Darrell “Lectron” Williams, T.J. Yeldon, Ozzie Newsome and Jeff Rutledge were all great players on the high school level.
What else do those four have in common? They all played on great teams.
All four were part of undefeated, state championship prep teams. But which team was the best? We examine that question in today’s installment of AL.com’s summer-long pigskin preview.
In a quest to discover the best high school team in Alabama history, AL.com has compiled a list of 10 of the best since integration, which became widespread around the state in the late 1960s. Our list includes only unbeaten teams, which narrowed the list considerably at the start.
Our “Terrific Ten” includes three teams from the 1970s, two teams from the 1980s, two teams from the 1990s and three teams from 2000 or later. We limited our poll to one team per school, which, in itself, eliminated some great teams from Hoover, Robert E. Lee, Prattville and Clay County, among others.
Here are the credentials of the 10 teams we selected. Vote for your choice in our AL.com poll or discuss another contender in the comment section below.
The winner will be judged solely on online voting, which will conclude in August.
1988 Vigor Wolves (13-0)
Coach Harold Clark led the Wolves to their second straight Class 6A state title and the distinction of being named high school national champion by ESPN. Vigor posted eight shutouts, including the first four games in the playoffs, then blasted Berry 41-7 in the title game. The Wolves allowed just 44 points all season, while scoring 387. The team included Darrell “Lectron” Williams at running back, Kelvin Simmons at quarterback, Kevin Lee at receiver, Roosevelt Patterson up front and Mitch Davis at linebacker. Five players on the team went on to play football in either the NFL or CFL.
2004 Hoover Bucs (15-0)
Led by Mr. Football Jarod Bryant, the Bucs rolled to another Class 6A state title, defeating rival Prattville 22-7 at Legion Field to cap a perfect year. Hoover started the season ranked No. 1 in the Alabama Sports Writers Association poll and never dropped. The offensive averaged 36 points a game, the defense gave up 11. Only one team (Vestavia Hills) came within a touchdown of that Hoover team. The Bucs won nine games by 20 points or more. The defense included linebacker Cory Reamer and defensive back Jahi Word-Daniels.
1998 Blount Leopards (13-0)
Class 5A Back of the Year Deandre Green and Lineman of the Year DeMarco McNeil – who also won Mr. Football — helped Blount win its fifth title of the 1990s. The Leopards kept seven opponents in single digits and beat Etowah 27-20 to win the championship. They averaged 29 points a game and gave up 10. They did have a few close calls – winning 13-7 against Moss Point (Miss.) in the second game of the regular season and 14-11 against Sylacauga in the 5A quarterfinals. Defensive back Antoine Hill and linebacker Sean Morris also were first-team all-state selections by the ASWA.
1982 Hazlewood Golden Bears (13-0)
Brothers and future Alabama stars Kerry and Pierre Goode led the Golden Bears to the Class 2A state title. Hazlewood scored 413 points and gave up just 145 despite making the jump from Class 1A to Class 2A. The Golden Bears’ closest games were a 21-6 victory over Courtland to open the season and a 16-12 win at Gordo in the state semifinals. David Hogan’s team also included first-team all-state linebacker Lee Ester Garner and first-team defensive back/quarterback Joseph Langham.
1970 Robert E. Lee Generals (13-0)
Jim Chafin’s team allowed just seven points a game and held 10 of its 13 opponents to 10 points or less. The offense, meanwhile, scored 29 points a game. In three playoff victories, Lee won by an average of 21 points a game. The Generals defeated Minor 27-7 in the championship game. Star players included lineman Lee Gross, safety Mike Washington, back Ralph Stokes and end Robert Brophy.
1973 Banks Jets (13-0)
Led by future Alabama and NFL quarterback Jeff Rutledge, the Jets capped a perfect season by beating Grissom 21-0 in the Class 4A title game. Rutledge and company had some close calls along the way, edging Ensley 7-6 in an October game and Butler 8-6 in the state semifinals. The Jets averaged 26 points a game and 10 opponents scored seven points or less. Other team stars included halfback Jerry Murphree, tackle Freddie Knighton and ends Joe Shaw and Rick Neal.
1972 Colbert County Indians (13-0)
Ozzie Newsome was part of the team that won its three playoff games by a combined total of 140-33. The Indians won the championship game at Cullman 41-14. Behind quarterback Phil Gargis and receiver Thad Flanagan, Colbert County scored a total of 520 points, an average of 40 points a game. The defense allowed just 8.4. The Indians’ wins included scores of 54-0 (Brighton), 57-10 (at Central-Florence), 49-0 (Cherokee) and 56-12 (Smiths Station in the first round of the playoffs).
1996 Clay County Panthers (15-0)
Danny Horn’s team outscored opponents 613-42 and beat arch-rival Lineville 42-0 at Legion Field in the first Super 6 Class 2A final. It was the third shutout of the playoffs for Clay County, which also beat Straughn 47-0 and Paramount 35-0 in the first two rounds of the playoffs. In all, the Panthers outscored their five playoff opponents 188-24. It was the third straight Class 2A state title for the Panthers. Standouts Ray Jon Myles and Vernon Marable were considered by some the best defensive linemen tandem to ever play on a small school team in Alabama.
2007 Prattville Lions (15-0)
Bill Clark’s second straight Class 6A state championship team finished No. 2 in the country and included star players like wide receiver Dekendrick Moncrief, running backs Justin Albert and Jerodis Williams, linebacker La’Angelo Albright and defensive back L.C. Morris. The Lions scored 642 points and allowed just 141. Prattville shut out its last two opponents, beating McGill-Toolen 21-0 in the semifinals and Spain Park 14-0 in the championship game. The Lions’ closest playoff game was a 24-13 win over Auburn in the second round. Prattville went on to win their third straight championship in 2008.
2010 Daphne Trojans (15-0)
Led by junior running back T.J. Yeldon and a punishing defense, Glenn Vickery’s Daphne team rolled through the first four rounds of the playoffs, scoring at least 37 points in each game, and then edged perennial 6A power Hoover 7-6 in the championship game. The win snapped a 21-game win streak for the Bucs. Daphne held Hoover to just 268 yards of total offense. That Daphne team also included quarterback Russ Moseley, receiver Israel Lamprakes, defensive lineman Ryan Anderson and linebacker Michael Pierce. The Trojans scored 534 points and gave up 143.
Other teams in consideration: 2002 and 2012 Hoover, 1986 Robert E. Lee, 1990 Courtland, 1992 Robert E. Lee, 1997 Alexandria, 2003 Pike County, 2012 Brantley, 1977 Andalusia, 1991 Gadsden, 1989 Anniston, 2005 Homewood, 1976 Mountain Brook, 1999 Etowah.