The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 7, 2013

COLUMN: Two state champions have common traits, trophies

Tanner, Madison Academy combine for 6 Super Six appearances, 4 football titles in 3 seasons

By Budd McLaughlin

TUSCALOOSA — Two out of three ain’t bad.

And for a pair of local schools, it’s pretty darn good.

Tanner High School and Madison Academy are just 20 miles apart but they are now back-to-back state football champions.

Tanner won its second straight 2A championship Friday and Madison Academy won Thursday to bring home its second back-to-back 3A title.

For both teams, it was the third consecutive trip to the championship game, each losing two years ago at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The teams were young and players from both programs promised to return to the title game.

And both stuck to their vows, winning last year at Auburn and repeating this week.

By the way, last year’s state championships were the first for each team in football.

There are more similarities for the Rattlers and Mustangs.

They opened the season against each other the last two seasons. The Rattlers won in 2012 and the Mustangs won the rematch this year.

But it’s not just football where they are similar.

Last year, the schools’ boys basketball teams won their respective state championships.

In 2011, Tanner and Madison Academy’s girls basketball teams won the 2A title.

The schools are actually K-12, instead of typical high schools with grades 9-12. Tanner and Madison Academy also have about 750-800 students each.

When you’re at Tanner, you feel a sense of belonging, a family atmosphere. Everyone knows your name and they’ve seen the kids grow up to become state champs.

At Madison Academy, even though the private school draws students from different towns and, counties, it’s also a family-like environment. The kids grew up playing together in Pop Warner football where they won championships then and now.

Now, back to football.

The Rattlers and Mustangs have several top players returning next season – including dual-threat quarterback JonJon Fletcher for Tanner and running back Kerryon Johnson for Madison Academy.

And they have a couple of talented sophomore running backs who will be juniors next year in Ty Mayberry for the Rattlers and Malik Miller for the Mustangs.

Tanner has won 42 games during the last three years, with only two losses, while Madison Academy is 40-5 since 2011.

The two little schools have done things in a big way, and it looks like it will continue.

Three in a row in 2014?

Why not?