Photo Andy Calvert

A solid group of returners, good numbers overall, and a rising freshman class that won a championship as eighth graders have the Model coaching staff excited about the 2023 football season. 

“Our numbers are looking good. We have about 70 kids. Those are great numbers, and we’ve also got a great bunch of returning seniors,” Model coach Jeff Hunnicutt says. 

The Blue Devils also took advantage of the summer participating in some seven-on-sevens and a couple of OTAs. 

“We really just enjoy doing those so that our kids can get out and compete with other kids,” Hunnicutt says. “We just had a good level of competition this summer.” 

When talking about returning starters, perhaps the biggest name mentioned, quite literally, is Jeremias Heard, a Tennessee commitment. Heard stands about 6-8 and is awfully hard to miss. He will be a key player for Model, playing some on the line and even as a tight end. 

JOVON SAMPLES

Jake Sanders, who came in as a quarterback during the Trion game last year due to an injury, returns to the position, and Model coaches are happy with his progress. 

“There aren’t many teams with quarterback returning in the region. Sanders threw for about 1,100 yards last year,” Hunnicutt says. 

Two of his key targets will be Keith Sprayberry and Amir Pinkard. 

“Sprayberry is going to do some good things playing both ways,” Hunnicutt says. “Pinkard is going to move from corner to safety on defense, and he is probably our best route runner on offense.” 

Hunnicutt also notes that Jeremiah Gamble is probably going to need about 10 touches a game with his explosiveness. He also says Javon Samples is going to do good things at running back and tight end and is also one of the key leaders on the defense. 

KEITH SPRAYBERRY

Model did end up taking a hit to their schedule when Cherokee County, Alabama, had to pull out of the season-opening game. Because of that, the Blue Devils will only play nine games this season.  

“As soon as we got back from our Christmas break, we started lifting weights and started talking about going for the region title. It’s probably going to go through Rockmart, but I’m expecting everyone in this region to be fighting for all four of those playoff spots,” Hunnicutt says. “I hope that we are one of the teams fighting for the top spot.” 

Hunnicutt says the play of the offense and specifically the quarterback is going to be one of the big keys to the Blue Devils’ success this season. 

“Our quarterback play is going to be key to our offense this year. We’re going to run the football, but a few things have changed offensively for us as far as nomenclature,” he says. 

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LILLIE ESPY

Hunnicutt also talks about the importance of building depth for the squad. 

“We’ve got to create some depth and helpfully stay away from tough injuries,” he says. 

While the goal of possibly winning region title is foremost in their minds, another big goal sits out there as well. 

“We really want to get a home playoff game and win that home playoff game. I’m not sure if Model has won a home playoff game since the 1979 team that won the state title,” he says. 

With the numbers, attitude, and a new turf field, the Blue Devils can’t wait to get the season started. 

“Everyone is really looking forward to this season. People are excited because we have a brand new turf here at Model,” Hunnicutt says. “I’m just looking forward to getting this thing rolling.” 

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An injury while running at Auburn ended Jim Alred’s long-shot hopes of possibly competing in the Olympics, so he turned to writing and has been crafting award-winning stories across multiple mediums ever since. Along the way he’s been chased by a grizzly bear, worked as Goofy at Walt Disney World, been nominated for two Emmys, interviewed celebrities like Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Bill Clinton, coaches his daughters in cross country and soccer and can often be found running with his wife, Tara, around Rome.