 in a tight region game, there is a bright future ahead under Coach Nelson.

I observed a coaching staff that is working very hard and truly cares about their kids. I saw kids that were coachable and played hard. I saw tears after the loss. I observed a team disappointed by the loss but determined to get back to work.

I saw a coaching staff that remained respectful to officials despite questionable officiating. I won’t go into it (I officiated for several years with officials currently in the SEC), but I have my own opinions.

I observed a group of freshmen and sophomores that will soon become upperclassmen. They were absorbing it all, and they were patiently waiting their turn.

I have talked to coaches in the metro area, and Rueben Nelson has a reputation as an exceptional coach with a heart for his players. I have been speaking to him weekly for the past few months, and I know he has his priorities in order and wants the best for his kids and Shades Valley.

What does Shades Valley currently have going for it to succeed? As I previously mentioned, a staff that is fully capable of getting the team to the next level. The school has an exceptional principal in Taki Sarhaan who emphasizes academics and athletics. He fully embraces the belief that having a successful athletic program helps the entire health of a school. Sarhaan understands that there is a need and an opportunity now to create an official alumni organization for the betterment of the school. Sarhaan’s leadership is a breath of fresh air after the abject failures of some of the previous administrations, namely, the administration that led to Coach Higginbotham’s departure (and wanted to change the school’s colors and mascot to a rainbow).

Shades Valley has an extremely nice stadium and field. The school’s large field house, while several years old, is one of the best around in terms of space and potential. There is a plan to refurbish the interior of the building, and plans have been made to redesign the weight room once funds are raised.

What does Shades Valley need to succeed? Support, support, and support. There are needs: parking cars at home games, attending games at home and on the road, working concession stands, helping with workdays, chipping in $5 to $10 for snacks, showing up for their kid’s meetings. The list goes on and on and on.

The support is also not just what you give or do. It is what you say to support the coaches and what you don’t say. Unfortunately, I witnessed an individual complain to an assistant coach as they left the field after a disappointing loss. While I appreciate the fan’s passion, it would be best to channel that passion into more productive ways.

Additional support should come from the city of Irondale and the business community. I am happy to hear reports that the current city leadership is open to and is supporting the school to some degree. As I have written before, as a Hoover resident, I see the support that Hoover and Spain Park receive from local businesses. In my opinion, the business community has failed to support their local school. I am thankful that the Irondale Chamber of Commerce is willing to partner with the school.

I understand there is an entire generation of fans that can’t imagine Shades Valley dominating the teams on their schedule, winning region titles, and playing for state championships. I have seen those things and believe this staff can replicate the previous success. From a fan perspective, making excuses and having a losing mentality must stop. It is going to take effort and commitment from everyone that says they care about Shades Valley. The time has come to take ownership of the school and the football program.

As the parent of kids that have graduated from and are currently attending Briarwood, I have seen a school that doesn’t have close to the enrollment of a 6A school be highly successful on the football field in that classification. The key to overcoming challenges is involvement and work by the entire fanbase. Are there challenges at Shades Valley? Sure. All schools have them, but they can be overcome.

I have faith in the Mountie nation. I have faith that those reading this article (current students, parents, friends of the school, and alumni) will do what needs to be done for the school they love or once loved.

Mounties Eye Playoffs After Critical Region Win

by John Goolsby

The Shades Valley football team (2-5, 2-2) won a critical 6A, Region 5 game over Homewood (5-2, 3-2) on Senior Night this past Friday.

Mountie Head coach Rueben Nelson
Photo credit:

The game remained a scoreless affair until Mountie senior running back Jordan Pearson broke the deadlock with a 65-yard run up the middle with 1:04 remaining in the third period.

Pearson scores on a 65 yard run. Video credit: Hudl/PrepNet

With 10:47 remaining in the game, the Patriots scored a safety after the Mounties fumbled in their endzone. Homewood then got the ball back and put together a drive that ended with a go-ahead touchdown with 6:15 remaining. The Patriot’s two-point attempt failed, and Valley found themselves trailing the visitors 8-7.

The Mounties began their game-winning drive from their own 33 with a little more than six minutes on the clock. After a steady dose of Pearson on the ground, quarterback J’Cauis Moore appeared to score on a 42-yard scamper with 2:51 remaining. However, an extremely questionable holding call negated the score.

J’Caius Moore’s 42-yard run is called back.
Video credit: Hudl/PrepNet

The Mounties moved the ball methodically down the field to the Patriot’s two yard line. With ten seconds on the clock, senior kicker Wuilman Guerrero drilled a 19-yard kick to put the Mounties up for good 10-8.

The go-ahead score and eventual game winner.
Video credit: Shane Paschal

“The coaches didn’t get rattled. The kids didn’t get rattled. They just went down the field and scored. I can’t take credit for it. They played hard and fought hard,” Mountie head coach Rueben Nelson said.

“I’m proud of all of them, and I thank God for the opportunity to get a win. The kids responded well because the coaches did a great job of getting them prepared.”

Nelson also had high praise for his kicker. “Wuilman is a great kid,” he said. “The kid is a hard worker, and I can’t say enough good things about him.” Nelson believes that Guerrero is the best kicker in the area and deserves a chance at the next level. “He is a scholarship kicker.”

When asked about his game-winning kick, Guerrero said, “I was ready because it is something that I work on every day in practice. I was nervous because of all the pressure from the team and all the people in the stands,” he said. “I think that was the big opportunity that every kicker waits on,” he added.

You can read more about Wuilman Guerrero here:

“Offensively, our offensive line gave us a chance to control the game. I thought we did a great job running the football,” said offensive coordinator Kyle Dickerson.

Jordan Pearson, who Nelson calls “the most underrated back in the state,” was a workhorse for the Mounties. He rushed for 218 yards on 28 carries. Dickerson called Pearson’s performance “his breakout game.” Pearson continues to play exceptionally well down the stretch after a few injuries. He has shown toughness and has rushed for 346 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games.

Pearson breaks free for a big gain.
Photo credit:

In addition to Pearson, Sophomore quarterback J’Cauis Moore played a sound game for the Mounties. “He had a great night managing the ball game and doing things right,” Nelson said. Wide receiver Israel Howrd continues to get better each week and should be a weapon for the Mounties in the future.

J’Cauis Moore
Photo credit:

“Homewood didn’t give us many opportunities,” Dickerson said. “We did our part in a crucial part of the game to win. I think we’ll definitely build off of that drive heading on the road to Chelsea.”

One of the busiest players on the field Friday night was Christian Thomas. Thomas started on both sides of the ball for the Mounties. The junior wide receiver was pressed into action in the defensive backfield due to an injury to Jacob Mahand.

Christian Thomas
Photo credit:

Stepping in as a defensive back for the Mounties isn’t easy. “We ask a lot of our secondary because we play quite a bit of man to man,” Nelson said. Thomas was up to the task. “He played a great game, and he came up with a big interception right before the half,” Nelson said.

Thomas with a spectacular interception.
Video credit: Hudl/MaxPreps

Defensively the Mounties continue to improve each week. “Our guys are simply beginning to play together…our main job is to stay focused, play one game at a time and play fundamental football,” said Mountie defensive coordinator Justin Hannah.

Hannah said that senior Tyler Addie was a defensive standout in the game. “He played a phenomenal game for us on the back end. He was able to make three great deflections that forced Homewood to run the ball,” he said.

Tyler Addie

“Our defense is tough, blue collar workers,” Nelson said. “They have come ready to play the last couple of games.”

The Mountie win sets up a critical region clash against the Chelsea Hornets on the road this Friday night.

Along with the opportunity to clinch a playoff spot, the game will be Shades Valley’s 1,000th football game and, amazingly, be played on the 100th anniversary of the Mounties’ first win.

The game will be televised this Friday, October 15, on the NFHS Network at 7 PM.

Photo credit: Shane Paschal

From El Salvador To Irondale: A Kicker’s Journey

by John Goolsby

Wuilman Guerrero
Photo credit:

In Frank Nix Stadium last Friday night, on Senior Night of all nights, with ten seconds remaining on the clock and his Mountie team trailing Homewood 8-7, senior kicker Wuilman Guerrero stood and calmly looked at the goal posts. The same goal posts that he had kicked hundreds, if not thousands, of balls through in practice over the years. There on the 9-yard line, Wuilmam had a chance to do something that he would have never dreamed of seven years ago. He took a deep breath and waited for the snap. It was good. Next the hold. It was good. Then a booming kick off of Guerrero’s right foot split the uprights from 19 yards. The Shades Valley sideline and crowd erupted. At that moment, the kid from El Salvador was living the American dream in Irondale, Alabama.

Guerrero celebrates with teammates.
Photo credit:

Wuilman Guerrero moved to the United States from El Salvador when he was 11 years old. He was finally able to reunite with his father after being apart for ten years. Coming to a new country wasn’t easy. “I didn’t speak English when I came here in the 7th grade,” he said.

Guerrero had grown up in a country where football, or soccer as it is known here, was the most popular sport. Guerrero had not seen “American” football before he arrived but was soon invited to give it a try.

“When they invited me to play football, I was the only Hispanic on the team,” he said. “The coach told me that he was going to help me with my English.”

While Guerrero was happy to try a new sport and work on his new language, his mother was skeptical. Guerrero said the first thing his mother asked him after telling her he wanted to play this strange new game was, “How are you going to play this sport if you don’t understand anything?”

“I started playing offensive line, defensive line, and kicking,” he said. “The funny part is that I didn’t know anything! Even when I came to high school, I was kicking with offensive lineman cleats like in middle school!”

Wuilman Guerrero is thankful to be playing football. “This sport means a lot to me. I started playing in 8th grade because I came here to the United States,” he said. As Guerrero looks back, he feels that getting involved with the football team helped his immersion into American culture and accelerated his grasp of a new language. “I think because of this sport, I speak English better now. I am where I am right now because of football,” he said.

When asked about his game-winning kick, Guerrero said, “I was ready because it is something that I work on every day in practice. I was nervous because of all the pressure from the team and all the people in the stands,” he said. “I thank the coaches for the opportunity to kick that field goal in the last seconds. I think that was the big opportunity that every kicker waits on,” he added.

“It was a special moment for me and my family in the stands because we come from a country that doesn’t watch this sport,” he said. “They are learning about this because of me. I am proud to represent my country, El Salvador, and I am so thankful for all the people who still believe in this team and support us.”

The Shades Valley football program is thankful, too. Thankful for the kicker from El Salvador that fell in love with a different type of football.

Top Row, 50-Yard Line

by John Goolsby

If you are a fan of Shades Valley athletics, you are probably not a stranger to the Shades Valley Mounties Athletic News page on Facebook or svmounties on Twitter. These two social media accounts have been used over the years to provide Mountie athletic information to everyone, from students to state-wide news outlets.

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone that loves or knows more about the history of Shades Valley than Irondale’s Shane Paschal. Athletic updates and historical stories are posted almost daily to his Facebook page and Twitter feed. They have become the de facto sources for information when local media needs news about Shades Valley athletics.

The depth of Paschal’s research into the Mountie football program, which is found at is comprehensive and impressive.

When the Shades Valley football team plays its 1,000 game this Friday night on the road at Chelsea, you’ll find Paschal in his traditional spot. When asked why he always sits at the top row, at the 50-yard line, Paschal said, “Those of us who attended Shades Valley football games through the years knew Charles Hancock as a fixture at home and away games. He could always be found on the very top row, at the 50-yard line,” Hancock attended Shades Valley games for over 40 years.

“I started attending Shades Valley games when I was a freshman in 1982. I saw Mr. Hancock at the games back then, even though I didn’t know who he was at the time,”

The 1986 Shades Valley graduate went on to say, “As the years progressed, I found myself sitting next to Mr. Hancock in the stands at every game.”

Hancock found in Paschal a kindred spirit. A fellow lover of Shades Valley football and its rich history. “Mr. Hancock told me about many of the games he attended. From the trip to Prichard for the Mountie’s first playoff game against Vigor in 1966 to the playoffs at Legion Field in 1974,”

Paschal continued, “we would reminisce about games we both witnessed and what might have been, such as the near misses in the state title games against Vigor in 1987 and Anniston in 1994.”

Hancock, who passed away in 2011, attended his last Shades Valley game in 2007, but not before he passed the mantle of “Mountie super fan” to Paschal.

“It was my pleasure for him to accompany me to the road games that year. There was not a more loyal fan of Mountie football than Mr. Hancock,” Paschal said.

The same can be said of Shane Paschal. The next time you are at a Mountie football game, take a look up high in the stands. There, on the top row, 50-yard line, you’ll find Shades Valley’s biggest fan…just as Charles Hancock would have wanted it.

Mounties Show Improvement Despite Loss

by John Goolsby

The Mounties fell on the road to #2 ranked and undefeated Briarwood Christian 28-7 this past Friday night. The loss drops Shades Valley to 1-5 on the year and 1-2 in region play.

Coach Rueben Nelson’s squad continues to get better each week but finds themselves outmanned. “We are dressing out 50 players while others are dressing out 100,” Nelson said.

“We have a lot of kids playing both ways, and fatigue becomes an issue.”

“It is what it is, though—no excuses; it’s squarely on my shoulders. Shades Valley is going to get better. It’s just going to take some more time,” he added.

Shades Valley revamped their offensive line the week before the game. The Mounties started three seniors: Xavion Webb, Kevin Lin, and Josh Little, along with two juniors: Tithe-Raymond Byrd and Kordell Steel.

The changes paid off as senior running back Jordan Pearson was able to run for 122 yards on 12 carries before leaving the game with a lower leg injury in the 3rd quarter. Pearson scored the game’s first touchdown on a 79-yard run.

Jordan Pearson finds running room
Photo Credit: TK Photography
Jordan Pearson scores on a 79-yard run
Video Credit: NFHS Network

J’Caius Moore continues to gain confidence each week. “He is trying so hard. He was thrust into the starting position and has not shyed away from it,” Nelson said of his sophomore quarterback. With better blocking up front, Moore had more time to throw. He completed 11-of-19 passes. “I think the sky is the limit for that kid, and the future is bright for Shades Valley football with him,” Nelson said.

J’Caius Moore completes a pass to DacorianThomas
Video Credit: Shane Paschal

The Mountie defensive unit played strong against an explosive Briarwood offense for most of the night despite numerous players playing on both sides of the ball.

Tithe-Raymond Byrd makes a tackle
Photo Credit: TK Photography

Briarwood’s first score of the night came in the second quarter on a 70-yard pass for a touchdown that was due to a mistake in the Mountie secondary. “The busted coverage killed us and drained our momentum,” said Shades Valley defensive coordinator Justin Hannah.

The Lions’ last score came with 5:28 remaining in the game when Briarwood’s star quarterback, Christopher Vizzina, raced 75 yards for a score. Vizzina rushed for two touchdowns and threw for 231 yards and two more scores.

The Mountie defensive line played one of their best games of the year. Vizzina was held to 19 yards on 13 carries before his late scoring run.

Tyree Hines continues to play exceptional football in the secondary for the Mounties. “He is one of the best defensive backs in the state…a hidden gem,” said Hannah.

Sophomore Tyree Hines breaks up a pass              Photo Credit: TK Photography
Sophomore Tyree Hines breaks up a pass
Photo Credit: TK Photography

With three region games remaining, the Mounties are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. However, the Mounties will have to duplicate last year’s late-season run to make it to post-season play again.

Mounties and Lions join in prayer
Photo Credit: Gary Lloyd

The Mounties host the Homewood Patriots (5-1, 3-0) this Friday night in a critical region matchup at Frank Nix Stadium. The NFHS Network will stream the game live at 7 PM.

Mounties Look To Lions After Loss To Gardendale

by John Goolsby

Shades Valley fell to the Gardendale Rockets at home 33-0 this past Friday night. The game was a scoreless affair until Gardendale scored before the half. The Rockets scored 26 points in the second half to pull away from the Mounties.

The loss dropped Valley to 1-4 on the year. Although the Mounties have lost three non-region contests, they are 1-1 in region play and control their destiny to make the playoffs again.

The shutout Friday night marked the first time since 1941 that a Shades Valley team has been shut out four times in one season. Head Coach Rueben Nelson does not believe in making excuses and knows it is his responsibility to get the team to score points. “I am the head football coach, and I have to find a way to put points on the board,” Nelson said. “We have to find a way to score.”

The growth of the Mountie offense in 2021 has been slow for a multitude of reasons. The players began learning a new scheme when Nelson arrived at Shades Valley after spring practice. The Mounties had fully expected to return an experienced signal-caller in junior quarterback Earl Woods. Surprisingly, Woods transferred to Hueytown in the off-season and is putting up huge numbers (2,108 total yards and 24 touchdowns) for the #10 Golden Gophers this season.

The loss of Caleb Price, who the staff considered their best lineman, in the first game was a big blow to the team. Since then, there have been multiple injuries and some departures from the group along the front. These issues have contributed to the inconsistent play of the Mountie offense. “We have been trying to piece an O line together,” Nelson said. “We lost our starting right tackle right before the game Friday night and went into it with one lineman that had any real playing experience.”

Although the Mounties were unable to score, they had opportunities in the red zone multiple times. “It was a tough loss. The defense gave us plenty of opportunities to capitalize and take control of the game,” said wide receiver coach Jarvis Houston. “We left a lot of points on the field. We had our shots on offense and didn’t take advantage.”

Defensively the Mounties played a solid first half against the Rockets. Numerous players are being called on to play on both sides of the ball and were on the field too long defensively. As the game went on, they began to wear down, and depth became an issue. The coaching staff is optimistic that they will continue to develop the much-needed depth on defense and are encouraged to see their players staying motivated. “Our guys are responding well to the adversity,” said defensive coordinator Justin Hannah.

“Senior Kendorius Turner (26 tackles) has been very, very positive and helpful in developing a young defense,” Hannah said. Hannah is optimistic that his defensive team will respond over the coming weeks. “As we dive into region play, we will be ready to play fast and more physical,” he said.

Kendorius Turner

Along with Turner, junior Tyree Hines (29 tackles) is giving the Mounties a spark on defense every week. “He is trying his best to lead by example,” Coach Nelson said. “He’s an excellent defensive back,” he said.

Tyree Hines
Video Credit: NFHS Network

Despite giving up a touchdown on a blocked punt and a safety due to a bad snap, Nelson still has faith in his special teams and his punter and kicker, Wuilman Guerrero. “He’s had to deal with three different long snappers this year and different holders as well,” Nelson said of his senior kicker. “He’s a good kicker, and he’s working very hard every day to get better.”

Coach Nelson and his staff are working hard to change a mindset at Shades Valley. Unlike previous Shades Valley administrations, the current administration fully supports Nelson and his football program. “Principal Sarhaan has come in with the belief that success starts in the classroom…academics are first,” said Nelson. “If we are going to play the sport, we are going to play it with the utmost sportsmanship, and we are going to build character…character still matters.”

“All these kids are good. I don’t have a bad kid on the team,” Nelson said. “They are taking their lumps, but they are learning how to compete and building character. No one likes to lose, but there are lessons to be learned from losing,” he said.

This Friday night Valley will square off with a well-coached, talented, and undefeated Briarwood team on the road in a Region 5 matchup. The Lions come into the game with a #3 ranking in 6A.

The Mounties will face a high-powered and balanced offense led by junior quarterback Christopher Vizzina. The 6’4 dual-threat quarterback currently holds seventeen D1 offers, including Florida, Penn State, Michigan State, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, Kentucky, UAB, and Louisville.

“Watching CV’s development as a QB since he was a 14-year-old freshman starter has been a great joy,” Briarwood quarterback coach Jay Matthews said. “He is one of the hardest working and most sincere teammates I have ever seen. Each week he has added improvements to his skill set, and that’s a big reason he is 26-4 as a starter.”

Video Credit: MaxPreps

Vizzina has competed 75% of his passes for 1,083 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception this season.

Briarwood has a strong running game to complement Vizzina’s arm. Talented senior running back Luke Reebals is a hard runner with speed and good hands. Reebals is averaging almost 7 yards a carry and has scored seven touchdowns. Vizzina has rushed for 347 yards and added nine touchdowns on the ground.

Briarwood’s top receiver, Nic Dicen, was injured before the season started. Ethan Anderson, Jay Butler, Sawyer Russell, and Luke Gilbert have shown improvement and stepped up in his absence.

As always, Briarwood’s defense will be smart, disciplined, and hard-hitting. This year’s unit is led by defensive end Miller Stubblefield, defensive tackle Holden Patterson, and safety Hadden Stubbs.

Despite playing the toughest schedule in 6A (#2 Clay-Chalkville, #6 Mountain Brook, and #8 Pinson Valley) and the early challenges of the season, Coach Nelson is thankful for the support received from those who care about the program. “I thank God that our fans have been as patient as fans can be,” he said. “I looked at the stands, and no one left the other night,” he added. “I just want to thank them for staying and supporting our players.”

Kickoff is at 7 PM in Lions Pride Stadium on the campus of Briarwood Christian School. The NFHS Network will stream the game live.

Mounties Fall To Mountain Brook In Region Game

by John Goolsby

The Mounties got an up-close look at one of the best teams in the state last Friday night. The Spartans of Mountain Brook (5-0) marched into Frank Nix Stadium and handed Shades Valley a 31-0 Region 5 loss. The Mounties fell to 1-3, 1-1 in region play on the season. All three of the Shades Valley losses have been to 6A top-10 teams.

The 6A #4 ranked Spartans rolled up 366 yards of total offense. 278 yards came from a punishing ground attack. “Mountain Brook played fast and violent…they played football the way it was meant to be played,” said Mountie Head Coach Rueben Nelson.

While Coach Chris Yeager’s Spartans played extremely well, they were aided by four Mountie turnovers. Furthermore, Valley’s special teams, which had been a strength through the season’s first three games, took a step backward. That breakdown allowed the Spartan offense to gain valuable field position for the majority of the first half. The short field resulted in 21 points for Mountain Brook early in the contest.

Although the Spartans were able to score 31 points, the Mountie defense played well for most of the game. “Week after week, our defense is making stops, and we are creating turnovers. Unfortunately, we didn’t do enough to win the game. Still, players like Tyree Hines, Kendorius Turner, and Malique Steele are taking our defense to another level of physicality and intelligence,” said Mountie Defensive Coordinator Justin Hannah.

Tyree Hines and Cameron Harris led the Mounties with nine total tackles apiece. Malique Steele had eight total tackles, and Kordelle Steele had seven total tackles, a sack, and two tackles for a loss of yards.

Kendorius Turner

The Mountie offense was shut out by a stingy Mountain Brook defense that had only given up 17 points coming into the game. Shades Valley was only able to muster 18 yards of total offense in the first half. The Mounties could not get into a rhythm due to turnovers and penalties. “We had our shots. We just couldn’t capitalize on them,” said Nelson. The Mounties finished with 132 yards of total offense.

Senior running back Jordan Pearson led the Mounties with 49 rushing yards. Quarterback J’Caius Moore completed six passes on nine attempts for 69 yards. Moore continues to develop and grow in each game. The learning curve for a sophomore playing against what Coach Nelson says are “some of the fastest teams in the state” has been steep for the first-year starter. Offensive Coordinator Kyle Dickerson has faith in Moore. “He’s handled everything we’ve given him. He’s working hard and wants to please,” Dickerson said. Christian Thomas was the Mounties leading receiver with three receptions for 59 yards. Dickerson believes that a key to getting the offense on track is getting the ball to Christian Thomas and wide receiver Dacorian Thomas more often.

Jordan Pearson

No one on the Shades Valley coaching staff is making excuses for the record. The reality of the situation is that the Mounties have faced some incredibly tough and talented teams thus far. “We have seen some of the best talent this state has to offer,” said Nelson. While those games resulted in losses, Nelson believes that the experience of playing those teams will ultimately help his young squad. “Our kids benefited from playing those opponents…it was a brutal gauntlet of games to play, but mentally I believe we have come out on the other side,” he said.

Nelson has seen his kids continue to battle in the face of adversity. This senior class has played under three different head coaches. “Our kids haven’t given up, and I’m proud of them,” he said. Coach Nelson knows that he’s ultimately judged by what the scoreboard says. However, he knows there’s much more to the game of football than the wins and losses. “Character counts. Character and work ethic pay off. The Mounties are growing in character. They are learning how to work hard,” he said. Despite the early losses, the Mounties still are in the hunt for another trip to the playoffs. Shades Valley has remaining region games against Briarwood, Homewood, Chelsea, and Woodlawn.

The road to success is sometimes long, bumpy, and winding. Nelson is ready for that journey. “I think we are going to have a great future here. We are going to get back to being the Mounties of the past,” he added.

Frank Nix Stadium

Shades Valley hosts the Gardendale Rockets at Frank Nix Stadium in a non-region game this Friday at 7 pm. The game can be seen on the NFHS Network app.

Mounties Face Tough Challenge In Spartans

by John Goolsby

The Mounties and Spartans will meet for the 36th time in the past 54 years this Friday night.
Photo Credit: Shane Paschal

The Shades Valley Mounties will make their first appearance at Frank Nix Stadium this Friday night. The Mounties will play host to their long-time rival and current Region 5 foe Mountain Brook. The undefeated Spartans come into the game ranked #5 in the ASWA 6A poll and #10 in the state’s Power 25 rankings.

Shades Valley first played Mountain Brook in 1968. The two teams played for 22 straight years between 1968 and 1989, with the Mounties going 17-5. During that span, two of the Spartan’s five victories came under then Mountain Brook head coach and future Shades Valley head coach Robert Higginbotham. Higginbotham was 15-2 against the school he led to the 1975 state championship. The Mounties are 23-12 all-time versus the Spartans and 4-6 in their last ten meetings. This will be the 19th region game between the two teams. Based on enrollment, Mountain Brook is the largest school in the 6A classification, while Shades Valley is the 9th largest among the 60 schools.

1968 Mounties: first game against the Spartans. Mounties won 28-0.
Photo Credit: Shane Paschal
Valley at Mountain Brook in 1983. The Mounties escaped with a 7-6 victory.
Photo Credit: Shane Paschal
2019 Spring game at Mountain Brook
Photo Credit: Shane Paschal

The Mounties are coming off their first win of the season. They defeated Huffman 41-20 in a region game almost two weeks ago. The Mounties showed improvement in the win. “It was a total team effort…I am happy that they are finally starting to come along,” said Mountie head coach Rueben Nelson. The Mounties had previously played Power 25 #5 Clay-Chalkville and #12 Pinson Valley in non-region games. “I’m glad we had an off week and a chance to get all of our players healthy,” said Nelson.

The Mountie running game was solid against Huffman. Jordan Pearson bounced back from an injury and carried the ball 19 times for 138 yards, and scored three rushing touchdowns. “He’s a total athlete…he is probably the most underrated running back in the state,” Nelson said of his senior running back.

The passing game has steadily improved over the last three games. J’Caius Moore completed seven of eleven passes for 82 yards. “Our quarterback is young, but he’s a sponge with the information he is given, and he is trying his hardest to win games for our team,” said Nelson. Moore hooked up with fellow sophomore Dacorion Thomas for a 61-yard touchdown. Junior Christian Thomas led the Mounties with three receptions.

The Mounties offensive line is starting to gel. “I would say we are an older group, but not with a ton of playing experience. We are certainly getting better by the day, though,” said offensive line coach Tyler Braden. Kordelle Steele, Josh Little, Kevin Lin, Bryan Blackwell, and Teren Moore will start against the Spartans.

The Mountie defense continues to show improvement as well. Malique Steele led all tacklers with 11 total tackles on the night. Fellow junior Tithe-Raymond Byrd and senior Xavion Webb added seven total tackles each. Tyler Addie made the biggest defensive play of the night. The senior intercepted a Viking pass and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown. Steele, Webb, and senior Cameron Harris had a tackle for a loss, as did freshman Derice Johnson.

Wuilman Guerrero continues to impress Nelson as the punter and kicker for the Mounties. Against Huffman, Guerrero was five out of five on PATs, averaged 39 yards on five punts and two touchbacks on kickoffs. “Wuilman is just phenomenal. I’m just glad he loves football, and he doesn’t mind helping us in doing what he does for this ball club,” Nelson said of his senior kicker.

Nelson is looking forward to the game against Mountain Brook. “It’s gonna be a big one, but I believe in the Mounties, and we believe in each other,” said Nelson. He knows that the Spartans will be a big test for his team. “Coach Yeager’s teams are extremely well-coached and physical. They will be pumped up and play us hard. Coach Yeager has a way to test you early, to find your weaknesses. We are going to have to be ready to play Mountie football this Friday night,” said Nelson. “I believe we will,” he added.

The game kicks off at 7 pm and can be seen on the NFHS Network.

Please consider helping out your Mounties:

Photo Credit: Shane Paschal

Mounties Get First Win

by John Goolsby

Shades Valley got their first win of the 2021 season this past Friday night. The Mounties beat the Huffman Vikings on the road 41-20. Game report coming early next week.

The Mounties are off this week and will host the Mountain Brook Spartans at home on Sept. 17.

Photo Ctedit: Shane Paschal

Will you please consider helping out the Mountie football program? Any amount will help!

A Very Special Thank You

The Red and Black would like to say a very special “thank you” to Gerri Brown. Mrs. Brown graciously donated the video recording system that the Shades Valley football program desperately needed. The donation was made in memory of her son and former Mountie football player Mike Haith. Haith, who passed away in 2019, was a 2000 graduate of Shades Valley and the father of current Mountie Torez McCall. Coach Rueben Nelson was very appreciative of the donation. “We are behind other schools in our area. This will help us compete,” Nelson said. Mrs. Brown is a woman of great faith and believes in helping others. “It feels good to be able to do it. I thank the Lord for it all,” Brown said.

Michael Haith

Will You Please Consider Helping Mountie Football?

by John Goolsby

Mountie Nation,

Your Shades Valley High School football team desperately needs funds to upgrade its program. As you all know, Valley draws students from different parts of the county and doesn’t necessarily enjoy the community or business support that other schools are blessed with.

For over fifty years, Shades Valley was THE premiere program among Jefferson County schools. The Mounties have fallen behind other programs, and now they need YOUR help to bring the program to the same level that many of their rivals enjoy. Will you please help to return the Mounties to being the team that NO ONE wants to play? Donations of ANY amount will be greatly appreciated by Coach Rueben Nelson, his staff, and players.

Mountie alumn, Jennifer Krieser, CPA, will oversee auditing and oversight of donations and purchases.

Mounties Continue To Grow

by John Goolsby

Growing doesn’t come without pain. Improving, moving ahead, getting better, whatever you want to call it, hurts. The Shades Valley football program is in the process of growing. The Mounties dropped their second game of the year last Friday night to the 2nd ranked Indians of Pinson Valley. However, Coach Rueben Nelson is not deterred in his mission. “My message to the kids is that we are not a team without hope…we can come out and compete,” Nelson said.

Nelson took over a program with a very rich history, but one that currently lacks many things that other programs have. Shades Valley has never had the “community” that other schools enjoy. This is due, in part, to the fact that the school has always pulled kids from all parts of Jefferson County. Unfortunately, Shades Valley, at this point, does not have the business support or civic support that other schools garner. For example, Hewitt -Trussville’s football team will be provided five pre-game meals this season by First Baptist Trussville. The lack of support from local businesses is somewhat shocking, considering Shades Valley has been in its current location in Irondale for almost 25 years. Anyone that has eaten in a restaurant in Hoover can attest to the fact that they support the Hoover High and Spain Park football programs. Despite the challenges, Nelson remains optimistic, “we can build this program up; it’s just going to take time,” Nelson said. Nelson is currently working extremely hard with alumni to raise funds to purchase the equipment and tools he and his staff need.

This week the Mounties will face Huffman in their first region game of the year. Former Mountie head coach Bill Smith leads the Vikings. This marks the third straight game for Valley on the road. Huffman is a talented team with a punishing ground attack led by Appalachian State commit Makhi Hughes. “Huffman is going to be a tough game. They have, by far, the best running back in the metro area…we have to get all eleven kids to the ball Friday night,” Nelson said.

Despite the loss last week, the Mounties showed improvement. The team is playing a large number of young players. The offense line is adjusting to the loss of Caleb Price. The passing game showed life, and the running game continues to get better each week. On defense, the Mounties were able to get pressure on the quarterback a few times. “We just can’t continue to give up big plays…we’ve got to get eleven men to the football, and that’s something we are going to continue to work on in practice,” Nelson said. The real season begins when region play starts. Nelson is excited and encouraged, “I just know we are going to get to playing Mountie football. It’s just going to take a little time,” Nelson said.

The game against Huffman kicks off at 7pm and can be seen on the NFHS Network.

Mounties Drop Season Opener

By John Goolsby

Shades Valley dropped their season opener on the road last Friday night to then 3rd ranked Clay-Chalkville. The Mounties were held scoreless in a 40-0 defeat.

Mountie Head Coach Rueben Nelson remains optimistic about his team despite the non-region loss. “You are always disappointed with a loss, but I am pleased with the way our guys fought. The guys out there never quit,” Nelson said. It is a cliche, but the most significant improvement for a football team is between weeks one and two. “We have got to cut out the mistakes. That’s what we are trying to do this week,” Nelson said. “The coaches have done an excellent job, and I know we are going to get better,” Nelson added.

Head Coach Rueben Nelson
Photo Credit: Mark Almomd|

The Mounties had success against the Cougars early on. “Our guys played a really good first quarter, and then things got away from us,” Nelson said. One contributor to the loss of momentum was a season-ending injury to senior lineman Caleb Price. “It hurts to lose a guy that is supposed to anchor your offensive line. When he went out, it took a lot of life out of us,” Nelson said. Orlando Lowman is slated to start in Price’s spot.

Despite the loss of Price, the Mountie offense had some bright spots. “Jordan Pearson showed that he can really run the football,” Nelson said of his senior running back. Sophomore J’Caius Moore got the start at quarterback. While the Mounties were not able to get the passing game on track, Coach Nelson was pleased with the overall performance of his receivers. “They showed that they don’t mind blocking downfield,” said Nelson.

Mountie Running Back Jordan Pearson Photo Credit: Mark Almomd|

The Mountie defense played hard all night and was able to come up with two interceptions. “Tyree Hines had a great game last week,” Nelson said. Nelson also singled out senior Tyler Addie. “Tyler played good ball for us…we need those two to keep doing what they are doing and inspire other guys,” Nelson said.

Special teams played well, and the Mounties got a good game from punter Wuilman Guerrero. “Our punter is probably the best in the metro area,” Nelson said of his senior.

Tyree Hines, Steven Sigler and Tyler Addie bring down a Cougar runner. Photo Credit: Mark Almomd|

Valley travels to Willie Adams Stadium to face the 3rd ranked Indians of Pinson Valley in another non-region game tonight. Sam Shade’s Indians are coming off a loss to 7A number 4 ranked Hewitt-Trussville last week.

The game can be seen on the NFHS Network at 7:00 pm.

Mounties Enter Season Tonight With New Leader

by John Goolsby

2021 Shades Valley Mounties Football Preview

When Shades Valley faces off with the 3rd ranked Cougars of Clay-Chalkville this Friday night, the Mounties will have a new leader at the helm. Rueben Nelson became the 22nd head coach in the school’s 100-year history earlier this year.

Nelson arrived from Ramsay High School with 15 years of head coaching experience and a career record of 114-64. After bringing back football to Ramsay after a 32-year hiatus, his Rams won the 2016 Class 5A state championship. Nelson won at least ten games in 5 of his nine years on the Southside. Before his stint at Ramsay, the Alabama A&M graduate coached at his alma mater, Midfield, for six years.

Photo Credit: PrepNet

For Nelson, looking to rebuild the program, it is only fitting that he begins his tenure at Shades Valley on the road at Clay-Chalkville. The Cougar’s home stands, which came from the old Shades Valley campus, were filled with the red and black of the Mounties for over four decades.

The departure of Jamie Mitchell to Hillcrest High School caused the players to have to adjust to a new coach and a new system for the second time in two years. “The biggest challenge has been getting the kids to buy in,” Nelson said. However, through all the changes, Coach Nelson has been pleased with the effort of his team. “They have given me all they have,” Nelson said.

From 1980 to 2000, the program won 159 games, 11 region titles, made 15 playoff appearances, won 21 playoff games, made two state finals, two semi-finals, was a regular fixture in the top-10 and made appearances in the weekly USA Today national rankings. However, the once successful Mountie program fell on hard times over the last two decades. Since the 2000 season, the program has made the playoffs only five times and won 72 games. Nelson likes the challenge of returning Shades Valley to their winning ways.

The Mountie 2021 coaching staff was a mix of staff coaches and new coaches brought in by Nelson. Leading the offense is last year’s offensive coordinator, Kyle Dickerson. Jarvis Houston moves from defensive backs to wide receivers. Tyler Braden and newcomer JaMarius Dismuke coach the offensive line. The defensive staff is entirely new. Justin Hannah is the new defensive coordinator. William Sexton and Robert Nelson, Jr. coach the defensive line. Derrick Slater will coach linebackers. O.C. Battle and Harry Little will coach the defensive backs.

The Mounties offense in 2021 will look different from last year’s run-heavy pro-I-formation. “We want to be multiple and want to spread things out,” Nelson said. “We want to take what the defense gives us,” Nelson added.

At the time of this posting, a new quarterback has not been named. Last year’s starter, Earl Woods, transferred to Hueytown High School. J’Caius Moore or Jacari Wedgworth will get the start.

The Mounties will have a talented backfield with experience in senior Jordan Pearson and sophomore Bralen Hart.

Running back Jordan Pearson. Photo Credit: AHSAA

The offensive line is a veteran group. Caleb Price, Camden Myers, Teren Moore, Kevin Lin, and Josh Little are penciled in as game one starters.

Tyler Addie, Christian Thomas, Kerec Hill, and Israel Howard will see playing time at the wideout position.

WR Christian Thomas Photo Credit: Jade Phillips

Kordelle Steele, Xavion Webb and Sam Waldrop bring good size and athleticism to the tight end position for the Mounties.

Coach Nelson wants his defensive unit to be aggressive. “As a unit, the defense has to swarm to the ball, play as a unit,”Nelson said. At the time of posting, a lineup was not available. However, the defense returns numerous players with experience: Damion Dick, Joshua Little, Xavion Webb, Tithe-Raymond Byrd, Jacob Mahand, Kendorius Turner, JT Gelpin, Tyree Hines, and Cameron Harris, to name a few.

Special teams look to be a strength of the team. Returning kicker Wullman Guerrero has a strong leg, will handle the kick-off, placekicking and punting duties. Guerrero is a weapon that can flip the field for the Mounties.

Kicker/Punter Wullum Guerrero Photo Credit: Jade Phillips

The Mounties find themselves playing number 5 ranked Briarwood, number 8 ranked Mountain Brook, Homewood, Chelsea, Huffman and Woodlawn in Region 5 schedule. Shades Valley plays, perhaps, one of the toughest non-region schedules in the state with games against number 3 ranked Clay-Chalkville and number 1 ranked Pinson Valley before closing the season against long-time rival Vestavia Hills. It is another tough schedule for Shades Valley. Win or lose, the Mounties will play hard. “We want to win, but we want to be known as playing a tough game of football,” Nelson said.

The game against Clay-Chalkville starts at 7 pm and can be seen on the NFHS app.

Still Alive

by John Goolsby

Shades Valley won their first playoff game since 2017 this past Friday night on the road against Cullman. The Mounties defeated the Bearcats 28-14 in a game that was tight until the closing minutes. The win propels the Mounties into the remaining field of 16 teams that are vying for the 6A crown. “It is an unbelievable deal for us to be in the second round of the playoffs. This is exactly where we dreamed and hoped we would be. I think the kids are starting to understand the magnitude of where we are,” said Head Coach Jamie Mitchell. The Mounties play host to Pinson Valley tonight at 7 PM.

The Shades Valley Mounties defeated Cullman 28-14 in the first round of the AHSAA 6A playoffs. Photo Credit: Shane Paschal

The Mounties started the season 0-6, due in large part, to a difficult schedule. They have now won four of their last five games. Of the eight teams remaining in the north section of the bracket, Shades Valley has faced six of those teams.

The defense, led by sophomore linebacker Nathan Lavender with 13 tackles, played much better than the previous week. The Mounties held Cullman’s option running attack in check for most of the night. After the Bearcats marched 80 yards for a score on their first drive, the Mounties defense stiffened and held Cullman to 92 rushing yards the rest of the game. The Bearcats were only able to produce 34 yards through the air. Lavender, who is also the long snapper, played his best game of the season according to Mitchell. “He’s just a sophomore and we think he is going to be exceptional for us…he did a great job,” said Mitchell.

The Shades Valley rushing game had another productive night. The Mounties rolled up 224 yards on the ground. Junior Jordan Pearson had 118 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown. Freshman running back Bralen Hart added two scores. Sophomore quarterback Earl Woods hurt the Bearcats early and often and gained 92 yards on 9 carries with one touchdown. Senior wide receiver Al Weathers IV had three receptions for 57 yards.

Mitchell was extremely pleased with his special teams. Sophomore kicker and punter Wuilman Guerrero had a very good night. “He was a game changer for us…he flipped the field for us on a couple of punts and kicked the ball deep on kickoffs,” said Mitchell. Mitchell was also pleased with his kickoff coverage as it had been the team’s achilles heel. Mitchell also praised his scout team, “those guys did a good job getting us ready for Cullman,” said Mitchell.

Pinson will be a challenge for the Mounties. The third-ranked Indians are loaded on offense and defense. “When you think about Pinson Valley, they have the number one cornerback in the United States. He’s the number twenty four overall rated player in the United States. They have a D1 tailback that has committed to Virginia Tech. Their left tackle is committed to North Texas. Their nose guard is committed to Troy. They have two or three other guys on defense with multiple offers that just haven’t committed yet,” said Mitchell.

The Mounties and the Indians met previously in the second game of the year. The Mounties led with 4:36 left in the game. The Indians came back and won 31-21 late.

The game can be seen live on the NFHS Network at 7:00 PM.

The Real Season Begins

John Goolsby

The Shades Valley Mounties head to Cullman tonight for their first-round playoff game against the 8-2 Cullman Bearcats. This will be the school’s first appearance in the playoffs since 2017 and only their fifth appearance since 2000.

The Mounties dropped a non-region game this past Friday night to long-time rival Vestavia. It was the final game for the Rebel’s Buddy Anderson after forty-two years as the Head Coach.

The Shades Valley offense scored 27 points and rolled up 333 yards on the ground against Vestavia. The rushing attack was once again lead by junior Jordan Pearson with 184 yards. Freshman Bralen Hart ran for 118 yards.

Jordan Pearson scores on an 80 yard run. Video credit: Shane Paschal

The defense struggled on the night against a very good Vestavia offense. “They are really good at what they do,” said Mountie Head Coach Jamie Mitchell. When asked what the takeaways were from the defensive performance Mitchell said, “the biggest thing is that it is a plus playing a run heavy team last Friday night. It will help preparation heading into the game.”

Mitchell’s team travels to Oliver Woodard Stadium at full strength as they face a Bearcat team that only lost two games all year. Cullman is undefeated at home. “This game will be won up front. They have a very good offensive line…they have some good guys up there. We both want to run the ball, but we go about it in different ways,” said Mitchell. Mitchell feels good about his running backs and the performance of his offensive line. The Mounties will have a healthy Davin Bostock, who has been limited the last two weeks, and David Ware in the mix with Pearson and Hart.

To be successful, the defense will have to play disciplined football. “They are a triple option team and with that comes responsibility. You better be looking at the dive and quarterback pitch every snap,” said Mitchell.

The Mounties will be looking for their first playoff win since Nov. 9, 2017. A victory would be only the fourth playoff win for Shades Valley since 2000. “Making the playoffs is a great thing for us. I can’t imagine what a win would mean for us,” said Mitchell.

For Mitchell, who coached his Starkville High and North Little Rock teams to the state championship game six out of the last eight years, he knows the real season begins tonight.

The game can be seen on the NFHS Network at 7 pm.

Playoff Bound!

by John Goolsby

Credit: Shane Paschal

Shades Valley punched their playoff ticket this past Friday night with a 50-0 win over the Woodlawn Colonels.

Coach Jamie Mitchell was extremely proud of his team’s performance. It was a game in which the Mounties were able to play a lot of players. “I was really proud of the reserves. The twos and threes played extremely well,” he said. Mitchell understands that developing younger players is key to building and sustaining a successful program. “That’s our future…we build next year’s team every day. That’s a big deal to me,” he added.

Credit: Shane Paschal

One of those players that took advantage of extra playing time was freshman wide receiver, David Ware. Ware had nine receptions for seventy-four yards.

The Mounties close out the regular season tonight on the road against Vestavia in a non-region game. Mitchell understands the magnitude of playing the Rebels in Buddy Anderson’s last game. “We know what we are up against. They are a very good team, and it will be a circus atmosphere,” he said.

Coach Anderson closes out his 49th year of coaching. He is the all-time winningest coach in Alabama high school football with a 345-160 record. The Mounties have faced the Rebels every year since 1975.

Quarterback Wes McDanal and running back Jessie Feggins at the coin toss against the Rebels in 1992. Shades Valley won the game 19-0. The ‘92 Mounties finished the regular season ranked number one in the state and ranked nationally.

The Mounties travel to face Cullman in the first round next Friday night.

Mounties Have Playoffs In Sight After Win Against Chelsea

by John Goolsby

The Shades Valley Mounties took another huge step towards making the playoffs with a 35-12 home win against the Chelsea Hornets. A victory this Friday night over the Woodlawn Colonels will send the Mounties to the playoffs. A Shades Valley win, coupled with a Briarwood win over Homewood, will lock up third place in the region for Shades Valley.

Earl Woods runs away from a Hornet defender (Photo Credit: PrepsNet)

Senior center Karr Staggs, junior right guard Josh Little, senior right tackle Dylan Daring, junior left guard Teren Moore, senior left tackle Blaze Thompson, sophomore tight end Kordelle Steele and senior tight end Micah Burrow paved the way for a powerful Mountie rushing attack that rolled up 255 yards on 49 attempts and accounted for all five touchdowns. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of our offensive front,” said Head Coach Jamie Mitchell. “Call it old school or whatever you want. It doesn’t matter what level it is, games are won at the line of scrimmage,” Mitchell added.

It took his lineman some time to adjust to the move away from a zone blocking scheme to a new power blocking one. After the first five games the staff settled on the current starting lineup. That group has now had three games together. They continue to gel and improve each week. “Our offensive rule schemes are fairly complicated for high school. All those guys up there are really good thinkers,” Mitchell said.

Junior running back Jordan Pearson once again led the Mounties with 107 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Earl Woods added 62 yards and two scores on the ground. Freshman running back Bralen Hart and junior running back Davin Bostock each scored a touchdown.

The Mounties strong ground game allowed the play-action pass to have some success. Woods was 6 of 11 passing for 96 yards. Senior wide receiver Al Weathers IV was the leading receiver with four receptions for 58 yards.

The Mountie defense once again came up with big plays. Against Chelsea the opportunistic defense forced five turnovers. “Those were big. You come up with five turnovers, you are going to win most games,” said Mitchell. Junior Kendorius Turner and seniors Jamari Scott and senior Mitchell Etheridge, III had fumble recoveries for the Mounties.

Etheridge’s recovery came after he sacked the Chelsea quarterback and stripped the ball. “He has played unbelievably well for us all year and now he seems to have found a different gear,” Mitchell said of Etheridge. Mitchell went on to say, “I couldn’t be happier or prouder of what I have seen of his growth and leadership. He’s a class act.” Senior cornerback Marlen Sewell and junior safety Cameron Harris continued their strong secondary play by adding two interceptions for the Mountie defense.

It’s not just a cliche that a team has to play well in all three phases of the game to win. The Mountie special teams also contributed to the win with solid play. Mitchell was pleased with his team’s kickoff coverage for the first time all year. “On our first kickoff our kick coverage led to a short field. We tackled the guy inside the 20, we then got a turnover and were starting inside the 20 instead of getting it out around the 35. Sometimes it’s the hidden stuff in there,” said Mitchell.

After an 0-6 start, the Mounties now find themselves on the cusp of the playoffs for the first time since 2017. The early growing pains the team went through and it’s ongoing improvement are nothing new to a veteran coach like Mitchell. When speaking of his past experience with re-building teams he said, “It has usually been a five to six game window anywhere I have ever been. He added, “You don’t necessarily want those six loses on your record, but it is an awesome and fun process to go through.”

Click the link below for game highlights:

Mounties Now Control Their Playoff Destiny

by John Goolsby

The Shades Valley Mounties picked up their first win of the season this past Friday night. The Mounties defeated the Homewood Patriots 34-17 on the road. It was a night of celebration not only for the win, but also because Shades Valley saw their playoff hopes gain new life. With the Chelsea win over Huffman, Jamie Mitchell’s team now controls it’s own destiny. “We were very aware that if Huffman won out, and we ended up 3-3, we wouldn’t get in,” said Mitchell. The Mounties will find themselves headed to postseason play with wins over Chelsea and Woodlawn. Shades Valley has only played five playoff game since the 2000 season.

Against the Patriots, the Mounties were led on offense by a strong ground attack. “The offensive line did an incredible job Friday night,” said Mitchell. Junior running back Jordan Pearson, who missed the Briarwood game due to an injury, had 191 rushing yard and three touchdowns. He added 76 receiving yards as well. Davin Bostock also had twenty carries in the game. The defense set the tone early with an interception returned for a touchdown by Marlen Sewell. Later, the opportunistic defense had big stops with interceptions by Joe Lewis and Cameron Harris.

Mitchell’s goal for his first team at Shades Valley was to make the playoffs. He has been talking to his players about that all year. “Only thirty two teams in 6A will be in the playoffs. No player on our team has ever played in a playoff game. With everything that has happened this year, making the playoffs would be a great end to season one,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell has had great success when the regular-season ends. He took his Starkville High and North Little Rock teams to the state champion games six out of the last eight years. Post season play is what drives Mitchell. “The playoffs are literally why I stay in this business. There is no better tournament than high school football playoffs. It doesn’t matter what has happened when they get to the playoffs,” he said.

The game tomorrow night at home against the Chelsea Hornets won’t be an easy one for the Mounties as Chelsea also has playoff aspirations. “We are going to have to weather their emotions. They are riding sky-high…their coaches are preaching the same thing to their kids. It is an absolute must-win for both of us. Emotions are going to play a big part early on,” said Mitchell. Mitchell added, “we are going to have to play good solid football. They are playing for the same thing we are.”

As for the Mounties’ mindset about making the playoffs, “They understand what’s on the table for them. We have to win, we have to take care of us first. The other will take care of itself,” said Mitchell.

“A lot went right for us Friday night finally,” said Mitchell. For a team that has worked hard, played a tough schedule and been in all the games in the second half, the win was just what the Mounties needed.

Earl Woods drops back to pass against the Patriots (Credit: Homewood Star)

Mounties Remain Optimistic Despite Loss To Lions

by John Goolsby

The Mounties dropped a key region game this past Friday night to the Briarwood Christian Lions, 5-2. Shades Valley’s record fell to 0-6.

Shades Valley played an impressive 22:13 minute first half, led by a fourteen play opening drive for a touchdown, against Briarwood. The Mountie offense had numerous long drives in the first and second quarters, but due to multiple mistakes, was only able to put 13 points on the scoreboard. With 1:47 remaining in the half, the Mounties were up 13-7 over the visiting Lions.

Briarwood, capitalizing on costly Mountie mistakes, scored two touchdowns in the span of 82 seconds. Statistically the Mounties dominated the first half, but found themselves trailing 21-13 heading into the locker room at halftime. The Lions came out and played a strong second half, capitalized on more Mountie mistakes, and pulled away for a 42-19 win.

Coach Jamie Mitchell is working hard to correct those lapses in execution that have plagued his team. “We are looking to eliminate those three to four minutes of bad football. It happened against Mountain Brook, it happened against Briarwood, it happened against Pinson Valley late in the game,” said Mitchell. Mitchell still believes he has a good team and they are very close to turning the corner. Eliminating those lapses, “when the team goes offline,” as Mitchell calls the mistakes, will go a long way towards ending the Mounties losing streak and putting a check mark in the win column.

Despite the disappointing loss, Shades Valley’s offense showed flashes of it’s potential Friday night. The Mounties rolled up 436 yards against a well-coached Briarwood defense.

Mountie quarterback Earl Woods threw for a season-high 252 yards and added another 52 yards on the ground. The Lions’ secondary had no answer for speedy wide receiver Al Weathers IV. Weathers had 204 receiving yards on 10 receptions with one touchdown. Davin Bostock was the Mountie’s leading rusher with 82 yards.

The Mountie defense played extremely well at times against a balanced Briarwood offense, but gave up big plays to the Lions at key moments. Briarwood gained 440 yards, 277 coming on the ground. The Lions’ rushing attack was led by Luke Reebals, an outstanding junior running back, with 185 yards on 15 carries.

The Mounties head into Thursday night’s game at Homewood against the 4-2 Patriots with, according to Mitchell, “as healthy of a team that we have had since maybe week one of the season.” Shades Valley had six starters out of action against Briarwood due to injuries. Despite the win-loss record, Mitchell remains optimistic about his team. “I do feel very good about where we are right now,” Mitchell said.

Big gain for the Mounties
(credit: Jeff Wyatt)
Al Weathers stiff-arms a Lion defender (credit:
Frank A. Nix and the Nix family honored at halftime (credit: Shane Paschal)

Mr. Shades Valley

By John Goolsby

If you have been to Shades Valley High School for an athletic event, you have undoubtedly seen the Frank A. Nix Memorial Athletic Complex. Frank Nix passed away in December of 1996, but his legacy lives on at Shades Valley through the facilities that were named in his memory. Nix embodied the true spirit of the Mounties. In many ways, he could be called Mr. Shades Valley.

Frank Nix was a native of Kansas, Alabama. After graduating from Carbon Hill High School he attended the University of Alabama. After graduation he served in the United States Army from 1965-67 with a tour in Vietnam. In 1969 he founded Beaver Construction Company/Arlington Properties where he remained until the time of his death.

Nix even married a Shades Valley Mountie, Marjorie Kay. Together they had three children: Melody, Melissa and Chris. All three graduated from Shades Valley. Nix loved his family dearly. “Frank was a family man first. He built his life around family, not the opposite as so many others have done,” wrote former Shades Valley principal Richard Lazenby. He and Marjorie Kay spent hundreds of hours serving the Shades Valley community together as co-presidents of the Parent-Teacher-Student-Organization for well over a decade.

Frank Nix’s love for the Shades Valley family (and baseball) was great. He generously gave his time, energy and resources to Shades Valley athletics (as he did to Cahaba Heights and numerous schools and parks across the entire city of Birmingham). He worked tirelessly, even after his youngest child graduated, to help the school and students. “Frank loved all sports and he wanted Shades Valley to have the best programs and facilities. He spent many personal hours working to make sure our facilities were the best,” wrote Lazenby.

Nix knew that Shades Valley lacked the “community” that other schools enjoyed and embraced the move from Homewood to Irondale in 1996. “He wanted the best for his community,” wrote former Shades Valley teacher Martha Inman. Nix saw the move as an opportunity for Shades Valley to grow.

The cost for the new stadium in the early-90s was a million dollars. For two and a half years he worked hard as the co-chair of the athletic facilities steering committee to bring his vision of Mountie athletics to life at the Irondale campus. Former Mountie head coach Robert Higginbotham wrote of Nix, “There has never been anyone who has meant more or has done more for Shades Valley than Frank Nix.”

Nix was able to see his vision become reality as the Mounties took the field at the new stadium in the fall of 1996. The athletic complex was named in his memory on October 24, 1997.

This Friday night the Shades Valley High School administration and Head Coach Jamie Mitchell will honor Mrs. Marjorie Kay Nix and the Nix family at the game against Briarwood Christian. There is no doubt that Frank Nix would have approved of the hiring of Coach Mitchell and loved Mitchell’s philosophy of building a football team. “Every task he completed might have taken more time and effort, but he had the philosophy that if you do a good job the first go around, the less likely you have to redo the task,” wrote Higginbotham of Nix.

Mounties Looking For Redemption

By John Goolsby

0-5. That is not the record that first-year Head Coach Jamie Mitchell thought his Shades Valley team would have after the first five games of the year. Even though the Mounties are still searching for their first win, Coach Mitchell believes he has a good team. The Mounties have played a brutal schedule to start their 100th year of football. In their first four games, Shades Valley faced three opponents ranked in the top-5 in 6A. Another loss was to a much improved Huffman team. The Bill Smith led Vikings played 7A contender Hewitt to the wire before coming up short 3-0 to the Huskies last Friday night. In their most recent defeat, the Mounties let the game get away late against an extremely talented Gardendale team led by West Virginia QB commit Will Crowder. “The record is what it is and there are no excuses. We were in all the games late. We just have to close,” said Mitchell.

Coach Mitchell, who has 31 years of coaching experience, 215 wins and two state championships, believes the Mounties can turn around the second half of the season and make a run at the play-offs despite having some key injuries. “We have been telling the kids we still have four region games remaining and everything we want is still ahead of us,” Mitchell said. Mitchell has been pleased with the team’s mental state thus far. “I have been really happy with the kid’s positive attitudes and how resilient they have been,” he added. Mitchell went on to say, “I want these kids to be able to make the play-offs and experience that environment. I told them nobody remembers your record once you get in.”

The Mounties get an opportunity to take that first step in turning their season around and getting their first win this Friday night when they host Briarwood Christian (4-2). “They are a very well coached team. Very Mountain Brookish,” Mitchell said of the Lions. Briarwood is coming off a 41-21 loss to 7A James Clemens this past Friday.

It will be a special night at Shades Valley as Mrs. Marjorie Kay Nix and the Nix family will be honored at halftime. Mrs. Nix is the wife of the late Frank A. Nix.

Mounties Looking To Return To Prominence Under Jamie Mitchell

2020 Shades Valley Mounties Football Preview

By John Goolsby

Football at Shades Valley is nothing new. The Mounties kick off their 100th season against Clay-Chalkville this Friday night. What is new is almost everything surrounding the once-proud program. From a new field at Frank Nix Stadium to a new head coach, things are changing at Shades Valley.

Jamie Mitchell arrived from North Little Rock High School in Arkansas with 23 years of head coaching experience and a 215-72 career record. Mitchell brings a new attitude to the Valley program and two state championships in the largest classifications in Mississippi and Arkansas.

Mitchell’s philosophy is you must run the ball and stop the run to be successful in high school football. This old-school philosophy has proven to be successful in the modern era of spread offenses. Mitchell led his teams to six state championship games over the last eight seasons, including four straight at North Little Rock. He was named Coach of the Year in both states.

The Mountie’s coaching staff is virtually new, too. The only returning coach is offensive line coach Tyler Braden. Leading the offense is Kyle Dickerson. Justin Reynolds takes over the defensive play-calling duties. Jarvis Houston coaches the defensive backs, David Smith coaches the defensive line, and Chris Wilson leads the linebackers.

The 2020 edition of the Mounties play host to 8th ranked Clay-Chalkville to open the season. For Mitchell, looking to rebuild the program, it would have been fitting to begin his tenure at Shades Valley on the road. The Cougar’s home stands, which came from the old Shades Valley campus in Homewood, were filled with red and black for 47 seasons and many of the program’s 536 wins.

From 1980 to 2000, the program won 159 games, 11 region titles, made 15 playoff appearances, won 21 playoff games, made two state finals, two semi-finals, was a regular fixture in the top-10 and made appearances in the weekly USA Today national rankings. However, the once successful Mountie program fell on hard times over the last two decades. Since the 2000 season, the program has made the playoffs only four times and won 68 games.

The recent win-loss record did not discourage Coach Mitchell from taking the head coaching position in Irondale. He had other choices in the Birmingham area but ultimately chose Shades Valley because of the school’s potential and history. “We have everything we need to be successful here. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we could win,” said Mitchell.

Since arriving this past spring, Coach Mitchell has been pleased with his team’s progress and with the strength and conditioning of the returning players. “Our overall team strength is above average. You can tell we have some guys that have spent some extensive time in the weight room,” Mitchell said. He is also pleased with the player’s preparation and mental state thus far. “They are in a really good mindset. They know that we aren’t where we need to be, but I do think they know we are headed in the right direction,” Mitchell said.

The Mounties offense in 2020 will look drastically different from last year’s offense. Gone is the spread and in its place is a run-heavy pro-I-formation offense. “We are the farthest thing from the spread we can be…at Shades Valley, RPO means run power option,” Mitchell joked.

The leader of the new offense will be sophomore signal-caller Earl Woods. Woods took over the starting quarterback job in the fourth game last season and handled himself very well. Woods is a talented playmaker with experience and a lot of potential.

The Mounties will have to lean heavily on a stable of young but talented, running backs to have the success that Mitchell is accustomed to. It appears that two juniors, Jordan Pearson, a converted wide receiver, and Davin Bostock will be the starters in the backfield with Woods. Both have shown a great deal of improvement and have had good fall camps to date.

The coaching staff is excited about the potential of the offensive line. There is a lot of competition for the starting five positions among eight players. The line is anchored by Dylan Daring, a 6-foot-4, 310-pound tackle who is expected to play in college next year. The other starter at tackle is 6-foot-1, 280-pound Caleb Price. Junior Camden Myers will hold down the center position. Senior Karr Staggs moves from the defensive side of the ball to the right guard spot. Teren Moore, a junior, will start at the right guard position. Blaze Thompson, a 6-foot-1, 290-pound senior, will be looking for playing time after battling back from a broken hand. Kevin Lin and Sam Waldrop, both juniors, will be in the mix for playing time.

The tight end is a big key to Mitchell’s offense. Micha Burrow, 6-foot-2, 218- pounds, and Kordelle Steele, 6-foot-3, 215-pounds, bring good size and athleticism to the position.

The wideout position has experience with seniors Al Weathers and Joe Lewis. Sophomore Israel Howard looks to be in the rotation as well.

The defensive line is the strength of the team. Mitchell Etheridge, III, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive end that will play at the next level, spearheads a talented group of defensive linemen. Damion Dick, one of the strongest players on the team, will start at nose guard. Senior Stephen Scott, who has had a great camp, is slotted to start at the other defensive end position. Sophomore Tithe Byrd, one of the highlights of fall camp, will be in the rotation along with 6-foot-2, 230-pound Josh Little. Junior Xavion Webb could add depth if he recovers from an injury.

The linebacking core is talented but inexperienced. Brandon Jones, a junior, will start at one inside linebacker position while juniors JT Gelpin and Kai Finch will compete for the other spot. Sophomore Nathan Lavender expects to get playing time while managing his long-snapping duties.

Kendorius Turner and Tyler Addie, two juniors, are expected to hold down the outside linebacker spots while Antonio Crosby, a senior, and Kai Finch will be in the rotation and see playing time.

Marlen Sewell, an extremely talented 6-foot-2, 185-pound cornerback, who holds an offer from Big XII team Kansas, leads the secondary. Sophomore Tyree Hines will man the other corner. Jacob Mahand, a long and rangy player at 6-foot- 3, 170-pounds, will start at one safety spot while junior Cameron Harris will start at the other.

Special teams look to be another strength of the team. Wullman Guerrero, a talented kicker with a strong leg, will handle the kick-off, placekicking, and punting duties. Guerrero is a weapon that can flip the field for the Mounties. As mentioned previously, Nathan Lavender will be the long snapper. Al Weathers will be the holder.

The Mounties find themselves playing two teams they have never faced before in Briarwood and Chelsea. They also see the return of an old rival, the Spartans of Mountain Brook. Homewood, Huffman, and Woodlawn make up the remainder of the Region 5 schedule. Shades Valley plays, perhaps, one of the toughest non-region schedules in the state with games against Clay-Chalkville, Pinson Valley, and Gardendale before closing the season against long-time rival Vestavia Hills. That game will be Buddy Anderson’s last regular-season game for the Rebels. Overall, it is a tough schedule for Shades Valley, but that is the way Mitchell likes it. “It is the law of the jungle; only the tough survive,” Mitchell said.