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Bears-Falcons game features two of area's best quarterbacks

Central and Sipsey Valley, two teams with senior quarterbacks and high expectations, kick off the 2013 football season tonight.

Sipsey Valley, a fourth-year program coming off its first appearance in the AHSAA Class 3A playoffs, comes to Tuscaloosa to face the Class 5A Falcons. Central made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2008.

"We know two of the best quarterbacks in West Alabama are going to be playing here at Central," Falcons coach Dennis Conner said.

Back in 2010, Conner took over as Central’s coach and picked freshman Vincent Davis to be the starting quarterback. Davis threw for 1,443 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior and rushed for 481 yards and six scores.

"We’ve got a bunch of seniors," Conner said. "These were the kids that came in with me when I got the job, and they’ve really matured and bought into the things we’re talking about now at Central High School. We’re talking about more than playoffs. We’re talking about making it to the University of Alabama for the Super 6 (championships). That’s my expectation for this bunch."

When Sipsey Valley opened in 2010, freshman Garret Lewis was the starting quarterback. Antonio Ford became the coach in 2011 and guided the Bears to their first winning season (6-5) last year. Lewis passed for 2,200 yards and 29 touchdowns and ran for 782 yards and six touchdowns in his junior season.

"I think he’s the best quarterback in the state," Ford said. "He’s a huge part of our offense. We have numerous playmakers who have grown and matured around him, but Garret is the one who holds it all together."

Like Conner, Ford is aiming for more than a first-round playoff berth.

"Why not us?" Ford said. "That’s the way we look at it. That’s the attitude we’ll have going into every game."

The Falcons have a new offensive coordinator in Rodney Bivens, a former Central quarterback who is the son of a coach.

"He’s done a wonderful job with these kids to make sure that the little things are done right," Conner said.

Davis’ receivers include Leonard Tyree, Robert Bates and Chris Lee. Center Mike King is the only senior on the offensive line, but junior Lester Cotton, a 315-pound tackle, has been noticed by college recruiters. Senior linebacker Ronderek Rice is heading into his fourth season as a starter.

"We know that their quarterback is real mobile and has a good arm," Conner said. "They know I’m a defensive-minded coach. You never know what I’m going to come up with."

Central didn’t participate in a jamboree last week, but Sipsey Valley defeated Akron 41-18.

"My guys are really excited about starting this season," Ford said. "Expectations are through the roof. One of the things we talk about is that you reap what you sow. We’ve sown a lot in the offseason, and we’re expecting a great harvest."

Trey White and Marvin Murphy are running backs in Sipsey Valley’s system. Tyler Duncan and Markeith Gray are wide receivers.

Free safety Dameian Archibald had six interceptions last season. Garrett Hubbard is a senior linebacker. Edwaun McNeil is a junior linebacker. Ford said one recruiting service has McNeil listed among the nation’s top 300 prospects for 2015.

"I think we’ll be a lot more aggressive," Ford said. "I feel better about our team improving as a whole.

"Central’s biggest threat is probably their quarterback. They have a lot of skill guys who can catch the ball and make something happen. We just have to play fundamental football and be prepared to play four quarters."