Superlatives for 2023 football season

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, January 3, 2024

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As a sports reporter, I have a hard time picking which season is my favorite. All seasons have great aspects, but it is impossible to ignore how special football season is. 

This being my first season as a full-time sports reporter, several moments left a mark on me throughout the season.

With football season being in the rearview mirror and the new year starting, it feels like a good time to look back on some of the best moments. With that being said, I wanted to release my own superlatives for the past football season in Chambers County. 

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Best Crowd: Chambers Academy vs Glenwood

Chambers Academy’s home game against Glenwood in the regular season finale was one of the most anticipated matchups of the season and it lived up to the hype. 

The game came down to the final moments as Kyle Hand and a host of other Rebels tackled the Gators just short of the goal line to give Chambers Academy a 20-14 win.
The game was likely the best I saw all season, but the crowd was even better. Both stands were completely filled with fans, and there were fans all over the hills beside the field and behind each goalpost. 

The complete atmosphere that both fanbases brought that night made this game an easy choice for the best crowd. 

Wow factor: Cam Dooley

Few players were as exciting as Cam Dooley this season. Dooley always seemed to be the player making plays as Valley returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2019. 

Dooley finished the season with 2,125 yards of total offense. Dooley was just as good on the defensive side and was selected First Team All-State as a safety. 

Dooley is now going to be continuing his playing career at Kentucky where he will no doubt continue to “wow” fans with his athleticism. 

Best duo: Luke Tarver and Jacob Norgard 

There was no running-back duo in the AISA that came close to Chambers Academy’s backfield this season. 

Both Tarver and Norgard eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season as they helped lead Chambers Academy to a state championship. 

Tarver was named First Team All-State and a Back of the Year finalist while Norgard was named Second Team All-State. 

Tarver was small but brought power and an unwillingness to be tackled to the Rebels’ offense. Then, Norgard was able to outrun most defenses that Chambers Academy faced. 

“I’m Him” moment: Ryan Smith vs Patrician Academy

Ryan Smith played with a chip on his shoulder all season, but the matchup against Patrician Academy meant more to him. 

Patrician’s Jay Lindsey is an Alabama commit and was considered to be one of the best defensive linemen and tight ends in the AISA. 

All season, Smith and the Chambers Academy’s defense wanted a chance to prove themselves to the rest of the state. They did just that. The Rebels defeated the Saints 38-2 to advance to the state championship. 

Smith and Lindsey also faced each other on opposite sides of the ball, and Smith got the better of Lindsey in most of those face-offs. 

As a senior leader, Smith played with an immense amount of passion in the game and most people that were in attendance would have said that Smith was “him” that night. 

Needs more attention: Keondae Huguley 

Keondae Huguley is not a name you hear thrown around much when people are talking about the best players in Chambers County but it should be. 

The Panthers missed the playoffs, but Huguley was one of the two-way players I saw this season. On offense, Huguley finished with 1,270 total yards and 13 touchdowns. On the defensive side, Huguley totaled 72 tackles, nine tackles for loss, eight sacks, seven forced fumbles and three interceptions. 

Huguley deserves more recognition from local folks as well as college recruiters. The soon-to-be senior has the numbers, and he is one of the most explosive players in 2A football. 

Most exciting newcomer: CJ Johnson 

CJ Johnson transferred to Springwood before the season and the sophomore instantly became one of the best athletes in the area. 

Johnson finished the season with 2,499 yards of total offense and 39 total touchdowns. Johnson led the Wildcats at running back as the team made its second straight state title appearance. 

Johnson still has two more years of high school football, and he will be an exciting player to watch for the foreseeable future. 

Best Uniform: Beulah Bobcats

Beulah’s black uniforms from this season were my favorite in the county, in all truthfulness I am a complete sucker for blacked-out uniforms. 

Those uniforms paired with the white trim and white helmets were really appealing to the eye, and the gold logo added another nice touch. It was great to see Beulah present such a nice look on the field as the team also improved and got to the playoffs for the first time since 2018. 

They say look your best to play your best, and the Bobcats definitely proved that in 2023.