E.A. Sports Today

Wellborn kicks off at JSU

Panthers to open their 2017 football season against North Jackson at JSU; Heflin’s Robinson shifts recruiting gears

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Jeff Smith has always liked playing in a big game on the big stage, and it doesn’t get any bigger than what Wellborn has in store for its football season opener this coming fall.

The Panthers will open their 2017 schedule on a Thursday night, Aug. 24, against perennial 4A contender North Jackson at Jacksonville State.

Wellborn will pay the expenses and the teams will split the gate. It’s a one-game, one-year deal and Wellborn is the home team.

The game gives the Panthers a full 10-game schedule for the first time since 2013. They’ve played nine games each of the last three years — the first two by design to have an open week prior to the playoffs, but they couldn’t find the extra game last year to fill the gap of a seven-team region, the toughest region in the state.

Actually both teams had had trouble finding the tenth game. Both wanted a home game, but Smith pitched the JSU scenario to the Chiefs and the match was made.

“I think the kids are excited about it,” Smith said. “There’s no way to get better experience than to get games like that. You get better playing games like that.”

The Panthers’ other non-region games next fall are Saks, Talladega and White Plains.

It won’t be the first time the Panthers will be at JSU Stadium this calendar year. They’ll once againalso take part in the Calhoun County Spring Jam in May, an event Smith played a role in founding.

On the first day of this year’s event, the Panthers will play Alexandria and Ohatchee plays Weaver. On Day 2, Pleasant Valley plays White Plains and host Saks plays an opponent to be determined.

“I like it I hope everybody does as much as I do,” Smith said.

Here is Wellborn’s 2017 schedule:

Aug. 24 — North Jackson (at JSU)
Sept. 1 — Saks
Sept. 8 — Pleasant Valley
Sept. 15 — at Weaver
Sept. 22 — Open
Sept. 29 — at Talladega
Oct. 6 — Ohatchee
Oct. 13 — at Piedmont
Oct. 20 — at Glencoe
Oct. 27 — Randolph County
Nov. 2 — at White Plains

Robinson switches gears

Don’t look for John Robinson to be part of National Signing Day on Wednesday.

The Cleburne County lineman has quietly decommitted from Chattanooga in part because of the Mocs’ recent head coaching change and is leaving his options open.

Shortly after Mocs head coach Russ Huesman returned to Richmond as the head coach in December Robinson said he was still committed to UTC. He said new Mocs coach Tom Arth’s staff honored his scholarship, but the change gave him an out to start thinking about staying closer to home.

He didn’t rule out going to Jacksonville State as a student and perhaps walking on, but he would prefer to go on scholarship.

“It’s open,” he said of his recruiting, “but if something doesn’t happen, I’ll move on and go to college and just be a regular student. We’ll see what happens next. I really don’t know my plans yet. I’m just kind of waiting to see what happens.”

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