Thursday morning, I took a road trip to Sylvania for the Rams’ 10-team round robin 7-on-7 passing competition.

It’s the first time I had been to the Rams’ stadium since the 1990s, when current Geraldine head coach Brad Waldrop and his brother, Brian, were playing for the Rams. Brian serves as a volunteer assistant coach for Brad.

The defending Class 3A, Region 7 champion Bulldogs competed in Thursday’s event, along with Asbury.

New Rams’ head coach Chris Williams intends to utilize the passing game, and 7-on-7s allow his offensive skill players and his linebackers and defensive backs to gain experience before games start counting as wins or losses.

Thursday’s event gave me an opportunity to catch up with Keith Atchley, a Douglas basketball standout in the 1990s whose career path led him to settle in DeKalb County.

Keith’s son, Grant, is a senior football player for Sylvania. Grant is the second oldest of Keith and Carrie’s four children.

Keith is transportation supervisor for the DeKalb County Board of Education. He also serves as pastor of Fyffe First Baptist Church. If Keith decided to write a column or host a radio show, he could name it “Buses and Baptists with Brother Keith.”

Donny Jones came to Sylvania on Thursday to watch his grandson, Kaleb, play quarterback for Collinsville.

Donny is one of the first coaches I covered in my career with The Reporter. Donny succeeded Jerry Rice as Crossville’s varsity boys basketball coach in 1988-89 and guided the Lions to the Class 3A State Tournament.

One of Coach Jones’ star players on that CHS squad was new Boaz varsity boys coach Cale Black.

Donny later returned to his alma mater, Collinsville, to become principal. As a senior in 1974-75, he led the Panthers to the semifinals of the Class 1A state football playoffs and a championship in the Class 1A State Basketball Tournament.

One of Donny’s legendary teammates, Mike McElrath, serves as a volunteer assistant coach for the Collinsville football team, whose head coach is Ernie Willingham. Ernie spent two seasons as Albertville’s varsity boys basketball coach from 1991-93.

Kaleb Jones is a dual-threat quarterback who led the Panthers to a 10-2 record last season. He’s also a standout baseball player and will compete for the North in the Alabama North-South All-Star Game on Tuesday in Montgomery.

Navy and Samford are among the schools recruiting Kaleb in football, and he’s also being recruited in baseball. He’s going to have an opportunity to play one of the sports in college, and Donny said his grandson is still trying to decide.

The Panthers kick off the football season Aug. 23 at Plainview. They play at Crossville on Aug. 30 and at Asbury, a region opponent, on Oct. 11.

Shannon J. Allen is sports editor for The Reporter. He can be reached at shannon.allen@sandmountainreporter.com.

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