BIRMINGHAM - With their 25-6 victory at Shades Mountain Christian on Friday, the Spring Garden Panthers (7-3) made a little history.
CENTRE – Alexandria sophomore running back Jamal Tucker rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries, leading the Alexandria Valley Cubs to a 53-21 football victory over the Cherokee County Warriors on Thursday.
Below are area high school football statistics through nine weeks. Reporting this week was Cedar Bluff, Cherokee County, Gaylesville, Piedmont, Sand Rock and Spring Garden. Some schools only partially reported.
BIRMINGHAM – Throughout much of 2014 volleyball season, the Spring Garden Lady Panthers had beaten the odds.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — It's the time of year when SEC teams seem to start flexing their defensive muscle.
Offenses have deservingly garnered headlines in an age of spread offenses and run-it-up attacks, but the league that built its national championship run on defense has taken another step forward this season: 10 Southeastern Conference teams have allowed fewer yards this year than last and half of the 14 league members are among the country's 30 stingiest in points given up.
"There's no question that defense is most important at this time of the year," said LSU coach Les Miles, who won the 2007 national title and played for a second crown in 2011.
The sentiment is shared throughout the SEC.
It also may be one reason there were six SEC teams in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, four in the top six.
No. 3 Alabama (No. 6 CFP) is the country's fifth best defense, giving up about 10 fewer yards a game than in 2013. Seventh-ranked Mississippi (No. 4 CFP) is yielding 305 yards, 65 fewer a game than last season. No. 4 Auburn (No. 3 CFP), No. 9 Georgia (No. 11 CFP) and No. 16 LSU (No. 19 CFP) are all allowing less yards than last season.
Ole Miss leads the country with just 10.5 points a game, a decrease of nearly two touchdowns from the 23.7 yielded a year ago. Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Missouri, Auburn and top-ranked Mississippi State (No. 1 CFP) are all in the top 30 of the FBS in that category.
"That's just the culture in the SEC," former Texas coach and ESPN analyst Mack Brown said. "That hasn't changed."
While TCU's 82-point outburst against Texas Tech gained headlines last week, the SEC answered with a 10-7 defensive struggle with LSU topping Ole Miss.
The SEC's defensive push comes during a year after some of its marquee stars on that side of the ball left for the NFL — including South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Alabama's C.J. Mosley and Missouri's Michael Sam left for the pros.
Now, others have filled the void.
— Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson leads the SEC with 86 tackles for the Vols, who are holding opponents to almost 80 yards less this season than last.
— Missouri defensive end Shane Ray picked up where Sam left off, on top in the SEC — and third nationally — with 10 sacks.
— Mississippi's Senquez Golson has eight interceptions to tie for most in the country.
Not everything's rosy for all SEC defenses.
One the league's leading groups the past few years could be found in South Carolina. But the Gamecocks have allowed 38 points a game in its six SEC contests, an increase of 18 points from a year ago and a major reason the Gamecocks went from preseason SEC East favorites to 2-4 in the conference.
And then there's Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have managed to win though statistically they are not as strong defensively as they were last year: Mississippi State is last in SEC defense, giving up 90 yards more a game than in 2013.
Brian Jones, a former Texas linebacker and current CBS Sports analyst, said the numbers are misleading. He said the Bulldogs offense, led by Heisman Trophy contender Dak Prescott, builds big leads and forces opponents to throw the ball to get back in games, and that skews the numbers.
"The key," Jones said, "is what they do in the red zone and the turnovers they get."
Tennessee coach Butch Jones thinks improved defense as the season moves on is as much a product of more opponent game film as work on the field.
"So, the more video you have out there, the more games you play, the more things you have to game plan," he said.
Injuries also can affect teams on top defensively.
Ole Miss lost starting linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche to a broken ankle against LSU this past week and won't have him for critical games against Auburn this week and Mississippi State down the road.
"You look at the teams that win consistently in November, late October, that go on championship stretch runs," Jones said, "they have great depth."
There's also a competition in the league to be considered the SEC's top defense.
"I know our defense enjoys playing and wants to be the best," said Vols linebacker-defensive end Curt Maggitt, whose four sacks rank 10th in the SEC. "We play to be the best, and I'm sure other teams could say the same."
AP Sports Writers Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Gary B. Graves in Lexington, Kentucky; David Brandt in Oxford, Mississippi; Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee; and John Zenor in Auburn, Alabama, contributed to this report.
The NCAA said Wednesday that Georgia star running back Todd Gurley must sit out until Nov. 15 for accepting more than $3,000 for autographing memorabilia and other items over a two-year period.
After posting two consecutive shutouts – the last coming against Weaver 42-0 on Friday – the Piedmont Bulldogs (7-2) moved up one spot to No. 7 in the latest Alabama Sportswriters Association Class 3A football rankings. The latest rankings were released late Tuesday evening.
Five area football players received recognition for their performances Friday in the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s weekly Spotlight.
Jacksonville State moved up two spots to No. 5 in this week's Top 25 FCS Coaches Poll and also moved to No. 5 in The Sports Network Top 25 football poll following last week's 49-3 win over Tennessee Tech.
The Alabama Sportswriters Association recognized two Cedar Bluff football players for their performances Friday night at Gaylesville.
I’ve already been tricked enough this football season. It’s time for some treats.
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves have hired Kevin Seitzer from the Toronto Blue Jays to replace Greg Walker as hitting coach.
Walker was assisted by Scott Fletcher this season as the Braves finished 79-83.
The 52-year-old Seitzer was the hitting coach for Arizona during part of the 2007 season, for Kansas City from 2009-12 and for the Blue Jays this past season. The former All-Star third baseman hit .295 in 12 major league seasons with the Royals, Milwaukee, Oakland and Cleveland.
Walker resigned after the Braves finished 14th among National League teams, ahead of only San Diego, in runs scored. Fletcher and third base coach Doug Dascenzo also are not returning.
The Braves announced Thursday that John Hart has agreed to a three-year deal as president of baseball operations.
HUNTSVILLE - Class 1A, No. 7 Spring Garden will make a return trip to the Birmingham Cross Plex after capturing fourth place in the North Volleyball Super Regional on Saturday.
HUNTSVILLE - Class 3A, No. 8 Sand Rock's season came to a close in the quarterfinal round of the North Volleyball Super Regional in Huntsville on Saturday.
JACKSONVILLE — Coming off its final bye week of the season, No. 6 Jacksonville State played its most complete game in a 49-3 victory over Tennessee Tech Saturday afternoon.
PISGAH – Sand Rock gave Pisgah all it could handle in a battle of Class 3A, Region 7 football teams on Friday, but fell short in a 33-26 decision.
CENTRE – Cherokee County freshman quarterback Tyren Dupree accounted for a total of 274 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Warriors to a 37-31 Class 4A, Region 6 victory over visiting White Plains on Friday.
GAYLESVILLE – Cedar Bluff sophomore quarterback Josh Decker didn’t have his best game last week against non-region opponent Section.
SPRING GARDEN – The Spring Garden Panthers fell just four points short of setting a new school record for most points scored in a football game Friday night against Class 1A, Region 7 rival Coosa Christian.
HUNTSVILLE – Class 3A, No. 8 Sand Rock and Class 1A, No. 7 Spring Garden both won their first round volleyball matches at the North Super Regional in Huntsville’s Von Braun Center on Friday.
FYFFE – The Fyffe Red Devils completely dominated Collinsville in route to claiming the Class 2A, Region 7 title Friday night.