The Piedmont Hayes and the Anniston kite lead the way
Aug 28 — Jack Hayes had two mostly high school quarterback careers in over two years as a starting quarterback for Piedmont.
Antonio Kite incorporated a career change and the chance to play major college football into a college football season.
Wouldn’t it be fun to see what they do with another season?
Hayes and Kite are the choices for the Anniston Star All-Calhoun County Player of the Year ahead of the 2021 season, which began on August 20. Hayes leads the 1A-3A All County Team, and Kite heads the 4A-6A Team.
The Star has started to select preseason teams from all counties and publish them in our preseason edition in 2018. It’s an attempt to give readers as complete a picture as possible of the players to watch in the world. during the coming season.
The graduation and transfers have drastically changed the landscape of football at Calhoun County High School this year. At least three players who were picks from all 1A-3A counties after the 2020 season are now playing for teams in the 4A-6A mix, opening up more places for players from all 2020 counties returning to move up from second team or honorable mention. The players also changed schools within Group 1A-3A.
Several players have left the county, transferred to Gulf Shores, Thompson or Auburn after Keith Etheredge left Oxford to become Auburn’s head coach. Oxford has seen at least 11 players leave, including the “Fegans Island” brothers… Trequon, Anquon, Jaquese and Dantwon.
Everything went to the 7A Thompson power.
Imagine having to pick a 4A-6A Player of the Year between Kite, a commit from Alabama, Trequon Fegans, a commit from Miami, and former Alexandria star Ronnie Royal, a major sophomore rookie now at Gulf Shores.
Fegans and Royal’s departures went well with Kite’s meteoric rise in football after continuing to dazzle in basketball.
Piedmont has 19 players from all counties pre-season in the 1A-3A squad … of which 16 were all counties after last season. Two players from all counties transferred to Piedmont.
As for player of the year picks, Hayes is one of three third-year starters in his region, joining Eli Ennis from Ohatchee and Sean Parnell from Saks.
Piedmont has several players worthy of consideration for the player of the year. Wide receiver Austin Estes caught Hayes’ passes in the two years Hayes started quarterback and excelled on kick returns.
When the fog lifted, Hayes and Kite became the top picks. Here’s what to expect from them in 2021:
Most high school quarterbacks don’t turn out to be the Super 7’s MVP. Hayes did in freshman.
Most high school quarterbacks don’t graduate as a two-time All-State First Team pick. Hayes has two and counts, and that’s right in football. He was selected by the Alabama Sports Writers Association for the 3A hitter of the year in the spring.
Counting his numbers since playing time as an eighth-grade student and Mason Mohon’s replacement in 2018, Hayes had 5,084 yards and 80 touchdowns with just 16 interceptions. He racked up 1,461 yards and 21 touchdowns.
That’s 6,545 total yards and he’s responsible for 101 touchdowns.
Just a junior, he’s set to break or threaten AHSAA career records for passing yards (10,774, Williamson’s JaMarcus Russell), touchdowns (134, American Christian’s Chris Smelley) , total yards (13,218, Lanett’s Kristian Story) and touchdown responsibility (175, History).
Hayes was more than just part of Piedmont’s 2019 state title squad. He was the game’s MVP, and his day included a defensive appearance and the decisive interception.
He wants more.
“I’m going on and I’m trying, I guess, to keep pushing myself,” he said.
Hayes’ goals begin with the example of his older brother Taylor. Taylor led the Bulldogs to two state championships and was also a Super 7 MVP.
“I would definitely say I have more state championships than my brother,” Jack said. “Win one of my junior and senior years. …
“He tells me that since he graduated, continue to work hard in the weight room. He said he didn’t always work as hard as he should have. He also said that is the funniest part of the sport in your life. Just take it and hang out with your boys and win, basically. “
Hayes enters the 2021 season as the only returnee from the backfield battery he shared last year with then-senior Elijah Johnson. Brayden Morgan is looking to step in from the back, and Piedmont coach Steve Smith expects full-back Parker Thornton to play a bigger role in the attack this season.
Smith switched to a wide four passing game early in Hayes’ freshman. Piedmont had a young offensive line, a talented receiving group and Hayes.
The Bulldogs have kept a similar look in 2020 and expect to do so again, with the return of receivers Estes and Coleman Reid and Max Hanson adding more time to the receiver. Hanson was a county-wide defensive back in 2020.
Hayes said his offseason goal is to become a more vocal leader. His professional accomplishments in his 30s career begin to trace back to everything he has to say.
Smith wants Hayes to add polish to the fierce competition that comes with the quarterback’s last name. This implies that Hayes initiates less contact when running and takes fewer hits. It also involves Hayes throwing the ball more.
“He never wants to give up a room,” Smith said. “He’s not the kind of guy who’s going to throw him away. He always feels like he can make a play, whether it’s with his legs or trying to get the ball through a narrow window.
“I don’t have a lot of complaints with his game, but just try to realize that every once in a while it’s OK to throw one in and come back and play the next snap.”
Kite’s emergence as the defensive back Nick Saban wants happened within a year. His return to football after a two-year hiatus was made public when Anniston began summer training in 2020. He signed to Alabama on July 4 of this year.
Kite quickly became the county’s most high profile player … now more in football than basketball, where he led Anniston to a Class 4A state title in March and finished the season as a ASWA 4A player of the year.
Engaged in Alabama will do this.
“I can’t really do some things that I really want to do,” Kite said. “I can’t really, like, eat where I want to eat. It’s just changed my whole life.”
Kite said he knew something had changed when he met an Arkansas woman at Dollar General. She had heard of him … because of football.
“I think everyone knows him,” said Anniston coach Rico White.
They’ll know more about Kite as a football player this year, in part because he gets his hands on the ball more. He saw the action as a wide receiver in 2020, but will be more of a true two-way player this year.
Anniston has a strong quarterback in Kamron Sandlin who can get the ball into the field. White compares Sandlin to former Central Florida / NFL quarterback Daunte Culpepper, and Culpepper’s best days as a pro came by throwing bombs at Randy Moss in Minnesota.
Kite, however, makes his bones as a defensive back. He started on cornerback last season and moved to safety as White looked to take more advantage of Kite’s IQ and instincts.
It turns out that the guy who can see the games before he develops into basketball can also do so in soccer.
“Honestly, I could put him as a quarterback and he can play,” White said. “I can put it to the receiver, and he can play it thanks to his IQ.
“People look so much at his abilities, and that’s his IQ.”
Kite finished 2020 with six interceptions but also 46 tackles. The question that surrounds any athlete who made his fame in basketball and ventured into football is: can he adapt to the physique?
That Saban recruited Kite, the coach believes Kite can handle slamming his body against SEC runners and receivers. White saw it in Anniston’s 29-28 loss to Bibb County in the second round of the playoffs last year.
“They had a great running back and Antonio would come in and hit,” White said. “I never imagined him doing that, but he didn’t want to lose. He didn’t want the team to lose.
“It’s a team sacrifice. Once you do that, you are a great player.”
Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.