Mary Montgomery quarterback Jared Hollins takes Baker defenders into the end zone on a touchdown run in Friday night’s 35-14 win in Semmes. (Helen Joyce/Call News)
Mary Montgomery’s Jariell Lett intercepts a pass intended for Baker’s Bryce Cain Friday night. Lett had two interceptions and the Vikings’ defense has 22 takeaways this season. (Helen Joyce/Call News)
SEMMES — Among a throng of celebrating players, Mary G. Montgomery coach Zach Golson lifted the trophy given to the winner of the Battle of West Mobile Friday night so everybody could get a good look at it through the smoke lingering over the field.
You can’t go 9-0 or 10-0 or even 15-0 if you don’t get to 8-0, so the 35-14 victory over No. 7-ranked Baker was another puzzle piece which snapped into place.
The trophy didn’t have to go far since it had rested on the conference table in the Vikings’ fieldhouse for a year. When it was suggested a certain Blue trophy would look good next to it, Golson tried to repress a grin.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “But we’re going to keep chipping.”
Ever since Golson showed up in Semmes, the Vikings have been chopping. The West Mobile Trophy had stayed at Baker for 12 years — long enough for one class to have gone from first grade to seniors, about as long as it takes to go from one end of Airport Boulevard to the other — before MGM finally won it last year.
No. 4-ranked Mary Montgomery is now 8-0 for the first time since 1965 and maybe if Golson had been around a thousand years ago, he would have supplanted Erik the Red or Leif Eriksson and been the Viking who settled North America instead of the Pilgrims, who may have chosen to go to Bolivia instead. Shoot, Golson may have thrashed Christopher Columbus with a few cleverly called tooonder bombs. He would have had the Viking longbows set afire and hurled on some post patterns at the Santa Maria, turning it into a smoldering ruin and changing history.
History is changing now, as Mary Montgomery has rapidly become a contender for the highest honor in the highest classification of Alabama high school football. The Vikings have the coaching, the athletes, the balanced offense, the defense with a good back end, the depth and most especially the quarterback to challenge for a Blue Map.
Jared Hollins, an SEC-caliber quarterback without an SEC offer, is the best quarterback in 7A — more versatile than Central-Phenix City’s Andrew Alford, more seasoned than Thompson freshman Trent Seaborn. He throws, he runs, he leads and he hits.
It is football, after all, not checkers, and Hollins, an impeccable witness for the good of Christ, endears himself to his teammates with an insatiable desire to make things right on every play — no bad plays, no turnovers and no taking anything off anybody.
So, perhaps no one moment demonstrated that MGM no longer turns the other cheek than on an otherwise inconsequential scramble in the third quarter against Baker. About halfway through the third-and-long, Hollins realized he wouldn’t get the first down but instead of running out of bounds, he became the bull at Pamplona when he cleanly but savagely ran over Hornets defensive back Dawson Kelly, who had earlier blocked a field goal and talked some smack, like many players do.
Kelly struck the ground in front of MGM’s bench like he had fallen out of a 10th-floor window.
“The guy was woofing at my wide receivers and that made it personal with me,” Hollins said. “Don’t mess with my teammates. So, I thought I’d like to take the hit to him.”
To his credit, Kelly got up but Baker’s coaches held him out for the rest of the game and the Hornets’ defense was never the same. Except for a 42-yard run by Baker quarterback Josh Flowers that was wasted on an interception inside MGM’s 5 a few plays later, the Vikings broke open a 21-14 game and outgained the Hornets two to one afterward.
It’s also no coincidence the MGM players take their cues from Hollins and drew energy from his transformation from playmaker to waylayer.
“It shocked me,” offensive lineman Jon Stephens said. “I’ve never seen him do that. He does that, it makes us look up to him 100 percent. He leads us.”
Golson said he wasn’t shocked.
“Jared’s body has come a long way,” he said. “His strength and speed have come a long way. He’s playing at an extremely high level.”
High enough for the South Alabama commitment to also get some SEC offers.
“I’m a little surprised by it but at the end of the day, you can control what you can control,” Golson said. “Jared and I have talked a lot about it. God has a plan for us. I have no doubt he can play in the SEC. He could go right now and step in and play for some guys.”
Hollins’ selection as a quarterback in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game could give him valuable exposure. So could taking the Vikings to the Super 7.
Golson said MGM has the ingredients to reach Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“We’re playing well enough on both sides of the ball and on special teams,” he said. “The big thing is we’ve got good depth. We rotated seven or eight defensive backs Friday night and seven or eight defensive linemen. To make a deep run, it’s going to take that kind of depth because at this level, it’s such a physical game.”
Baker coach Steve Normand was classy in defeat after falling victim to that depth and physicality.
“They play cold, they play clean,” he said. “They’re very fast and physical.”
Asked if MGM is three touchdowns better than his team, Normand responded: “They were tonight and that’s all that matters.”
And all that matters in Norseland is remaining unbeaten. It’s palpable now. There is no more hoping. The Vikings have learned to win and expect to win.
A new and undersized offensive line was a concern in the offseason but the running game has continued to produce even after Troy Flowers was lost to a knee injury.
Their marauding defense is the best against the score in 7A, allowing only 9.3 points per game and forcing 22 turnovers.
Many feel Mary Montgomery can’t beat Central-Phenix City or Auburn to even have the chance of getting to the Super 7, that its defense hasn’t truly been tested. But the Vikings held Foley’s Perry Thompson and Kolton Nero to seven points and the Hornets’ Flowers and Bryce Cain to 14 and those players are as elite as you’ll find in this state.
Championship teams don’t beat themselves and MGM’s offense has only four turnovers all year.
Still, many feel any team from Mobile is merely a pretender for the 7A state championship, which Thompson has owned for four straight years. And history backs that up — current 7A Region 1 teams are 4-21 in the playoffs against Region 2, led by Central-Phenix City and Auburn, which have mauled Mobile teams since 7A was established in 2014.
But thinking the Vikings can’t reach the Super 7 just because of what happened in the past is a foolish argument. This isn’t your father’s Mary Montgomery or even the 0-10 MGM of just two years ago.
And if you’d like a history lesson, McGill-Toolen came out of Region 1 to win the state championship in 2015 and was the runner-up in 2016 and 2017 with a young offensive coordinator named Zach Golson.
As the Zach Attack claims victory after victory, the chances of a Blue Map get better each week.
“Anything’s possible,” Golson said. “That’s why we play the game. We’d like to think we’re built for it. We’re going to dream big.”