Years before each would help lead their respective teams to Alabama High School Athletic Association championships in 2015, McGill-Toolen Catholic High School senior quarterback Paris Chambers and St. Paul’s Episcopal School senior quarterback Miller Mosley faced each other in a different title game.
Chambers’ youth league team from Municipal Park defeated Mosley’s St. Paul’s youth team 20-13 in a double overtime thriller. Mosley said both teams were undefeated at the time.
“It was the first time I was ever in the newspaper,” Mosley remembered, recalling the score right off the top of his head.
St. Paul’s wins back-to-back championships
Although unsuccessful that year in youth ball, Mosley and his Saints teammates have made up for it, picking up their second-straight title in Class 5A with a 41-26 win over Mortimer Jordan High School Dec. 3 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
St. Paul’s coach Steve Mask said he never doubted the team and neither did the players, despite regular-season losses to Jackson and UMS-Wright.
“I never lost belief in the kids,” he said. “We had to get them hungrier.”
And hungrier they got. The team had recorded a long winning streak against UMS-Wright and came into the final game of the regular season a bit overconfident, Mosley said. The loss helped them focus before the first round for the playoffs.
“It brought us down to Earth,” the three-year starter said. “It was a reality check. It was a crazy game in a hostile environment.”
The UMS loss made the Saints question how good they really were, especially after beating their Old Shell Road rival for five straight years, senior running back and safety B.J. Edmonds said.
“The coaches said the seniors had to lead the team,” Edmonds said. “We came together to win.”
The team’s other loss came to a division rival in Jackson, which they later met on the road in the playoffs and beat handily. Senior running back Ostin McPherson said he wasn’t worried after the Jackson loss because the team didn’t play like itself and had six turnovers.
“I knew we didn’t play our best game,” he said. “We played them again and it was a different story.”
Mask gave a lot of the credit for the successful season to his players, who he said gave up their summer vacation to train, “when everyone is at the beach.”
“There’s a lot of sacrifice they have to go through” he said. “It’s hard for a kid to give summers up to do that.”
Mask also praised his assistant coaches, who were able to help get the “kids ready to play” each game. The players themselves credited the coaching staff for everything from daily “devotionals” where coaches would teach them life skills to letting them talk trash, McPherson said.
“It was always competitive and that would translate to games,” McPherson said. “The coaches gave us the will to line up and say ‘we’re going to win this.’”
For some players, like Edmonds, the idea of being repeat champions hasn’t sunken in yet. For others, like McPherson, it’s an emotional reminder of the work that was put in.
“For me — I’ve been playing since eighth grade — and it was like, ‘this is it,’” McPherson said. “I wanted to go out on top.”
The successful season and a successful stint on campus means college scholarships for some of the team’s players. While McPherson and Edmonds are still weighing options, Mosley said he’s committed to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“It’s a great opportunity to play Division 1 football and get a great education,” Mosley said. “I felt like it was the best fit for me as far as a career.”
Mosley said he’d like to become an orthopedic surgeon and work with athletes one day. McPherson said while he’s undecided at the moment, he has always dreamed of playing college football and can’t wait to get the chance. McPherson said he’d like to study physical therapy and remain in sports.
“I figure if I become a physical therapist, I can be around the field and mentor kids,” he said. “I’d get to be around football.”
Edmonds also said he’d like to find a job related to football. He wants to study kinesiology and coach at the college level.
Mask mentioned several other players who have received offers from colleges. He said defensive end and linebacker Bryce Huff was going to the University of South Alabama and linebacker Darius Whitfield was entertaining an offer from the University of South Carolina.
In three seasons, Mask said he’s had 14 players get scholarships to play at the next level, which is an important part of the job for the coaching staff.
“We take a lot of pride in that,” Mask said. “It means a lot.”
McGill-Toolen wins its first state title
The night before, the Yellow Jackets capped a one-loss 2015 campaign with a close 14-12 Class 7A state championship win over Spain Park.
Coach Caleb Ross, in his second year, oversaw a strong five-game turnaround, from four wins a season ago to nine wins this year. The only loss for the Yellow Jackets came in a three-point home loss to Blount. Ross gave most of the credit to the seniors on the team.
“We had a great group of seniors,” he said. “They wanted to go win it. It comes down to senior leadership.”
Despite the previous season’s results, Ross said he knew the team played well in its spring game with Hoover High School, which resulted in a 21-21 tie.
“I thought we’d be pretty good,” he said. “The games we lost last year were close.”
About midway through the season, he said, he felt the team was the best in its division and a 42-3 win over Auburn High School in the second round of the state playoffs gave him even more confidence.
Much like the two losses for St. Paul’s, McGill’s loss to Blount helped to focus the team, Chambers said.
“It meant we had to step up our game and work harder,” he recalled.
Chambers said the team’s coaching staff was “amazing” and “made sure we did the little things.”
Chambers said he’s still considering options for college, but is currently eyeing Georgia Southern. The Eagles are in the Sun Belt Conference, along with USA, which means if he gets his wish, Chambers could find himself playing a game back in Mobile. He intends to study engineering.
In addition to Chambers, Ross said there are several other McGill-Toolen players he’s expecting to receive scholarship offers. Safety Marcus Lucas has an offer from the University of Nevada, as well as “three or four other guys,” Ross said.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Ross said of the potential scholarships. “You want them to better their lives. You want to help them fulfill their dreams.”
Ross has a championship pedigree, as this year’s title marks his fifth as a high school coach. Before being named head coach of the Yellow Jackets prior to last season, Ross was offensive coordinator. Before that, he was on the Spanish Fort High School coaching staff, which took home one title during his tenure. Previously he coached at Prattville, where they won three.
“It’s special to represent McGill-Toolen,” he said. “It’s special to represent all the alumni and students. I’m proud to be head coach.”
Spanish Fort tops Class 6A
The Spanish Fort Toros outscored Clay-Chalkville 31-28 to cap an undefeated season with a Class 6A championship Dec. 4. Toros coach Ben Blackmon credited senior leadership and great assistant coaches with helping to bring home a championship in his first season as head coach.
“It was a tribute to the kind of kids we get to coach,” he said. “They want to be coached. They want to be pushed hard.”
Based on the team’s off-season work, Blackmon said he knew they’d be a tough team to beat and that they wouldn’t surrender on the field. It wasn’t until the Toros beat Opelika High School on the road in the playoffs that he knew they had a really good shot at the championship.
“They’re one of the best teams,” Blackmon said. “It was a tough test.”
Another tough test for the Toros came again in the playoffs against Benjamin Russell High School, out of Alexander City. Spanish Fort trailed in the game before battling back to a 31-27 win.
The Toros were full of experience, including quarterback Tyler Johnston, who went 35-0 in three seasons and played on two championship teams, Blackmon said. Johnston has committed to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Offensive lineman Jacob Johnson will be heading to the University of Southern Mississippi, while linebacker Tre Threat will be heading to Auburn University.
This was a banner year for the teams in the Mobile area, in terms of championships. Four area teams, including Bayside Academy in Daphne, made it to the Super 7 Championships and three won. For Ross, the results speak to the talent in the area.
“It shows the level of football we play in Mobile,” Ross said. “There’s a lot of talent down here and a year like this proves it.”
“There’s a lot of great football in Mobile,” he said. “I think it speaks volumes about the level of great competition we have down here.”