While addressing reporters at the 2013 AHSAA Media Day, Savarese said the six teams playing in the Champions Challenge later this month are “kicking off the season for the AHSAA.”
Included in the two-day exhibition event is Class 2A Wellborn, which plays Class 3A Straughn on Aug. 24 at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.
“We’re pumped to get this season going,” Wellborn quarterback Landon Machristie said. “We’re all looking forward to hitting someone besides each other.”
Wellborn coach Jeff Smith, lineman Jaleel Burton, tailback Chantz Goodman and Machristie participated in the media day.
Smith said Wellborn, which is ranked fourth in Class 2A, will enter the game like it’s a regular-season battle, adding “at the end of the game we’ll still be 0-0 so this can’t do anything but help us.”
Straughn will provide plenty of competition for Wellborn. The fifth-ranked Tigers finished the 2012 season 9-4 (5-2 in Region 1) and made a deep playoff run to the 3A semifinals.
“They’re basically a wishbone team,” Smith said. “The head coach played at Andalusia when they played Wellborn in the 1977 state championship. They have a bunch of players, something like 77. They have a big senior class like we did last year.
“It’s going to be a big test, but, hey, let’s play.”
Tailback Chantz Goodman showed optimism, saying he thinks Wellborn will do well if the team stays focused. Machristie said this game will let the team know where it stands. Smith said strong competition will help the Panthers learn what they need to fix.
“There’s always something,” Smith said. “We’re working on this or we’re working on that. To be specific on an area, this time of the year you’ll think you have something fixed then you have another problem you have to fix. It’s constantly working toward getting into the season and playing games.”
The Panthers are coming into this season having averaged 40.6 a game last year and finishing second in Region 6 last year.
As for Montgomery, Machristie is predicting the tight-knit, football-loving community will show its support by bussing down to Cramton Bowl to cheer on Wellborn.
At the same time, Smith is taking thing with perspective.
“Regardless of what happens next Saturday we still have to play Saks six days later,” Smith said. “Whatever happens Saturday we’ll have to take and improve for the next one.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.