Veteran Baker quarterback Josh Flowers is one of the state’s best dual-threat quarterbacks and the Mississippi State commitment triggers an offense averaging 44 points per game. (Tom Deck/Call News)
Mary G. Montgomery quarterback Jared Hollins fires a pass behind the protection of Kyle Thomas (65) during a 42-7 win over Bryant. Hollins’ pinpoint passing (he is 59 of 80 for 1,014 yards, 1o touchdowns and no interceptions) makes the Vikings tough to beat. (Helen Joyce/Call News)
Ponder this question: When was the last time the Baker versus Mary G. Montgomery football game meant anything other than some territorial pride?
The answer is never. But when it comes to the Hornets and Vikings, people are learning to never say never.
It’s possible — probable, even — that Baker and MGM will both be undefeated and ranked in the state’s top 10 when they play on Oct. 13 in Semmes.
The winner will likely win the region championship, which hasn’t meant much either since Class 7A was created in 2014.
But never say never. That might change this year, too.
The Hornets will be challenged this week when they host unbeaten, No. 7 Dothan — perhaps foretelling if any local 7A team can avert the traditional burial ground for Mobile schools known as Region 2.
The quality of 7A football in Mobile and Baldwin counties has been questioned since Class 7A was created in 2014 and there is no doubt the teams in the central and north part of the state have been superior.
Region 1 teams are a combined 4-21 in the playoffs against Region 2 and most have been blowouts. Central-Phenix City and Auburn, in particular, have been working the shovels in the graveyard with relish, going 13-1 against Region 1 teams and winning by an average margin of four touchdowns.
“Region 1 gets popped, I know,” Baker coach Steve Normand said. “You try every year to be better. Every coach has a goal to play for the state championship but you’ve got to win your region and go past round 1 and we’re still fighting the battle there. We’ve got to beat that round-1 curse.”
It’s not so much a curse as it is a geographic reality, for as is usually the case in football, the teams with the best players win. Central-Phenix City, Auburn and Dothan have city school systems and draw their players from much broader borders than public county schools such as Baker and MGM.
“It’s hard to say if our region is better (this year),” Normand said. “I haven’t seen a lot of those teams up north. We’re just getting a look at Dothan and they’re tough. People don’t (stop to) think that we have 12 schools in Mobile County and we’re so spread out versus every kid in Dothan is playing for Dothan. What I’ve got is the kids walking our halls.”
Those kids in Baker’s halls are playing good football.
Mississippi State commitment Josh Flowers is one of the state’s best dual-threat quarterbacks and Auburn commitment Bryce Cain has emerged as a reliable receiver, not just a big-play threat. Add running back Rod Taylor and receiver Kevin Beckham, who missed all last season with an injury, and the Hornets have the No. 4 scoring offense in Class 7A at 44 points per game. Get a ticket for the Dothan game because the Wolves are No. 1 at 51 per game.
“Kevin is a great athlete and football player and he allows us to do more offensively and more with Cain and Taylor,” Normand said. “He’s helped tremendously. And our coaches have done a good job preparing the kids each week because we’re a little undersized in spots.”
Undersized and under the radar, especially when compared to the sea change in Semmes, where Zach Golson is building an elite program?
“I don’t know what all goes into that but it doesn’t bother me,” Normand said. “If we are, I’m kind of glad.”
But a victory over Dothan will change the perception of Baker statewide and initiate heart palpitations over the showdown with MGM.
Imagine Flowers and Cain vs. Mary Montgomery’s Jared Hollins and James Bolton. For the first time, both teams would be undefeated that deep into the season and both would be ranked going into their rivalry game. If they keep winning, the Hornets would be 7-0 for first time since 1973 and the Vikings would be 7-0 for the first time since the 1965 team went 10-0.
“Who would have thought 10 years ago that Baker and Mary Montgomery would be fighting for a region championship?” Normand asked. “It’s a great thought but I’m so concerned about Dothan I haven’t thought much about it. I hope everything will work out.”
If it does, the Hornets and Vikings might make a home in the playoffs for a change and that territorial pride will get much bigger.