DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. (WHN)T – As we gear up for the high school football season, News 19 will be previewing more than 40 of our Tennessee Valley programs in On the Road with Olivia and Claudia.
Episode 13 features the Fort Payne Wildcats and the Sylvania Rams.
The Wildcats are ready to improve on their 6-5 record from last year. Again they will be a little younger in some sports but they bring back a lot of their skill position guys including quarterback Jake Barnes.
“Jake’s a coach’s son, his dad was a former coach here, Dax [Varnadore] is a coach’s son, his dad’s our defensive coordinator and Dax is our 10th-grade coordinator so to have two kids that have grown up around the game their entire life, both of them are very intelligent and understand what we’re trying to do,” Fort Payne head coach Chris Elmore said.
The Wildcats will have to find a new kicker though after the latest McPherson graduated but the legacy left by the brothers is pushing all of this year’s team.
“We’ve got three guys trying to be another great kicker and they’ve been working hard at it and I think it’s a direct result of how successful Alex, Evan and Logan were. They were committed to being the best kicker they can be and that has I think inspired a lot of guys in Fort Payne, not just our kickers,” Elmore added.
Last season Fort Payne opened on a three-game losing streak before going on a run to make it into the postseason. So what message does head coach Chris Elmore have to his team to make this year different?
“There’s never been an ounce of quit in any of our players, they’re not going to sit around and give up on the season, they’re going to keep working and trying to get better. Hopefully, we won’t fall in that situation this year, but if we do we know that we got the kind of kids that will come back from it,” Elmore said.
Now over at Sylvania, the Rams also have a young team this year but it’s one that is pretty experienced, especially on the defensive side.
“We have 11 coming back on defense because a lot of them that rotated played a lot on defense last year on Friday nights so we’re young but we’re excited,” Sylvania head coach Tyler Vann said.
Head coach Tyler Vann is in his second season with the Rams after leading them to a 7-3 record last year. He says the big thing for him throughout this offseason was focusing on the little things every day.
“We have five non-negotiables: energy, effort, attitude, attendance and accountability. You’ve got to work on doing the little things right outside of practice so that we’re better in practice as well and on Friday nights,” Vann added.
Sylvania is in a different region this year and knows they have a tough road ahead but Vann says his guys are ready for the challenge and to see if they can make another run into the playoffs.
“Everybody’s got to play everybody, it ain’t just hard on Sylvania, every Friday night is going to be a physical football game,” Vann said.
Sylvania has a bye week zero and will host Saks in a non-region game on August 26, while Fort Payne has a big one at Scottsboro on August 19.