Carbon Hill's run to state title game top sports story of 2012
by Johnathan Bentley and W. Brian Hale
Jan 02, 2013 | 2439 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Carbon Hill guard Tylor Owens drives to the goal against Greensboro during last year's state championship game. The Bulldogs finished second in Class 3A. Photo by Jason Clark
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Four second-place finishes in the state tournament, three area football teams winning region titles and a local football players making it to the NFL — those are among the top 10 sports stories of 2012 from the Daily Mountain Eagle’s coverage area. Here is a look at the highlights from the past year.



CARBON HILL BASKETBALL TEAM MAKES RUN TO STATE TITLE GAME

Carbon Hill basketball team make run to state title game

Carbon Hill was about as far away from the Final Four as a high school team can get.

Midway through last basketball season, the Bulldogs were sitting at 11-7 after an area loss to Winfield. At that point, head coach Robert Epps and crew were focusing on getting out of the area tournament — not a second straight trip to the Final Four in Birmingham.

Then Carbon Hill caught fire, putting together a historic run for the school’s basketball program.

Carbon Hill won 16 straight games and advanced to the Class 3A championship game at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Complex for the first time in school history.

The Bulldogs’ second-place finish at the Final Four is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s top sports story for 2012.

Carbon  Hill eventually saw its winning streak stopped with a loss to two-time defending 3A state champion Greensboro. The Bulldogs ended the 2011-12 campaign with a 27-8 mark after starting their hot streak in mid-January. During its ensuing winning streak, Carbon Hill won the Walker County Tournament, the 3A, Area 12 Tournament and the Northwest Regional Tournament at Hanceville.

Carbon Hill’s do-it-all senior guard Tylor Owens was an All-State selection at guard by the Alabama Sports Writers Association (ASWA). He was also one of three 3A players up for Player of the Year. Epps was named 3A Coach of the Year for the second straight year by the ASWA.



JOHNNY WRIGHT LEADS DORA TO STATE SEMIFINALS

Dora Bulldogs advance to fourth round of the Class 4A playoffs/Johnny Wright enters second tenure with the program

2012 would serve as a landmark year for the Dora Bulldog football program.

A year removed from a 9-3 finish and a second-round playoff appearance, expectations were at a high level for the East Walker team entering the season. Fortunes looked even brighter when the school announced that former coach Johnny Wright, who guided the Bulldogs to three region championships and five-consecutive postseason appearances from 2001-2006, returned to the program in June to take the helm after the departure of Dusty Goode. When Wright and his Bulldogs took the field after a grueling offseason conditioning program, they rolled out a powerful rushing attack that left a trail of opponents in their wake — with an average of 350 yards a game that would produce three 1,000 yard rushers.

The Dora defense proved to be formidable as well — collecting 20 interceptions as a team — turnovers that were often turned into critical points. The Bulldogs (12-2) won their first region championship since 2006, beating playoff contenders such as Corner, Calera and Jemison en route to a perfect 7-0 region record and fought their way into the Class 4A state semifinals before falling to eventual champion UMS-Wright in Mobile. Five Bulldog players were named to the AHSAA All-State first team or as honorable mentions and the Bulldogs themselves would be ranked as the No. 24 program in the state among all classifications.



THREE AREA FOOTBALL TEAMS WIN REGION CHAMPIONSHIPS

The 2012 football season saw three schools in Walker County win region championships.

Two schools — Dora and Oakman — broke long droughts while Walker, under coach John Holladay won its first region championship in school history. Region play started in 2000.

From 2005 to 2009, Cordova was the only school in Walker County to win a region championship. The Blue Devils won region titles in 2005, 2007-09. No school in the county won region titles in 2010 or 2011.

That all changed in 2012 with Dora, Oakman and Walker each going a perfect 7-0 in region play. Dora won its first region crown since 2004 in the return of Coach Johnny Wright, while Coach Mark Hastings guided Oakman to its first region championship since 2003.

Dora advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 1986 while both Oakman and Walker made it to the second round of the playoffs.

The last time three schools in the county won region titles was in 2003 (Dora, Oakman and Parrish).



SUMITON CHRISTIAN SOFTBALL TEAM FINISHES STATE

RUNNER UP

Sumiton Christian hammered Class 2A competition during the 2012 softball season with one exception — Hatton.

The Eagles lost to the three-time defending state champions in the 2A finals at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park, but Sumiton Christian still had yet another season to remember under coach Jessica Aderholt.

Sumiton Christian, which finished 53-17, dominated the North-Central Regional Tournament at Vestavia Hills, outscoring the competition 46-4 en route to a fourth straight regional championship and advanced to the state tournament for a fourth straight season.

Also, all four of Aderholt’s seniors from this year’s team signed scholarships: Cadi Oliver (Jacksonville State), Clara Bowen (South Alabama), T’Ebonie Tanner (Central Alabama) and Kathryn Warren (Shelton State).

Over the last three years, the Eagles went 151-39 and won the 2010 Class 3A state championship. Sumiton Christian will compete in Class 1A for the upcoming 2013 season.



DORA’S CHAVIS WILLIAMS PLAYS FOR RAVENS, RETURNS TO COACH AT ALMA MATER

Linebacker Chavis Williams has been a great source of pride for the Dora Bulldogs and the Walker County community.

A member of the 2009 University of Alabama national championship team, Williams was signed by the Baltimore Ravens as a member of the practice squad, then was elevated to the 53-man roster at the end of 2011.

He began the year once again with the Ravens, aiming to keep his job on the roster, but was cut on Aug. 31. From there, Williams contacted his former coach at Dora, Johnny Wright, who was entering his second term of tenure with the program, about helping out some of the newest generation of Bulldogs under Wright’s guidance. Wright accepted — knowing that Williams’ knowledge of the game had been enhanced by his time in the NFL and his relate-ability to the players would be a solid asset to his team.

Wright and many members of his team praised Williams’ direction and motivational abilities throughout the season and during the Bulldogs’ quest for the state championship.



ADDISON VOLLEYBALL TEAM TAKES 2ND AT STATE

The Addison girls volleyball team spent the second half of the season as the No. 1 team in Class 1A.

Addison held on to that ranking heading into the Elite 8 State Volleyball Tournament at the Birmingham Crossplex.

After breezing through its first two matches at state, the Bulldogs started off the championship match against No. 2 Donoho with a first set victory before dropping the next three sets on their way to a second-place finish.

Addison, whose only loss in 1A competition came to Donoho, closed the season with a 56-5 mark despite having just two seniors — Chelsea Posey and Stora Gilliland — on the squad. Addison coach Pam Wilkins returns 13 players from last year’s team. The Bulldogs have lost to Donoho in the championship match each of the last two years after winning back-to-back championships in 2009-10.



DORA WRESTLING TEAM PRODUCES 2 STATE CHAMPS

Dora wrestling Coach Hezzie Morgan has steadily produced a stream of top-notch wrestlers in his tenure with the program — grapplers who win state champions and All-American accolades.

The 2012 season would be no different.

Defending state champions Mason Ellis and Blake Boshell returned to Hunstville’s Von Braun Civic Center to win their respective third and second state titles, while Hunter Edwards, Cruz Mathis and Nicholas Miller would also place in the tournament.

Morgan’s squad has produced state champions each of the last three years.



WALKER SIX TAKE SECOND AT STATE TRACK MEET

Sometimes in athletics, quality is more important than quantity.

That was the case with the Walker High School boys track team. Walker took a total of six athletes to the Class 5A State Track and Field Meet at Gulf Shores — and still finished in second place.

The Vikings brought home the runner up trophy thanks to the performances of Andrew Harris, Hunter Hawkins, Bradford Lepik, Jeb Cowen, Austin Elliott and Austin Mansell.

Harris, now part of the University of Alabama track team, led the way, winning three gold medals.

St. Paul’s won the 5A title with 76.5 points followed by Walker with 61 points.

Earlier in the year, Walker also took six athletes to the State Indoor Track Meet at the Birmingham Crossplex. The Vikings placed third with both Harris and Hawkins earning three gold medals.



PARRISH BASKETBALL TEAM OFF TO 13-0 START TO SEASON

The Parrish Tornadoes boys varsity basketball team mounted a furious start to the 2012-13 season, going a perfect 13-0 and a Top 5 Class 1A ranking going into the Christmas break.

The Tornadoes defeated their opponents with an average margin of victory of over 27 points per game.

Second-year coach Heath Burns team holds down a No. 5 ranking and has been terrorizing opponents since adding 6-foot-7 Pinson Valley transfer Barry Hill to the roster in December.

Parrish lost to Marion County in the area tournament last season in Burns’ first year at the helm.



MEEK, WINSTON COUNTY FOOTBALL TEAMS ADVANCE TO PLAYOFFS

The 2011 season was not one to remember for Meek and Winston County. The two schools combined for one win between them.

2012 saw a marked improvement as both teams rebounded to earn spots in the state football playoffs.

Coming off a 0-10 season in 2011, Winston County bounced back in 2012. The Yellow Jackets started the season 5-1 before suffering through a series of injuries. Winston County finished 5-6 after losing to eventual 3A state champ Madison Academy.

Meek, which went 1-9 in 2011, also finished 5-6, losing in the opening round to eventual 1A state runner up Marion County.