Local high school football teams and players to watch for this season 

Austin Hannon, Sports Editor

The defending 7A state champion Thompson High School Warriors are the obvious choice as the No. 1 team in Alabama to begin the 2022-23 season. But the race doesn’t end there, as the city of Tuscaloosa boasts two of the top teams in 6A and 4A high school football. Here are the top two teams in the Tuscaloosa area that could be lifting hardware at season’s end – and they have the same mascot. 


Hillcrest Patriots, 6A 

Last season, the Hillcrest Patriots had an impressive 11-3 season that ended in a 44-16 6A semifinals loss to the Hueytown Golden Gophers. Hillcrest will have a rematch with Hueytown on Sept. 9. The Patriots are returning lots of talent on both sides of the ball and should be an interesting team to watch in 2022. The other scary part is that Hillcrest was a game away from a state championship in head coach Jamie Mitchell’s inaugural season with the program. Is this going to be another year under his belt? The Patriots will be a force to be reckoned with this year. 


American Christian Academy Patriots, 4A 

In 2021, American Christian Academy went 11-2 and put together an undefeated 7-0 run inside the region. The season came to an end in a 26-10 loss to the eventual state champion Vigor High School Wolves in the 4A quarterfinals. It was not the ending anyone within the program wanted, so expect the Patriots to be very hungry in 2022, potentially taking a few more steps in the playoff bracket. 


Players to watch this season in the Tuscaloosa area 

The state of Alabama has loads of talent every year in football. In a region where college football rules, high school football is just a step down. Bo Jackson, Terrell Owens, Phillip Rivers and Julio Jones are just a few of the names that came from the state. On the current Alabama football roster, 47 players are in-state. Four are from the Tuscaloosa area. 

High school football reigns supreme on Friday nights in Tuscaloosa. Here are the top players in the class of 2023 according to 247Sports. 


Wilkin Formby, OT, Northridge High School Jaguars 

Wilkin Formby is first on the list, coming in at 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds. Formby is a member of the Northridge High School football team – a team coming off a 7-4 season in 2021. This isn’t the fault of Formby, who anchors the offensive line as offensive tackle for the Jaguars. Formby is a four-star recruit and is the No. 73 overall recruit in the country.  

He is the No. 10 offensive tackle in the nation, and the ninth-ranked prospect in the state of Alabama. Formby was recruited by 34 schools, but it came down to Ole Miss and Alabama. Many people believed he would end up choosing the Rebels, but on June 20, Formby formally decided to remain in northwest Alabama and play for his hometown Crimson Tide.  

Watching his highlights, you can see why head coach Nick Saban wanted to lock up the local product. Strong at run blocking as well as pass protection, Formby is a force at offensive tackle, a position in which Alabama may need a lot of help in the near future. 


Collin Dunn, LB, Hillcrest High School 

Collin Dunn has been a prominent player on the Hillcrest defense for a few years now. A little undersized at the position, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound linebacker more than makes up for it with his speed and pursuit skills off the edge. Dunn is also a versatile player, as he can play the safety position just as well.  

According to 247Sports, Dunn is a three-star and is the No. 42 prospect in the state of Alabama. Dunn drew interest from 15 schools, but ultimately decided to take his talents to Manhattan, Kansas, and play for the Kansas State Wildcats for college ball. Dunn will look to get Hillcrest, 11-3 last season, back to the state championship game. 


Ethan Crawford, QB, Hillcrest High School 

A teammate of Collin Dunn, Ethan Crawford has held the keys to the Hillcrest program since 2020. A three-star, Crawford is the dictionary definition of a dual-threat quarterback. He can turn any play from nothing into something, and for his size, has impressive arm strength.  

While receiving offers from SEC schools Tennessee and Kentucky, as well as Georgia Tech and Maryland, Crawford decided that the best fit for him was playing for head coach Will Hall and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Crawford is the No. 72 ranked quarterback in the country and the No. 51 prospect from Alabama. 


Sawyer Deerman, RB, Tuscaloosa County High School 

The No. 96 running back prospect in the country hails from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After three years at American Christian Academy, Sawyer Deerman has one more year, joining the Tuscaloosa County Wildcats for his senior season, and it is an important one. Deerman has yet to commit to a school for the next four years, but he has plenty of offers. Michigan State, Ole Miss and Tennessee have already offered the 5-foot-10, 175 tailback, and another strong season could go a long way in securing even more high-profile offers. Deerman is the No. 56 overall player in the state of Alabama.  

In 2020 during his sophomore season, he was used as an all-around athlete, playing multiple positions on offense, including the wildcat quarterback at times. His former head coach, Cody Martin, had very encouraging words for the senior. 

“Sawyer is a phenomenal athlete but an even better leader,” Martin said. “He always does the right thing, works hard, and always lifts his teammates up. He’s a great young man with a bright future. I’ve coached him since he was in sixth grade, and he’s had my heart ever since. I know he’s going to make a huge impact this year.” 

Although there will be plenty of excitement around the Crimson Tide football season, there will be more great football played just down the road as well throughout the fall.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]