E.A. Sports Today

Up for review

Instant replay used in non-playoff high school football game for first time in the country in County Spring Jam

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – On paper it appeared to be a mismatch as Class 5A Alexandria took on 3A Ohatchee in the historically significant first game of the Calhoun County Spring Jam at Jacksonville State Thursday night.

The outcome of the game wasn’t important. For those keeping score, Alexandria withstood a tough battle from the Indians in a 32-24 win. Junior varsity running back Javais McGhee scored from eight yards out with 1:39 to play to break a 24-24 tie and Ivontae Davis added the two-point conversion to finish the scoring.

What was significant about the game was it featured the first use of instant replay in a non-playoff high school football game in the country, operators of the review system said. The AHSAA received permission from the National Federation of State High School Associations to use instant replay in football for up to three years. The state governing body said participation in using it this year is optional.

Representatives of DVSport Inc. were on hand Thursday night to operate the replay system, which is said to cost the schools that will employ it $3,500 the first year and $1,500 a year thereafter. DVSport facilitates instant replay for most of the NCAA’s major conference and its playoffs.

The replay system uses two camera views for its reviews. Officials will be receiving training in the next few weeks at the AHSAA.

It was the DVSport officials who said it was the first time that replay has been used in Alabama and the first time in the U.S. in a non-playoff game.

Alexandria interim coach Andy Shaw brought out the replay flag early as he made history.

“I thought they were some big plays, so I threw the flag out there,” Shaw said. “The replay is a good thing.”

“The replays went our way, so I am behind it,” said Ohatchee coach Scott Martin.

That opinion seems to reverse the initial reaction. When reached by East Alabama Sports Today immediately after the approval was announced in April, several Calhoun County football coaches opposed the idea either on general principle or economic grounds.

The AHSAA distributed a press release a few weeks later saying the coaches statewide were excited about the prospect of having instant replay at their games.

As for the game Thursday, both teams were able to move the football.

Alexandria scored a touchdown on its first possession with Nate McCallum finding the end zone. Ohatchee drove it right back down the field and tied the game 8-8 on Cam McCombs’ 7-yard touchdown run and quarterback Grayson Alward’s conversion run.

The Valley Cubs struck back in the second quarter on Jacob Wells’ 27-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Tucker. Ohatchee drove down and missed a field goal, leaving Alexandria up 16-8 at the half.

The Indians tied the game on the opening drive of the second half when McCombs found the end zone from two yards out and Alward’s conversion.

“Our kids played hard; they got after it,” Martin said. “We were overmatched a bit in some areas, but we got some skill guys, too. I like this football team.”

Ohatchee’s defense shut down the Valley Cubs’ next possession by holding on four downs inside the 3 with 3:07 to go in the third quarter.

But two plays later Devin Burton came up with an interception and Alexandria had it back on the 3. On the next play Romeo Dye stuck the football in the end zone and McCallum added the two point run and the Cubs held a 24-16 lead as the third quarter ended. The JV teams took over from there.

Shaw took the Valley Cubs on an interim basis following former head coach Frank Tucker’s resignation after 11 seasons right before the start of spring drills. Todd Ginn was approved as the new head coach during the May school board meeting last week.

“Our goal was to get better,” said Shaw, one of the inhouse candidates to interview for the full-time position. “Ten days was not a whole lot of time to do much, but these kids focused in and had a successful spring.

“These guys will have a new coach in the fall and they will be ready and will do a good job in getting ready for next year.”

Weaver overruns DAR, 42-22

Shamar Spinks shredded the DAR Patriots for 167 yards on eight carries, scored touchdowns on runs of 56 and 8, caught a two-point conversion and had a 25-yard touchdown run called back – all in a quarter and a half of work.

“Shamar Spinks is something special,” Weaver coach Daryl Hamby said. “He has a lot of ability.”

The Bearcats’ first unit left after rolling up 320 yards of offense and taking a 28-0 lead while the defense held the Patriots to 0 total yards. The 4A Patriots had 18 seniors coming back and a quarterback that threw for over 2,000 yards last year.

Patriots coach Joel Poole brought his team to the Spring Jam when Spring Garden had to drop out due to their baseball team making it to the state finals.

“We had somebody cancel out on our jamboree, so we needed somewhere to go anyway,” Poole said. “This will help us for the future, but they are a great team and we hardly had a chance to do anything.”

Spinks and new Weaver quarterback Robert Gaines, the state 3A 100 hurdles champion, have blazing speed and fullback Caleb Allison brings the power running game to an offense that just overpowered the Patriots.

Gaines rushed for 36 yards on seven carries and threw touchdown passes to Marcello D’Ambrosia and Drake Monroe in that first-half explosion. JV quarterback Taylor Thompson threw a couple of scoring passes to Amadric Elston against the Patriot varsity in the second half.

“Gaines did a great job,” Hamby said. “He is an outstanding athlete and he can be outstanding at whatever sport he wants to play. “We had kids stepping up tonight and I really like what I saw out there.”

DAR’s scores came after the Weaver varsity left the field – a safety and a fumble return for a touchdown.

Daryl Hamby is entering his final season as the Bearcats’ coach, having announced his intentions to make 2018 his last the same day as the AHSAA made its instant replay announcement, and Gaines will be taking over at quarterback from Hamby’s son Dalton, a three-year starter.

Although he didn’t play in the game, the younger Hamby made his presence known on the night as he threw 13 footballs through the hoop to win the TV24 halftime challenge.

The Spring Jam continues Friday with White Plains playing Pleasant Valley and Wellborn playing Saks.

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