Here are some top high school football recruits to watch from the Gadsden area in the class of 2022:
McPherson, who has offers from Florida, LSU and Tennessee, was 10 of 16 on field goal attempts in 2020 with three of his misses from 55 yards or longer and two others being blocked. His season long was from 56 yards. He had 51 of his 58 kickoffs go for touchbacks and was 40 of 41 on PATs. He is the younger brother of Florida’s Evan McPherson, who recently declared for the NFL Draft.
Burt, who has an offer from Air Force, totaled 304 yards and four touchdowns on 21 receptions in his junior year. He averaged 14.5 yards per catch.
Johnson, who tweeted that he received his first offer from Troy on Jan. 19, totaled 46 tackles, broke up five passes and two interceptions in arguably the toughest region in the state. Johnson received his second offer this week from Southern Miss.
Austin Estes, Piedmont receiver
Omarion Foster, Piedmont defensive back
Jarvis Hardwick, Etowah defensive back
Carl Henry, Westbrook defensive lineman
Samuel Horton, Gadsden City defensive lineman
Whit Johnson, Cherokee County receiver
Bronson Laney, Fort Payne offensive lineman
CJ Miller, Gadsden City running back
Jacob Sanford, Etowah defensive lineman
Landon Smart, Piedmont linebacker
Damien Ramsey, Cherokee County running back
Aaron Richard, Gadsden City defensive lineman
Tae Wright, Etowah receiver/defensive back
Reach Gadsden Times reporter Teddy Couch at email@example.com or via Twitter, @Teddy_Couch.
All contact info is listed on the flyer below. Event is for high school seniors. Good Luck!
The following is the second of nine stories featuring an ascending young Bears player heading into the 2021 season:
How he was acquired
The Bears sent three picks (two sixth-round selections and one seventh-round choice) to the Philadelphia Eagles to select Mooney with the 173rd pick in the 2020 draft.
The Bears had already made two selections in the fifth round: Tulsa linebacker Trevis Gipson and Georgia Southern cornerback Kindle Vildor. However, the team decided to return one of the picks they had received from the Eagles the year before—in a trade for running back Jordan Howard—to select the Tulane speedster.
The Eagles used the picks to select linebackers Shaun Bradley and Casey Toohill and receiver Quez Watkins. The Eagles also gave the Bears the seventh-round selection that they used to select offensive lineman Lachavious Simmons.
Mooney had a productive career at Tulane but fell in the draft due to concerns about his size and level of competition. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler compared his body type to that of a kicker.
“Mooney is tougher than he looks,” wrote Brugler, “but he must better control his dynamic athleticism to make it in the NFL as a consistent weapon.”
Bears general manager Ryan Pace was willing to bet on Mooney’s 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash.
“This guy has legit speed,” Pace said. “Beyond that speed, his route quickness stands out. His ability to separate stands out. He stepped up and played well in some pretty big games. Our coaches have an excellent vision for Mooney and how he can help our offense and how we’re gonna use him.”
Prior to 2020 season
As an unheralded recruit from Gadsden, Alabama, Mooney opted to attend mid-major Tulane as a part of head coach Willie Fritz’s first recruiting class.
Mooney made an immediate impact as a freshman, recording 24 catches for 277 yards and two touchdowns.
Mooney’s most productive season came in his junior year when he recorded 48 catches for 993 yards and eight touchdowns. Mooney established himself as a big-play threat by averaging 20.7 yards per reception.
His numbers regressed slightly as a senior, though he still caught 48 passes. His yards per reception dropped to 14.9.
“This guy is as dependable as you could possibly get,” Fritz said. “He did a fantastic job for us and it was a pleasure to coach him.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mooney missed most of the usual onboarding activities set aside for rookies. Instead, he used his first paycheck to buy a JUGS machine for his home and focused on earning a spot on the team.
Mooney had a solid training camp and entered the year on the Bears’ active roster and in the mix for playing time at receiver.
“If anybody goes back and looks at Darnell Mooney,” said receivers coach Mike Furrey, “they can say he played at a small college in Tulane, but when you look at the games he had against Auburn, you look at some of the games he’s had against some big teams, and just the elegance he’s played with in those games, the patience he had in some of those routes, those are the things that tell you right away he has a chance to be successful.”
Members of the Lions secondary started pointing at Mooney and yelling “speed” when the rookie entered the Bears’ Week 1 game in Detroit for the first time.
The Lions had the right idea, but it didn’t stop Mooney from making a 19-yard catch.
Mooney quietly evolved from a rotation player to the No. 2 receiver on the team. Mooney caught his first career touchdown in the season’s second game against the New York Giants. In Week 4 against the Colts, he was targeted nine times, finishing the game with five catches for 52 yards.
“Being able to stretch the field,” said receiver Allen Robinson II, “being able to just be moved around and be able to sort of adapt to the game very quickly, I saw that even working out with him over the summer. I knew that he for sure is a guy that can have a special career.”
Despite being the 25th receiver taken in the draft, Mooney’s production exceeded many of his fellow rookies that were taken in the first two rounds.
Mooney finished the year with 61 catches for 631 yards and four touchdowns, ranking him fifth, seventh and eighth, respectively, among the rookie class. He recorded the most receptions by a rookie wide receiver in Bears history.
Despite having very different playing styles, Mooney became a worthy second option behind the prolific Robinson. The rookie also handled two midseason quarterback changes without seeing any drop off in production.
“Darnell has done a really good job in soaking up his role in practice,” said coach Matt Nagy, “and I think what we see with him is that you don’t see any change. He practices the same way that he plays, whether it’s a rapid practice with coach Furrey or a regular practice or 7-on-7. Reminds me a lot of A-Rob in the meetings. He asks really good questions. He’s very calm, cool and collected.”
Mooney’s best performance came in the regular-season finale against the Packers. With Green Bay’s secondary devoting extra coverage to Robinson, Mooney became quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s main target, compiling 11 catches for 93 yards, despite leaving the game with an ankle injury that kept him out of the Bears’ Wild Card game against the New Orleans Saints.
Mooney ended the season as one of the only players mentioned by name in chairman George H. McCaskey’s postseason press conference.
“Darnell Mooney is a good example,” said McCaskey, “a lower-round draft pick that Ryan and Matt found that blossomed this year and became a key part of our offense. We need to keep doing more of that.”
Darnell Mooney saved the best for last, delivering the most productive game of an impressive rookie year in Sunday’s season finale.
The fifth-round draft pick from Tulane established career highs with a team-leading nine receptions for 93 yards in the Bears’ 35-16 loss to the Packers at Soldier Field. Mooney’s 53-yard catch in the third quarter Sunday was the team’s longest reception of the year.
In catching 61 passes for 631 yards and four touchdowns this season, Mooney ranked second on the Bears in receiving behind Allen Robinson II and set a franchise record for most receptions by a rookie wide receiver. On December 20th, Mooney also broke Harlon Hill’s record for whom the “Division II” Heisman Trophy is named after.
The Bears earned their first wild card berth since 1994, when they finished in fourth place in the NFC Central at 9-7. At the time, the playoffs consisted of three division champions and three wild cards in each conference. The Bears won their playoff opener, upsetting the division-winning Vikings 35-18 in Minnesota before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion 49ers 44-15 in San Francisco.
Prior to this year, the last five times the Bears made the playoffs, it was as a division champion: In 2001, 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2018.
Prolific junior quarterback Conner Harrell of Thompson, versatile playmaker Trey Higgins of Oxford and top prospect Ga’Quincy McKinstry of Pinson Valley highlight the 2020 Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State football team.
The team is selected through nominations from statewide coaches and voted on by members of the ASWA prep committee, which also selects a Coach of the Year in each classification.
The finalists for Back and Lineman of the Year in each class are expected to be released next week. Those winners — along with the state’s Mr. Football — will be announced in January.
Here is the 2020 Alabama Sports Writers Association high school football All-State teams, honorable mentions and coaches of the year:
QB: Conner Harrell, Thompson, Jr., 6-1, 200
RB: Armoni Goodwin, Hewitt-Trussville, Sr., 5-9, 190
RB: Joseph McKay, Central-Phenix City, Sr., 6-1, 210
RB: Damien Taylor, Tuscaloosa County, Sr., 5-11, 195
WR: Ramone Bradley, Fairhope, Sr., 5-10, 170
WR: RJ Hamilton, Hoover, So., 5-10, 170
WR: J.B. Mitchell, Thompson, Sr., 6-2, 190
OL: Cort Bradley, Auburn, Sr., 6-4, 305
OL: Connor Howard, Thompson, Sr., 6-4, 280
OL: Rod Orr, Gadsden City, Sr., 6-7, 270
OL: Dawson Ray, Vestavia Hills, Sr., 6-5, 306
OL: Jackson West, Huntsville, Sr., 6-4, 240
PK: Luke Freer, Fairhope, Jr., 6-2, 205
DL: Jerry Bethea, Fairhope, Sr., 6-1, 280
DL: Justice Finkley, Hewitt-Trussville, Jr., 6-2, 270
DL: Powell Gordon, Auburn, Jr., 6-3, 210
DL: Tomarrion Parker, Central-Phenix City, So., 6-4, 215
LB: Jeremiah Alexander, Thompson, Jr., 6-2, 240
LB: Ian Jackson, Prattville, Sr., 6-3, 220
LB: Terry Kirksey, Baker, Sr., 6-3, 225
LB: Tyler Vickery, Sparkman, Sr., 6-1, 195
DB: Keon Marion, Theodore, Sr., 6-2, 180
DB: Jamal Mayers, James Clemens, So., 5-10, 170
DB: Quay Nelms, Auburn, Sr., 6-1, 190
DB: Tony Mitchell, Thompson, So., 6-0, 190
P: Matthew Rhodes, Auburn, Sr., 6-4, 195
Trent Battle, Daphne, Sr., 6-1, 195
Josh McCray, Enterprise, Sr., 6-2, 220
GCHS NCAA Eligibility Virtual Seminar
GCHS NCAA Eligibility Virtual Seminar
Our virtual NSD ceremony for Rod Orr and Jaquan Woods will be at 11:00am (CST). It will be streamed live on the NFHS Network(link below)
all media please contact @raveryjr
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The City of Champions.
That’s the slogan used on the welcome signs when entering Gadsden.
But it’s been a long time since the city has seen a championship in high school athletics.
Gadsden City football coach Ali Smith was part of the last one. He won a state championship in basketball under legendary Emma Sansom coach George Baker in 1992. The last football team to win a state title? Gadsden High in 1991.
“That’s what we need to get back to,” Smith said.
How does Gadsden City High School do that? It starts by bringing Emma Sansom, Gadsden and Litchfield Middle School football teams together as one, which started this year.
There are a number of reasons for consolidating the middle school teams.
One is simply for development. Some of the middle schools have few players, which means players are having to play positions they will not play once they reach high school.
“A lot of times in middle school, we may have kids playing positions that they play out of necessity,” Gadsden City Schools’ Director of Operations Keith Blackwell, who has been a key part of getting this started, said. “You may have someone who is a cornerback or safety playing quarterback because they just need him to play quarterback.”