(WHNT) — For episode nine of On the Road with Olivia and Claudia, we take a look at the two teams who make up one of the state’s oldest rivalries in Guntersville and Albertville.
The Guntersville Wildcats are coming off of another successful year, going 9-3 for their fourth straight winning season. The Wildcats bring back Eli Morrison under center, who started the final four games last season, and six total starters on offense. Head coach Lance Reese knows how big that experience will be, especially up front.
“It’s great to have Eli back but we’ve also got four seniors on the offensive line. That’s really as important as any position. So having those four seniors up there and having Eli back should help the offense,” Reese said.
But the Wildcats also have six starters back on the other side of the ball, so they’re really going to be leaning on all of that experience as they navigate a tough Marshall County and Class 5A Region 7 schedule.
“We lost some good players but we have a lot of linebackers back, our athletic d-line is coming back. In order to have a good season you’ve got to have success on both sides of the ball so we’re focusing on everything,” Reese added.
Although the Wildcats have found success in the past few seasons, they haven’t made it past the second round of the playoffs since 2015. But longtime coach Reese has built a winning culture at Guntersville, and he knows his players are ready for the challenge.
“This is my 14th year as head coach and 33rd year here coaching at Guntersville. We’ve got a tradition of winning, we want to go out there and keep that tradition going and make all of those former players who come to watch us every week proud and just represent the team it needs to be. They understand what to expect and what it takes to wear that cardinal jersey so they take a lot of pride in that,” Reese said.
Now we head over to Albertville, where Bert Browne has taken over an Aggies program that hasn’t had much success in three seasons in 7A, going 1-9 the past two years. But Browne said his main focus right now is to grow the program and get more kids in the community to love the game.
“I’m going to be in the fifth and sixth grade, the intermediate school over here at lunch getting to know those kids and I’m going to be over there at that middle school some. Getting kids to love football and getting kids wanting to play football at Albertville,” Browne said.
Browne said he’s had experience taking over struggling programs in the past and it’s never easy. He said some kids have quit since practices have begun. But Browne added that he believes in this group and is ready to change the culture.
“If you walk into school on Monday after you’ve been beat 50-0 and a 15-year-old girl tells you that you’re terrible, what can you say? There’s not much you can say and that’s what I’ve been telling these kids all summer. We’ve got to work to change that. I’ve really worked to instill in the kids that you can do it, we are going to do it, we’re going to work hard, we’re going to do all of the things that it takes to be successful. For the young men that have stuck it out and stuck with it, it says a lot about them,” Browne said.
“They really changed our focus level when it comes to the sport, they made us work way harder than we’ve ever worked since I’ve been in high school and they’re really pushing us to be a good football team,” Albertville senior running back and linebacker Xavier Havis added.
“What are you willing to give up to be good?” Browne continued. “What are you willing to give up to be great? How good do you want to be? What kind of feeling do you want to have walking into school on Monday morning, do you want that bad feeling that you’ve had the past two years or do you want the good one where you walk in and feel good about yourself and you can be a proud 16, 17-year-old kid.”
Albertville will visit Arab for week zero, while Guntersville will host Southside Gasden.