Aug. 1—Editor's note: High school football practice has started, and Anniston Star Sports Writer Joe Medley has begun his annual round of preseason visits to all 12 football-playing schools in Calhoun County. Check The Star's Facebook page for live interviews each weekday. His columns and fun facts will also appear on The Star's website, social-media platforms and in print editions.
OXFORD — There's Zen-level timing in Oxford High going with new "Oxford gold" football helmets this season.
The Yellow Jackets spent 2021 proving they're still golden, after all.
And for those who hint that realignment put Oxford in a much tougher region this year, well, second-year Oxford coach Sam Adams has a clap for that.
"One of the reasons why that's such a tough region is because we're in it," he said.
Indeed, new-old region rivals Clay-Chalkville, Pinson Valley and Oxford combined to win the past five Class 6A state titles.
So there, Oxford fans still twitching from the years it took the Yellow Jackets to climb the Pinson-Clay mountain before ending a 26-year state-title drought in 2019.
Oxford probably needed the weaker region it won in 2021. A coach in his first year with a new program had to replace 30 seniors and 12 transfers. Add early-season injuries, and it's no wonder the scoreboard looked ugly against the likes of Thompson and Pleasant Grove.
Though Pleasant Grove would later forfeit that 61-24 crushing in the second game, a forfeit for an ineligible player hardly backed Oxford fans used to something better off of ledges. The good times felt long gone, seemingly having transferred with the dozen players who left following Keith Etheredge's move to Auburn.
Then a funny thing happened. Injured players, including quarterback Sam Robertson, returned, and inexperienced players found their way. Oxford's season stabilized.
Turns out the Yellow Jackets were the best team in a 6A region. A momentary plunge amid momentous graduation and transfer losses was hardly a full plummet.
Oxford was still golden.
Or could again be golden, much sooner than ledge jumpers thought.
With that as the context, Adams has only 11 seniors to replace. A facility upgrade is taking shape around last year's new turf, and imaginations have launched.
Oxford grad and young assistant Connor Syer, who does Oxford's social media graphics, posted a Happy Thanksgiving graphic on Twitter. It showed a gravy bowl pouring gold paint onto Oxford's staple black helmet.
Oxford fans passed the dressing in the form of response, and a surprise dessert landed on the table ... gold helmets. Not just any gold ... Oxford gold.
Turns out there was no exact match for it in the Riddell catalog, so Adams sent the company a pair of Oxford's gold game pants. The company customized a color, which now lists as Oxford High School gold in the catalog.
"It's a custom color that we're the only team in the country that has," Adams said.
The helmet is an exact reverse of the black helmets it replaced ... gold with a black '"O" emblem and stripes.
"I love it," returning All-Calhoun County defensive lineman Josiah Kimbrough said. "To me, it's better than the black helmet, not only because it's not as hot at practice, but it looks good with our uniforms."
Look good, play good, and here's the best part for the Yellow Jackets. Just like the new-old region powers, players wearing the Oxford uniforms with the gold helmets are familiar again.
Oxford is still golden ... Oxford golden, that is.
Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.