HUNTSVILLE — The slates are clean and Huntsville football is restarting the season like most other teams as the district portion of the schedule is set to start on Friday,
The Hornets (1-3, 0-0 District 10 5A, DII) will face a familiar opponent in Montgomery for the 12th time and the fifth time since 2018. Both Huntsville and the Bears are facing turnaround seasons.
Going into this game, both teams have held a heavy non-district schedule to get their team prepared for the six-game district slate.
“The first district game is always important,” Huntsville head coach Rodney Southern said. “You don’t want to start out 0-1. With an odd number and six games, you want to get your wins early and set yourselves up for something. We are going to be as close to full strength as we have been.”
Both the Hornets and the Bears have rosters that are full of youthful players. Montgomery’s roster is built of 15 sophomores, 13 juniors and 24 seniors, which is nearly identical to the Hornets squad.
Another similarity is sophomore quarterbacks are leading both teams. Huntsville has Austin Taylor and Montgomery has played Reggie Williams for a majority of their snaps.
Even with both teams being very similar in a lot of phases, the key one is getting the win in the opening of district play.
“Montgomery is kind of in the same boat as we are - playing a lot of young kids,” Southern said. “This is a vital game for both teams. But we need to get a win and come home for a while and try and sustain some momentum.”
This game will also mark the third straight game the Hornets have played on the road. This game is the closest by 59 miles in the three-week stretch.
While the Hornets have been on the road a lot to start out this season, it doesn’t seem the bus trips have been as tough on the opponents as the competition has been in getting the Hornets ready for this brand new beginning.
“Other than not playing at home, I don’t think so,” Southern said. “We still get on a bus for a home game. We knew coming in this non-district schedule was going to be tough with young kids on top of that. I don’t think it’s played any roll on how we’ve managed. It’s part of the process and the growing process. We are at the point where games count and we’ve gotta do a better job in all three phases.”
While the Bears are coming off a 6-0 season that saw a six-game sweep of the district last season, they have had some growing pains after their coach retired last year. The Bears also lost over 25 seniors from their roster last year.
Now, Huntsville will have to try and stop both the run game, as well as, a threat in the air.
Williams has seen the most time under center and has tossed for 469 yards through the air finding two receivers for over 203 yards a piece. While he has two targets, he isn’t scared to run either.
Williams has added 296 yards on the ground with three scores on the ground.
“They haven’t changed much in the coaching transition,” Southern said. “They are almost a mirror image of us. They are having to rely on young kids and are in the same dynamic we are. When you rely on those guys, you have to handle some mistakes or some things that are going to happen. I think we handled a lot of those things. There are still some points we are leaving out there where we have to have guys make those plays.”
This week will bring several challenges for both teams but one thing that Southern wants to take away from the front four games is the team's resilience in their games.
Huntsville has competed in a majority of their games this season but hasn’t been unable to overcome some mistakes and never get a momentum swing back in favor of the Hornets.
“They have been resilient,” Southern said. “They battled the other night. We have to have guys step up and have guys make those big plays to try and change momentum. We told them ahead of time, the schedule was going to be tough. Hopefully, it has prepared us for the next six weeks.”
Huntsville and Montgomery will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bear Stadium in Montgomery.