Eufaula will lose 28 seniors from a team that in many minds should be playing in the Class 6A quarterfinals Friday night were it not for a controversial overturned touchdown inside the final minute of last week’s second-round game at Hueytown.
The call likely ended a two-year-run for the Tigers in Class 6A and certainly wiped out Eufaula’s chances of finally getting a great revenue gate this week at home against Opelika. Eufaula suffered playing in the Class 6A Region 2 because none of the Montgomery schools, Russell County or last year when Dothan still had two schools brought many fans. Opelika would have.
Nevertheless, the Tigers return most of its skill positions next season when they return to 5A, including quarterback Hess Horne and a receiving corps that one state media outlet called the best high school group in Alabama. Rah Rah Thomas, Emanuel Stevenson, Jay Townsend and all-purpose back/receiver Devin Fuller will all return. Defensive backs Keith Bain, Quay Lynn and Zaden Thomas, as well as and Xavier Peterson, a terror at times after switching to defense, also return.
The problem head coach Ed Rigby and his staff will have is replacing offensive linemen Cade Gothard and Dallas Ingram, linebackers Luke Bush, Brooks Weeks and Brennan Ford, defensive linemen Dontrell Henry and Curion Anderson, and place-kicker Davis Wingate.
Eufaula was playing schools three and four times its size at 6A, yet made the playoffs in each season and tied Dothan for the region title this year. Eufaula’s only losses were to still unbeaten Wakulla High of Crawfordsville, Florida, a Dothan High team that benefitted from getting to compete at 6A despite being the third-largest school in the state, and at Hueytown, a game the Tigers dominated statistically.
“Our seniors set the bar so high,” Rigby said.
Rigby said he and his staff will work feverishly in the coming weeks to help some of the Tigers get scholarships to college. He also noted that some of his players are moving on to the military.
We lose four offensive linemen and three linebackers,” Rigby said. “The thing about the amount of seniors we had was it gave us quality depth. We overachieved in some areas, but we are always looking to be bigger, faster, stronger.””
Rigby expects to hear of the new realignment in the next two or three weeks. Among the possible region foes will be Rehobeth, Headland, Carroll, Charles Henderson, Beauregard, Valley, B.T. Washington, Tallassee and Greenville, but nothing is certain until the AHSAA sets its alignment and leagues.
The final high school statistics are not official yet, but Horne is expected to be among the state’s leaders in passing yards, perhaps the best in 6A, while Thomas could be one of the tops in receiving, according to Rigby.