The McAdory Yellow Jackets travel to Helena to face the Huskies in a Class 6A non-region week. Week five is a non-region opponent and teams can go in any direction on picking an opponent for this week. The two sides came together and we have two undefeated teams for this game. Both teams come into the game 5-0 and somebody is going to walk away with their first loss of the season.
Helena is coming off an emotion high getting a win over cross town rival Pelham (37-34) last week while McAdory is coming into the game with easy win over Bessemer City (47-0). The Huskies know it is going to take a good mental week of practice to get ready for another top team in McAdory. "Our biggest hurdle is coming back from an emotional rivalry game," said Huskies head coach Richie Busby. "We have to keep playing good football. I'm proud of the effort we played on Friday night. Our kids found a way especially late in the game, they just find a way to come back. Were not the most talented team sometimes on Friday night, but our kids give great effort and that is why I'm so proud of them."
McAdory (5-0, 2-0) has played well this season. They have a big win over 5A power Demopolis on the road along with wins over another 5A power St. Pauls and region foe Homewood. "I like the way that our team has responded to adversity," said Yellow Jackets head coach Aryvia Holmes. "We started back in June on replacing five coaches in two weeks. The players had to deal with that. We had one week that we had to practice indoors all week due to rain. We haven't panicked when we have been down in games. They have adjusted well to all the coaching changes."
Quarterback Cam Shepherd leads the Yellow Jackets offense. "We had a lot of questions coming in the season about the quarterback situation," added Holmes. "Cam gives us the best option to win football games. We had to figure out what he does well on the field. Then we have to protect him in the pocket better than last season. He can make every throw and does a good job of understanding what we want to do. He is a leader of the players. He is our guy. It has been fun to watch him. He comes to work in practice every single day and wants this offense to get better and better each week."
Shepherd has two very good receivers in Jabari Strait and Kris Merritt. During summer time, this receiving core worked out together and it shows so far on the football field. "Jabari can do everything," said Holmes. "He is probably a defensive back at the next level with good hips and being a long player. He understands how to run routes with the best set of hands on the team."
Aden Boyd will be in the slot position and he can run or catch the ball out of the backfield. Another versatile player coming off an injury from last season. Add in Rushun Howard and Jacorey Whitted, tight ends Gibson Luke and J'quan Mason, Shepherd has a lot of talent around him on offense. "Aiden is our utility knife that play in different spots," said Holmes. "He can play fullback, catch the ball out of the backfield, play receiver and backup running backs."
Juniors Rod Thomas and Peyton Ryans are at running back. Both play real physical and look to break tackles on one-on-one matchups. "Rod is a taller guy with good speed along with being physical," said Holmes. "Peyton is like that scatback guy. Very dynamic runner that is a physical runner. Different styles but they like to get downhill. Can hit a home run on any play."
The key for the Yellow Jackets have been the improvement of the offensive line. Carson Roberts leads the McAdory line." Carson is an undersized lineman but is real smart that keeps that group together," added Holmes. "We joke about how he gets destroyed on some plays gets right back after it and plays with great heart. He is a wrestler so he is a tough kid. He is so consistent. He had an ACT prep class in the summer that starts at eight am but would come into practice at 6:30 am to get his running in. Then he would go to class. Most kids would have just missed the running part. He works hard, gives us everything he has. Very pleased with the offensive line play."
The other lineman with Roberts are Jaxon Hudgins, Ja'myll Lindsey, Joshua Anderson, Kaleb May, Octavious Davis, Jaylen Jackson and and Kameron Gray. The Yellow Jackets know that they have to creat depth and had to get fixed all the sacks from last season. Offensive line coach James Moorer from Vestavia Hills last season has done a great job of teaching the McAdory line the game and what to expect on Friday nights.
The front seven is the key to the Yellow Jackets defense. Defensive lineman Curtis Weatherspoon, Malachi Frazier, Kaleb May, Mario Berry and Trevyon Curry anchor the line play. "I was worried about the offense coming into the season," said Holmes. "We have made teams one dimensional and have stopped the run." Linebacker Ken Kelley has made tackles all over the field. Also, Nathan Lake has been solid at linebacker. The defense has been very versatile in a four or a three-man front if teams like to throw the football.
The secondary has Ladedric Taylor, Ferderrius Sims, Dailyn Kelley and Yumana Lofton. They will have to matchup with a very good receiving core of Helena. "Helena likes to run the football and a receiver that we haven't see so far this season," added Holmes. "They have a quarterback that can make all the throws and can run the football. It is going to be a challenge for us. We can't afford to give up big plays on either side of the football."
Helena had to replace 15 starters from last season along with four offensive lineman coming into the 2021 season. "We didn't have a feel of what type of team we were going to be coming into the fall," said Busby. "Last season, we knew we were going to be a running football team, but this season we knew we would have to do some different things." This season, the Huskies offense is a little more balanced as they can throw and run the football this season.
Quarterback McGwire Turner leads the way for the Huskies offense. Turner is going to play baseball at the next level at Southeastern Louisiana University. "Mac wasn't sure that he was going to play football in high school," added Busby. "We worked hand in hand on knowing what he wanted to do in baseball, but I told him I think you can be a very good high school quarterback. I wanted to make sure I wasn't interfering in baseball but it has been good. I knew that he was going to have a good season." Turner has completed 52-of-86 passing for 773 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions this year.
Running back Jordan Washington has been the key guy in the Huskies ground game. He has around 95 percent of the carries this season and is a very good back. "He is very built well in his lower body," said Busby. "His running style is like Derrick Henry. Verticle runner that gets behind his pads very well. He can run on short yardage or can break the long run. Being just a sophomore, I really think he could be a Power 5 back if he can pickup some weight and keep his speed and I really think he will be able to do that. He is doing a much better job in pass protection and he catches the ball out of the backfield real well. The sky is the limit for Jordan. He is such a good kid." Washington has 421 yards on 91 carries and seven touchdowns on the season.
The Huskies like the wildcat position with their other two running backs. Linebacker Joseph Roberto and Dalton Lewellyn have been a force earlier in the season. Both have given the offense a spark at different games this season. Roberto is a talent and can play a lot of different positions, but the Huskies know they have to keep him healthy for the defense. A.J. Horstead is coming off an injury early in the season and is looking to get healthy to give Helena some much needed depth.
The receivers are very good. J.C. Sivley stands at 6'6" and is a handful for defensive backs. He is a big mismatch for most players and recruiting is taking off for him. "J.C. had a tremendous winter and spring in the weight room, said Busby. "Something just clicked for him and the weight room was the one area holding him back. He destroyed the weight room along with a good seven on seven summer. He did a great job against press coverage and running routes against good competition with his 7-on-7 team this summer. When he came back to us in the fall, it was whole new different player showed up for us. I'm getting five or six calls and I keep telling them he is the same great player I've been telling you about the last 18 months. He ran a 4.61 at UAB. He went from zero to getting big attention with his recruiting due to his size. So excited for him and his family. We play him with his hand down some because that is what he will play at the next level in tight end." Sivley has 26 receptions for 455 yards and six touchdowns on the season.
With Sivley, Ryne Berry, Nathan Wade, Andre Odom along with tight ends Jax Rush and Parker Copeland round out the Huskies passing game.
The offensive line doesn't have much experience but are coming along week by week. Trace Barnett is the only one returner from last season. "Here lately, Trace has given us that leadership that we need," said Busby. "When things don't go right, he has taken that responsibility of letting someone know." Another good one is senior Bryson Rhodes. "He has been in our program and hasn't played a lot," said Busby. "He lost 30 to 40 pounds, but he is so smart and can play both guards and both tackles. He has been most valuable for us on the line. We can use him as a utility guy and I'm pleased with him." Also, Reece Mims, Brian Holland and Grant Vines round out the Huskies starters.
On defense, defensive lineman of Derrick Wilson, Xavier Guy, Connor Pugh and Joel Logan have been very good. Logan and Pugh can rush the passer with the best of them. Linebackers Roberto, Justin Yunke and Peyton Woodall are solid. Defensive backs Fletcher Taylor, Eli Ray, Kaysn Bustamento, Jeremiah Alvis and Jackson Snyder will need to play big for the Huskies against the speed of the McAdory receivers.
"I have been watching McAdory football the last 30 to 35 years with David Powell coaching them in the past and this team looks the same fast and physical as the old McAdory teams." said Busby. "Coach Holmes is doing a great job with them. They play with great effort. They have a good quarterback with good running backs. They have three or four very fast receivers. We need to tackle very well in open space because they are going to get some catches. We have to pressure the quarterback and move the quarterback around. He reminds me of the Pelham quarterback. That type player. They have some very good skill guys. It is a lot like last week."
This should be a very close game between two good programs. A great non-region matchup.