E.A. Sports Today

Alexandria: Bouncing back

Alexandria players work to bounce back from a rare losing season in 2013.

Alexandria players work to bounce back from a rare losing season in 2013.

Alexandria coach Frank Tucker makes a point to his players on the first day of practice.

Alexandria coach Frank Tucker makes a point to his players on the first day of practice.

First losing season in 11 years has Valley Cubs working harder for new region

Editor’s Note: This is another in a series of previews of Calhoun County high school football teams.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

If things look a little more intense at Alexandria football practice these days, it’s not a mirage.

This is a different kind of the year for the Valley Cubs. It’s one they haven’t had to go through very often, but one that in the past has spurred them to a long run of success.

This is one of those rare bounce-back years for the program. The Valley Cubs are coming off a 3-7, their first losing season since 2002 and worst record in 33 years. They lost their last three games to miss the playoffs, five of their last six and were shutout in back-to-back games for the first time since 1989.

It’s the first real crisis of Frank Tucker’s eight years as head coach, but even Larry Ginn and Lou Scales, the two legendary coaches who preceded him, had similar downturns and they went on to enjoy long and successful careers.

“This is a year we’re looking to prove ourselves,” Tucker said. “Coming off a year like last year you don’t just want to sit around and take it.

“We were doing everything we could last year; some years it doesn’t turn out like you want. The only thing I know to do is keep working. We’ve worked harder in the summer than we’ve ever worked and hopefully we’ll see some fruit from that work.”

The experts seem convinced it’ll turn around. The Alabama Sports Writers installed the Valley Cubs at No. 9 in Class 5A in its preseason poll.

History is on their side. The last time they had a losing season, they came back with four straight years of 11 or more wins, going 47-7 in that stretch and reaching the fourth round of the playoffs all four years. And the time before that, they had 11 straight years of at least seven wins, 10 playoff appearances, one undefeated season and two state championships.

“It’s not like we have a good year and we’re smart and have a bad year we’re dumb and the next year we get smart again,” Tucker said. “The thing we’re stressing is to have a chance to win you’ve got to work your tail off and that’s what we’ve tried to do this summer.

“There’s no magic formula, no magic dust we can sprinkle on anybody to make us a great team, but we can work and have a good attitude. We’ve asked them to work harder and nobody has dodged work.”

If the Valley Cubs are going to turn it around, it’s going to happen with a roster of stars in the making. Tucker insists this isn’t a team of superstars or even one – at least not yet.

They had four seniors make All-County last year, but that’s not to say they’re devoid of talent this season. Luke Tucker returns at quarterback after going through some growing pains in his first year as the starter, as do two-way lineman Dakota Sams and tailback Alton Davis.

“This is the most unique team we’ve had, and I say that in a good sense, in that there are a lot of people who have a chance to contribute,” Tucker said. “I don’t think we have that all-state player or cow-bell player, but there a lot of people who can contribute and help this team.

“You like that because it could build unity knowing I may not be the best but they are depending on me; I may not be the superstar, but I am needed. Hopefully we’ll see some people excel that maybe we weren’t planning on or hadn’t excelled in the past. And it may change from week to week.

“And from a scouting standpoint, the other team doesn’t know who we are either.”

That may be the true silver lining as the Valley Cubs move into a new classification and region.

The only teams on the schedule they played last year are Jacksonville, Lincoln, Anniston and Cherokee County. Only Lincoln and Anniston are region opponents – and the Valley Cubs get both at home.

“There will be some new teams we’ll have to learn and they’ll have to learn us,” Tucker said.

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. He can be reached at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and followed on Twitter @easportstoday1.

Aug. 22 — at Jacksonville
Aug. 29
Sept. 5 — at Hayden
Sept. 12 —
Sept. 19 — at Springville
Sept. 26
Oct. 3 — Mortimer Jordan
Oct. 10 — at St. Clair County
Oct. 17 — Moody
Oct. 24 — Anniston
Oct. 31 — at Cherokee County

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