FYFFE — The Fyffe Red Devils are reloaded and bringing back a ton of state championship experience this fall.
The two-time defending Class 2A state champs return 19 starters as they advance from Class 2A to 3A.
“These guys have been starting for three years now,” said Fyffe coach Paul Benefield, who enters his 24th season with the school and 29th overall as a head coach. “They don’t get complacent. They don’t ever let up.
“I think they’re taking the move up to 3A as a little bit of a challenge.”
Fyffe capped its perfect 15-0 season and defended its state title for a second year in a row last season by sprinting past Reeltown 56-7 in the Class 2A state championship game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn in December.
Since the team has reconvened this summer following an extended offseason due to safety concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the players have put together some great workouts around skill development and weight training, Benefield said.
“The kids came back in good shape. We’ve had some great workouts,” he said.
“We have really good leadership, a lot of seniors, so that makes things go a little easier when you have good leadership.”
Of the 19 returning starters, 10 of them are defensive playmakers. Caleb Lyles, Levi Carroll, Kyle Dukes and Jacob Mitchell are back on the defensive line, with linebackers Eli Benefield and Ty Bell returning as pass rushers. Ike Rowell, Hunter Gillilan and Justin Stiefel return to secure the secondary.
Stiefel returns with University of Alabama-Birmingham commit Brody Dalton to cover kicking duties.
“We’re blessed with experience,” Benefield said.
The offensive line returns Jacob Wooden at center, Chase Wooten and Lyles as tackles, Carroll at guard and Dalton and Dukes as tight ends.
Rowell returns to play quarterback. He replaces Zach Pyron, who transferred to Pinson Valley this offseason. Pyron helped guide the Red Devils’ offense in their previous two state title runs.
Malachi Mize, Will Stephens and Brodie Hicks are returning running backs in Fyffe’s run-heavy offense.
Benefield said there hasn’t been much discussion around the team about the move to 3A.
“It’s like the weather, you can’t do anything about it,” the coach said. “So we’ll just compete the best we can.
“It’s definitely a step up. We’re at the bottom of 3A as far as numbers, but we’ve been at the top of 2A with lower numbers the last three or four times, so that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Fyffe will play in 3A’s Region 7, competing against Sylvania, Plainview, Geraldine, Collinsville, Brindlee Mountain and Asbury.
The Red Devils are scheduled to open their 2020 campaign against 2A, Region 3’s Isabella on Aug. 21.