DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — For episode ten of On the Road with Olivia and Claudia, we take a look at two teams that are part of another one of North Alabama’s biggest rivalries: the River City Rivalry.
We start with the Austin Black Bears, who finished 7-4 last season and won the Class 7A Region 4 championship.
Looking at the 2023 roster, the Black Bears have a big senior class, and head coach Jeremy Perkins says the leadership from that group and how they play is what will make the biggest difference this season.
“Our team is going to be what it is and based on how our seniors go,” Perkins said. “If they’re all in and doing what they’re supposed to be doing, working, progressing and getting better and leading our football team then we’re going to compete every Friday night. If they’re not we’re going to see some struggles.”
There’s no warm-up period for the Black Bears; their first two games are against their biggest rivals, Hartselle and Decatur, and then it’s straight into region play – but Perkins says bring it on.
“You get to learn a lot about your team and yourself individually in those types of games and those types of environments and you see how they’re going to react and respond to different things and that’s going to make the difference,” Perkins said.
“Life’s not about what happens to you it’s how you respond to it and it’s the same thing in a football game. If you don’t respond to the successes and the failures in the game the right way, then it’s going to lead to other struggles and we want to be able to play one play at a time put the past behind us, keep moving forward, gain momentum, learn and grow and do all those things to be the best we can be.”
Our next stop is Decatur, home of the Red Raiders, and for the first time in a long time this program has a new head coach.
Jere Adcock retired after the team’s 9-3 2022 season and now, head coach Aairon Savage has taken over.
“I’m extremely blessed,” Savage said. “Every day before we meet, we talk about who’s your hero, what’s your highlight and what’s a hardship and one of the highlights of my life is being able to step in front of these guys and mentor them and talk to them every day. I’m extremely blessed and extremely happy.”
Coach Savage says right out of the gate, one of the first things he noticed about his team is their effort and attitude. He said he’s looking forward to leading such a hard-working group of young men this fall.
“From day one the very first day that I was able to see them work out in the weight room they had unbelievable drive and demeanor about the work that they were going to put in,” Savage said. “That’s carried on from February to now. It’s been really impressive and that goes to everybody who came before them, Coach Adcock and just the foundation that’s been laid here is unbelievable as far as the work ethic.”
Austin will host Hartselle on Friday, August 25 and Decatur will host Mae Jemison to kick off the 2023 season.