E.A. Sports Today

Take 5: Players with impact

By Chad Barnett
East Alabama Sports Today

Here is a glance at the season’s five biggest impact players in Calhoun County.

Justin Foster — Donoho LB

Bolstering the most dominant defense in Calhoun County, Donoho’s Foster is leading the Falcons to a smothering season. Through seven weeks of the 2014 high school football season, the Falcons have given up only 20 points, an average of less than three points per game. That run includes five shutouts to open the season.

Foster was highly touted entering the season; his work between the lines has lived up to the hype. His efforts have led to offers from a host of schools including South Alabama, Ohio, Jacksonville State, Samford and Georgia State. Earlier this week he was named to the state’s squad for the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game.

More importantly, his work is a big reason his team is ranked in the top five in Class 1A; the No. 5 ranking is the highest in school history. The Falcons held that spot for four weeks straight and play at Ragland Friday for what amounts to the region championship.



CJ Savage – Piedmont WR

A track star in the spring, Piedmont’s Savage enjoys showing off his speed on Friday nights in the fall and he is a blazing weapon for head coach Steve Smith. He is perhaps the deadliest player in open space throughout the county no matter the classification.

According to Wellborn head coach Jeff Smith, Savage has “speed you can’t plan for. I can tell the kids how fast he is. We can look at it on film. But it can’t prepare you for it once you see it.”

Smith saw that speed first-hand Friday night. With the game in the balance Piedmont went to its speedster for a game-flipping touchdown that went for 50-plus yards. It was his second score from 50 or more on the night.

CJ SAVAGE (third player from left)

CJ SAVAGE (third player from left)

Tre Gamble – Oxford WR

Oxford may have ridden a roller coaster of momentum throughout the 2014 season, but the one constant has been Gamble. The senior who coach Ryan Herring has called “the best receiver in the state” has come up big for the Yellow Jackets even when his numbers weren’t all that impressive.

Case in point was a Week One at Southside. Receiver Jacob Cook got all the fanfare following the team’s big win with 223 receiving yards and two touchdowns, but it was the defense’s attention on Gamble that opened the throwing lanes for Cook.

He’s also had games where he’s put the team on his back, chalking up five touchdowns in a huge win over Vestavia Hills. He has also come up big in losses. He gave the Jackets more than 200 combined rushing and receiving yards – and three touchdowns — in a 45-21 loss to third-ranked Opelika.

Like Donoho’s Foster, Gamble also has a roster spot in the Alabama-Mississippi Game.

Gamble and Company are still alive for a playoff spot in Class 6A. They currently sit fourth in the Class 6A Region 3 standings. A win over Chelsea this week will clinch a berth.

TRE GAMBLE (21) (Photo by Greg McWilliams)

TRE GAMBLE (21) (Photo by Greg McWilliams)

Kevin Mixon — Wellborn RB

Mixon (in the cover photo) has gone for big yardage. He leads the team in touchdowns. Numbers-wise, he’s without a doubt the most dynamic player in the Panther offense. But it’s what happens when he’s not there where you realize his importance.

Against sixth-ranked Glencoe earlier this season, the Panthers held a commanding lead on the road. But an unsportsmanlike penalty led to Mixon’s ejection and it turned the tide in the game. Wellborn watched its lead dwindle over the next three quarters, and it eventually lost by one point. The offense had no answer without him in the backfield.

Devin Harris — Saks QB

Whether he liked it or not, Harris was the ultimate question mark heading into the 2014 season for the Wildcats. The question wasn’t about his talent — he had already proven his ability over the early portion of his career, scoring 21 touchdowns last year as a running back. It was more whether he could be consistent as a quarterback.

This year, he has provided plenty of leadership at quarterback for the second-ranked Wildcats. He chalked up back-to-back five-touchdown performances this year against Cherokee County and White Plains, and in the last four weeks he has led the Wildcats offense to an average of 50 points per game.

Not bad for a guy that is under center for the first time since his freshman season.



Chad Barnett covers high school football for the “Pigskin Roundup.” Read his impressions of the high school football week that was every week at East Alabama Sports Today.

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