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.

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