Brantley, Highland Home showdown a proper introduction to football in south Alabama

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, September 29, 2022

When I received my first opportunity to cover high school football during my time with The Daily Home in Talladega, the bulk of the schools within my coverage area of Talladega and St. Clair counties rested comfortably in central Alabama.

Every two years when the Alabama High School Athletic Association would realign and reclassify its schools, my two immediate bosses in my chain of command in the office would always tell me it’s better for our schools to be placed in a region facing schools from the north because it would be the path of least resistance when it came time for the postseason.

In those seasons when our schools were placed in southern regions, I learned of some of the powerhouses in larger classifications such as UMS-Wright, St. Paul’s, Andalusia, and Spanish Fort. Occasionally, our smaller schools would travel to battle a team like Georgiana or Luverne in the playoffs and be sent back home to recuperate from a crushing loss.

But outside of a UMS-Wright at Talladega Class 4A second round playoff game in 2019 (Talladega lost 31-6), I never truly had a chance to witness the toughness and grit that is football in south Alabama … until a week ago.

Highland Home, a talented 2A squad that, at times, has flown deep into the danger zone in 2022, came back from a two-touchdown deficit to earn a 28-27 win over Brantley, a 1A school with plenty of bite to match its bark.

From start to finish, these two squads fought for every yard and gave their best effort. Sure, it was chippy, but I agree with Flying Squadron head coach Will Pouncey’s postgame assessment of those penalties being a result of the fire, passion, and intensity these players, some of whom will see each other plenty in their lifetimes, exhibited in a battle for bragging rights.

For the Brantley kids, especially the seniors and players on the sidelines for the Flying Squadron’s final drive, it must have been brutal knowing they had the No. 2 ranked-team in 2A on the ropes only to watch the final 7:30 seconds tick away.

My advice to those athletes: Take the hurt, compartmentalize it, and use it as a motivating force to propel your push to the postseason.

As for Highland Home, you definitely know how to keep your fans on the edge of their seats, but learn from the tale of Icarus and the many times he tempted the sun by flying a bit too close.

Analogies and armchair quarterbacking aside, I came away from the contest impressed. The best way for teams to get better is to play elite competition, and these two fit the description. Those teams made each other better, and the teams they’ll face the rest of the way will be better from having played them.

Thank you, Brantley and Highland Home, for giving me a proper introduction to football in south Alabama.