MONTGOMERY – North-South all-star head coaches for the for the 64th AHSAA North-South All-Star Football Game to be played at Mobile’s Hancock Whitney Stadium on Friday night, December 16 have been selected.
Opelika High School head football coach Erik Speakman will head the South squad while Pickens County High School head football coach Michael Williams will lead the North squad, announced Brandon Dean, Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA). The players and assistant coaches for two 37-member squads will be announced later this fall. The players selected will be 2023 graduating seniors.
The game will kick off at 7 p.m. It will be televised live over the AHSAA TV Network and live streamed over the NFHS Network. Vince Earley of WOTM TV is the executive producer.
“Both coaches are highly regarded among their peers,” said Dean. “Both bring high energy to the North-South Classic.”
Dean added. “We are grateful for the City (and County) of Mobile, the Mobile Sports Authority and the University of South Alabama for their continued interest and support of this all-star event. “Moving the game to December (in 2020) has re-energized this all-star classic and we look forward to another great week in Mobile with some of the best student-athletes in this state. We also thank our member schools for their nominations and unwavering support of this game.”
The 63rd annual AHSAA North-South All-Star Game was won last December by the North 14-10. The South now holds a 32-30-2 edge in the series which was first played in Tuscaloosa in 1948. Two games, a small-school and large-school contest, were played in 1984 with the North winning the 1A-2A game played at Auburn 21-20, and the South winning the large-school game at Tuscaloosa that year 7-6. Both games are counted in the overall series record. This year’s game will be the third classic played at Hancock Whitney Stadium in the North-South Game’s long history. The South won the 2020 Classic at Mobile 28-20.
From 2010-2019 the game was played at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl as part of the AHSAA and AHSADCA All-Star Sports Week. The game was cancelled due to the COVID Pandemic in the summer of 2020 and seniors of 2021 played in the first game of the series played in December of that year.
The North-South Classic, the AHSAA’s oldest all-star event, was first played in 1948 at Tuscaloosa on the campus of the University of Alabama and remained at Bryant-Denny Stadium being played in the summer through 1984. A small-school all-star game was also held at Auburn in 1984. The game was discontinued from 1985-1996 but reinstated in 1997 when the AHSAA instituted All-Star Sports Week with the Summer Conference. It was played at Cramton Bowl from 1997-2004 and then moved to Troy University for two years and Huntsville’s Alabama A&M University from 2007-2010. It returned to Montgomery in 2011.
The AHSADCA, which operates under the auspices of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) still plays its other All-Star Games in boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball, softball, boys’ and girls’ soccer, volleyball, boys’ and girls’ cross country, tennis and golf during All-Star Week currently held in Montgomery each July.
Speakman is currently in his fifth season as head coach at Opelika High School after spending seven years as defensive coordinator for the OHS program. The Bulldogs (4-0) moved up to Class 7A for the first time in school history this season and have continued the success Opelika has had in the Class 6A ranks. Speakman has compiled a 40-14 record through last week’s big 17-14 upset of then top-ranked Central-Phenix City and sits at the top of Region 2 heading into Week 4 of the 2022 season tied with arch-rival Auburn. Both are undefeated at 4-0 overall and 3-0 in region play. Opelika dominated Class 6A, Region 3 during Speakman’s tenure compiling s 26-1 region record from 2018-21. The only loss was a 30-28 setback to Wetumpka in 2018. Since that loss, Opelika has won 25 straight region games heading into this week’s 7A, Region 2 game at Prattville Friday night. His teams have reached the state playoffs each year compiling a 9-4 slate in Class 6A. His 2019 team reached the AHSAA Class 6A semifinals.
Speakman coached in the 2018 North-South Game as an assistant coach. “This is a great honor being selected head coach of the all-star game,” said Speakman. “I think it says a lot about your players and assistant coaches though. It is recognition for the entire program.”
Williams, who was a standout tight end at Pickens County High School in Reform and at the University of Alabama. He spent five years in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots, before returning to his high school to take over the football program. He has the unique distinction of being a part of a national championship team at UA and Super Bowl Champion (Patriots) in the NFL.
“Being chosen to be a coach in this game is a very special honor,” said Williams. “I am very excited and looking forward to the opportunity.”
He is in his fifth season as head coach at Class 1A Pickens County where he has led the Tornadoes to a 45-16 record with one trip to the state finals (2020) and three trips to the Class 1A semifinals. Pickens County is currently 3-1 this season and is tied at the top of Region 5 with South Lamar at 3-0 in region play. During Williams’ tenure, the Tornadoes have gone 29-2 in region play with only a 20-15 loss to South Lamar and 29-28 setback to Berry marring an otherwise perfect mark. Pickens County has averaged 37.1 points in 31 region games while allowing just 10.7 ppg. His 13-4 playoff record includes three trips to the Class 1A state playoff semifinals and one trip to the Super 7 Class 1A finals (2020).