After 25 playoff appearances, the storied Tanner High School football program brought back its first state championship and became the first county school in the Super Six era to claim a Blue Map trophy.
Top-ranked Tanner (14-0) defeated No. 4 Washington County 28-14 in the Class 2A Super Six championship game at Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium Dec. 7.
The Rattlers set a school record with 14 victories in 2011, but the season ended with a bitter 34-14 loss to Elba in the 2A title game in Tuscaloosa.
During this year’s playoff run, Tanner dispatched Sand Rock, Walter Welborn, Fultondale, Reeltown and Washington County by a margin of 180-28.
Tanner edged 3A state champion Madison Academy 13-7 in the season opener, did not trail all season and produced five shutouts, including three in the playoffs. The Rattlers scored 45.2 points per game while holding opponents to 7.1 per contest.
The offensive line of Baltazar Rubio, Austin Lewter, Shamaud Baker, Tray Fletcher and Seth Smith paved the way for more than 4,000 rushing yards by running backs Hayden Stephens and Fred Rich, quarterback Johnathan Fletcher and fullback Kyle Shoulders.
Greg Maclin, Shoulders, Stephens and Rich were named to the All-State team, and Rubio was chosen All-State honorable mention. Rich, the 2A championship game MVP, is this year’s Class 1A-3A area player of the year.
In the past four seasons, Tanner has compiled a 49-4 record with four region championships. During coach Laron White’s 10-season tenure, the Rattlers have finished 105-21 with 10 playoff appearances.
The morning of March 2 dawned with a memory. As the skies darkened, the people of Limestone County couldn’t escape the visions of 10 months prior when the worst tornado outbreak in four decades hit the state.
However, forecasters were saying if tornadoes struck that day, they would be nowhere close to the severity of the April 27 storms.
A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Limestone County at 9:12 a.m., but a tornado touched down only minutes later around the intersection of U.S. 72 and Lindsay Lane. It spun up so fast that some sirens remained silent as people scrambled to find anything resembling shelter.
The EF3 twister damaged homes in the Canebrake subdivision before striking out toward Madison County in almost the exact path as the April 27 EF5 tornado.
Homes that were just starting a new life were again pummeled with winds up to 160 mph. Limestone Correctional Facility was hit head on — a dorm was heavily damaged and a dog sucked out of the K-9 unit kennels.
A smaller, weaker tornado, an EF1, hit the Thach community that afternoon. Thirty-eight deaths, including one in Alabama, occurred in the storm outbreak that week.
In all, 270 structures were damaged in Athens and Limestone County.