By Fred Woods
The Opelika Chiefs, runners-up in last year’s APDFL national championship game, are back for the 2017 season, bigger, stronger, faster and even more motivated than ever, according to head coach Hunter Price. The Chiefs open the season with their first three games on the road, beginning March 4, in Birmingham against the Alabama Blackhawks. Coach “This year’s team is much more talented across the board than any we’ve had before, throughout the 65-man roster,” Price said. “This is the chippiest preseason I’ve ever been a part of.”
He attributes this attitude in large part to the team’s feeling that they should have won last year’s championship game, that they let themselves and their fans down by failing to finish out the the game and they are determined not to let that happen again this year,
The offensive and defensive lines, both strengths of last year’s team have made significant strengthening additions; the entire backfield, including rushing leader Latrell Jenkins, is back with two significant additions from Reeltown, Ki-Shawn Powell and Will Mckenzie. Price describes Powell as Tracy Brooks, two inches taller and 30 lbs. heavier. Those who recall Brooks, a little guy with lots of ability and determination who did a little of everything for the Chiefs the past two years, will realize this is high praise indeed.
The defensive line, which continues to be anchored by 285 lb. Greg Moss, last year’s APBFL leader in sacks and defensive scoring, has a couple of significant newcomers and the addition of Isaiah Person, former Auburn High and Tuskegee star at linebacker coupled with the returning Brian Anyadike give strength at these positions.
The addition of JaMarlo Alford, former OHS standout at 6’2”, 325 lbs., coupled with Gregg Peters, 6’ 3”, 320 lbs. from Prattville, add strength and depth to the offensive line. Former OHS lineman Justin Plog has moved to center.
At quarterback, Kyle Caldwell, former Dadeville and Livingston University star returns, but Kyle is being pushed by newcomer Devin Foreman. Foreman is Cam Newton-size at 6’ 6”, 250 lbs. with tons of potential according to Price. “This young man has gotten light-years better over the last three months of coaching under Coach JD Atkins,” Price said.
According to Price, Foreman has a cannon for an arm and his inexperience and lack of coaching are the only things holding him back. He played basketball at Beauregard High School and has played a couple of years for the Predators but has really never been coached to play quarterback.
In all, about 85 percent of last year’s starters return. The additions all strengthen, improve and add depth to the team. Coach Price says at many, if not most, positions there is no clearly defined starter-second string; instead it is 1A and 1B. The skill and competence levels are that close. No wonder he’s so eager for the season to start.
Remember, the first three games are on the road (Birmingham, Pensacola and Atlanta), so most fans will have to wait until March 25 to see the 2017 Chiefs. And that game should be a doozy as the pre-season highly ranked Prattville Patriots will provide the opposition then.