E.A. Sports Today

0, 0, Oh, Donoho

Falcons last high school team in Calhoun County yet to give up a point

Parker Morgan (L), Justin Foster (C) and Axis Heathcock lead their Donoho teammates in pre-practice stretching. All three are among the leading tacklers on the stingiest defense in Calhoun County.

Parker Morgan (L), Justin Foster (C) and Axis Heathcock lead their Donoho teammates in pre-practice stretching. All three are among the leading tacklers on the stingiest defense in Calhoun County.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

There’s a benchmark within the Donoho football program that may be hard to top, but this year’s team is off to a good start trying.

The eighth-ranked Falcons are the only team left in Calhoun County – and one of three in the AHSAA with at least two games — yet to give up a point. True, they’ve only played two games, but they’ve posted two shutouts.

The 2006 Donoho team posted eight straight shutouts and gave up only nine points in the regular season – six in the opener to Lyman Ward and three in the season finale to Pleasant Valley.

There’s a long way to go to reach that bar, but it’s a start.

“The defense has done a spectacular job,” Falcons coach Shannon Felder said. “I feel like the guys have worked hard and coach (Andy) McWilliams and the other defensive coaches have done a good job making sure we have a pretty good understanding of what we want to do.

“I would love to see this team be able to match and exceed the success of the ’06 team, but it’s too early in the game to make that determination. We’ve certainly challenged the guys to try to exceed the success of the ’06 team – from a defensive standpoint, from an offensive standpoint and from a win standpoint.

“The first two games have been good but we’ve still got a lot of games left to play.”

In those two games, the Falcons blanked Shoals Christian 42-0 and Talladega County Central 20-0. The Shades Mountain Christian team they play for the first time ever Friday for Homecoming was shut out by Winterboro last week.

The Eagles, who outscored Jacksonville Christian 42-34 in their opener, moved the ball in the spread against Winterboro, but poor execution kept them from completing drives.

Class 1A Maplesville and 6A Carver-Montgomery are the only other teams in the AHSAA with at least two games played yet to be scored upon.

“We’ve been playing together, that’s the most important thing,” outside linebacker/defensive end Axis Heathcock said. “Our team has been together for a long time. We had high hopes for this season; like every season we want to do our best. I think as long as we keep playing together and doing what our coaches tell us to do, we’re going to keep succeeding”

That togetherness is reflected in the early-season defensive statistics. Middle linebacker Parker Morgan is the Falcons’ leading tackler with 17, but Sam Garner has 14, Justin Foster 13 and Heathcock 10 with two fumble recoveries.

Donoho’s ’06 team was known for being able to deny people in the red zone, but this year’s team hasn’t faced that much of that.

Both of the Falcons’ first two opponents moved the ball on them, but TCC has come closest to scoring on them, but its touchdown was called back by a holding penalty.

The oldest players on this year’s Donoho defense were still in elementary school when the ’06 team was pitching shutouts, but they know enough about it to understand that team set the bar high.

“We hear about it all the time,” Garner said. “The coaches always talk about ’06 and how they want us to match that and beat that; that’s the precedent for us since they were such a talented team. People are drawing some comparisons and that’s a good feeling because that team went to the third round of the playoffs and we’re hoping to get there and possibly farther.

“Our class has always had a lot of kids playing football. Ever since I was in seventh grade, we were always told if we stuck together we’d be like that again. Here we are with nine seniors; that’s what we’re trying to beat.”

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. To comment on this story or pitch story ideas, contact him at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and follow him on Twitter @easportstoday1.

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