E.A. Sports Today


With Ross in Tuscaloosa, Valley Cubs not rich on preseason buzz, but Ginn’s eyes see much to like about his latest Alexandria team

Cover photo: Alexandria head coach Todd Ginn talks about the 2023 Valley Cubs during Tuesday’s preseason interview. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Editor’s note: High school football practice has started, and East Alabama Sports Today editor Joe Medley has begun his annual round of preseason visits to football-playing schools in Calhoun County. Check out East Alabama Sports Today’s Facebook page for live interviews each weekday leading up to season openers. Columns and key facts will also appear at EASportsToday.com and our social-media platforms.

ALEXANDRIA — Even a hallowed program like Alexandria has those years. You know the kind.

Household names graduated. Maybe a key player transferred. Maybe last year’s record doesn’t exactly help generate the hype.

Todd Ginn has seen such years. The sixth-year Alexandria head coach and long-time assistant saw it in the early 2000s, when his father, Larry, coached the Valley Cubs and younger brother Will quarterbacked them.

Joe Medley, Editor

“There was a team, I remember dad saying he really liked going to practice,” Ginn said during Tuesday’s preseason interview. “I was a young coach, just getting out of college and coming back, and that was a fun group for me.”

The 2003 Valley Cubs went 12-1 a year after going 4-5. Will Ginn wound up one of four all-state players from that team.

Just food for thought as Alexandria looks at life beyond University of Alabama preferred walk on Antonio Ross, a key transfer loss in T.K. Downie and a 5-5 team from 2022.

Never underestimate the Alexandria pipeline and the continuity of a program that’s run the Alexandria way for decades.

Don’t be surprised if Alexandria emerges from a region with Leeds, Moody and Southside and a non-region slate featuring Class 4A state runner-up Cherokee County, 4A sixth-ranked Jacksonville and 5A power Central-Clay with a better-than-expected record.

Get ready to hear more about players like running backs Elijah Hunter and Ty Brown, one stepping into his chance to shine and the other bearing a bigger load as Alexandria hunts production lost in Ross.

Sometimes, they just need the chance to show what they can do with their turn to tote the mail. When, after all, has Running Back High School ever been caught without one?

The Valley cupboard isn’t bare. They have a returning starting quarterback in Ty Barker whom embodies so many qualities that coaches and teammates like.

“Ty Barker will not be outworked,” Ginn said. “He’s going to work. He’s going to do the things to try to make himself successful, and we’ve just got to put him in opportunities to do that.”

Opponents fear defensive end/tight end Demakus Williams. He stands out on film for more reasons than wearing jersey No. 0.

All-State kicker Cleat Forrest registers as one of the team’s strongest players, Ginn said. A junior likely to kick on Saturdays, Forrest gives Alexandria potential for points any time it reaches the plus side of the field. His work on kickoffs and punts makes opponents spend time on the minus side.

It’s no little thing in football, and Alexandria has one big thing. Ginn saw it in those early-2000s teams and sees it coming into this season.

It’s something coaches don’t always see, even with teams rostering more preseason buzz, but it has a way of translating into results. When a coach talks like Ginn talks about his most recent Alexandria team, such teams have a way of earning admirers.

Some such teams even become their school’s “unforgettables.”

“I like these guys,” Ginn said. “I like being around them. They worked hard all summer long.

“In high school football, when you throw everything else out, and you say, hey, that’s a group of guys that I wouldn’t mind taking anywhere and not worrying about how they’re going to act and what they’re going to do, rhey’re going to represent Alexandria well, and I like being around them.”

In fact, the only thing Ginn might tweak about this team is to make them just a bit less likable. He cites a recent ESPN 30-for-30 about legendary Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus.

“We just wish we had a couple of guys that just had that nastiness to them,” Ginn said. “We need to develop that more. We’ve got some young guys we think that’s got that in them, and we’ve got some older guys I think we have to bring that out of.”

Valley Cubs facts

Things to know about Alexandria football heading into the 2023 season:

—  Todd Ginn enters his sixth season as Alexandria’s head coach. He’s 41-16 with two region titles and five playoff berths.

— Alexandria went 5-5 overall in 2022. The Valley Cubs finished 4-2 (third place) in Class 5A, Region 6 and lost Pleasant Grove in a first-round playoff game.

—Key graduation losses from 2022 include All-State defensive back Antonio Ross, who also accounts for the lion’s share of Alexandria’s offense as a running back. He signed with Alabama as a preferred walk-on. Other key losses included the following All-Calhoun County players: OL D.J. Argo, K Luis Torres and defensive end Kory Cargal. Also, All-County WR/DB T.K. Downie transferred to Anniston. 

—The following All-Calhoun County picks return: junior K Cleat Forrest (also All-State), senior DL DaMarkus Williams and senior RB/LB Ty Brown. 

— Players to watch: With Ross’ production having graduated, look for Brown and junior RB/DB Elijah Hunter to try to pick up his production. Hunter waited his turn behind Ross. Also, Alexandria has a returning QB in Ty Barker. 

— There’s another Ginn on  Alexandria’s staff. Besides the head coach and brothers Will and Scott, there’s cousin Bryant Ginn, who returned to his alma mater after coaching football, boys and girls basketball and track at Ohatchee. Bryant Ginn made the move during the summer, after Jake Welch joined Pell City’s staff.

—Joe Medley

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