Most football coaches downplay rivalry games, saying the most important game is the next one and they’re all equally important. Tuscaloosa County football coach Jay Todd is not like most football coaches.
“That’s not accurate. That’s not how I feel, that’s not what I believe, I’m not going to try to sell that to our kids. Our kids don’t believe that. This is a huge game,” Todd said. “T County-Hillcrest is Alabama-Auburn of this county, and that’s just the way it is.
“When I got this job, what people told me is you gotta find a way to beat Hillcrest.”
This will be the 24th straight year of the rivalry. Tuscaloosa County won 13 of the first 14, but Hillcrest has won seven of the last nine, including the last five under coach Sam Adams. Todd aims to buck that trend.
“I think Coach Todd has just brought some new energy into the program,” Adams said. “I know their first game last week didn’t turn out the way they wanted, but I really don’t put a lot of stock in that.”
After Tuscaloosa County had three turnovers in the fourth quarter to blow an 8-0 lead, Todd said the team needs to improve both at finishing games and finishing drives. On five red-zone trips the Wildcats had two field goals made, one field goal missed and a fumble.
TCHS started a freshman, Brax Garrison, at quarterback. Returning starter Brylan Jackson also plays plenty of snaps, using his mobility to help ignite the run game and take pressure off of Garrison’s shoulders.
“The thing that made it easy for us was the way he won the team over,” Todd said. “The entire team’s got to have confidence, they got to have faith, they got to have trust in the quarterback.”
The Patriots will be starting a freshman quarterback of their own. After losing a fumble on the third snap of his career last week, Ethan Crawford completed 10 of 12 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns, leading the offense to 33 points in three quarters against Class 7A Spain Park.
“You just saw the entire production level of the offense go way up after he entered the game,” Adams said.
It’s not all on the quarterbacks, though. Hillcrest running back Kyah Moore had a 71-yard touchdown run last week and TCHS running back Damien Taylor carried the ball 22 times for 127 yards.
“(Garrison and Crawford) are both gonna be great players and already are great players,” Todd said. “But there’s so much more that goes into winning a football game than how the quarterbacks play.”