James Clemens Wins Region Title Utilizing The “Classic Combo” Of A Great Backfield And Offensive Line
MADISON- Whenever a high school football team has a tandem of a superb quarterback and running back success usually follows. For the James Clemens Jets, they have a dynamic duo of quarterback Gio Lopez and running back Dante Snodgrass, but when you add in a superb offensive line the squad has what is the “Classic Combo.”
“We’re very close away from football and I love the fact I’m having fun playing with friends,” said Lopez (5-10, 180, QB, Jr.) of both his best friend Snodgrass and the entire offensive line.
“Gio is like a brother to me and he means a lot to me and our team as I consider him a ring leader of keeping our emotions under wraps during a game and our offensive line is what I consider my security force,” added Snodgrass (5-18, 165, RB, Sr.).
The Jets are on a roll. At 9-0, 6-0, the Jets walked away with the Class 7A Region 4 championship scoring nearly 40 points per game and allowing half that many to each of their opponents. Their offensive output is fourth best in all of Class 7A led by the incredible tandem skills of both Lopez and Snodgrass.
For Lopez, he’s passed for 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns including a 70-yard strike in the finals minutes to win the game versus Sparkman last week. He’s also taken the ball via the run for 300 yards and six TDs. Meanwhile, Snodgrass has been a workhorse with 13 touchdowns via the pass and run.
The muscle up front for the offensive machine of the Jets are Grant Gage (6-4, 270, Jr.) and Max Gagliano (6-2, 270, Sr.) at LT, Zeke Gideon (5-10, 285, Sr.) at LG, Ryan Nicholson (5-9, 250, Sr.) at C, Tristian Walker at RG, Edgerrin Watson (6-2, 275, Sr.) at RT and Dawson Whited at TE. In all, they make up the unit that has blocked open a many holes in the defense and sent opposing players to their backs.
“They are awesome and stick behind one another at all times,” said Lopez. “When Max had an ACL injury, Grant stepped up and has played well.”
Lopez once hated the sport of football when he began playing at age six. He said he didn’t like the fact others were chasing him. He took kindly to the sport during physical education classes in the second grade as he played well and soon asked his mother if could join a team where he began as a tight end. At Monrovia Middle School he changed to wide receiver and linebacker and actually played his freshman season as a quarterback at nearby Sparkman High before making a transfer to James Clemens where he was looked at as a possible future starting quarterback by then head coach Wade Waldrop.
A bevy of colleges are recruiting his services including Cincinnati, Tulane, Troy, UAB, USA, Southern Miss, Western Kentucky, Duke and Wake Forest.
For Snodgrass, his early years with the sport were ones of love as he played several positions in the youth program hosted at Madison’s Palmer Park. He played both running back and linebacker at Liberty Middle School before making his way to James Clemens as purely as a ball carrying runner. He sat out his sophomore season due to ACL surgery and worked his way back to starting material, which he did by being a starter in every game since the opening game of his junior year a year ago.
Both Lopez and Snodgrass double up on athletics at the school as both play on the Jets’ baseball team. Snodgrass plays outfield and Lopez is an outfielder and pitcher. His fastball has been clocked at 89 miles per hour.
“With Dante, our connection is tight as we’re best friends and always doing something together,” said Lopez. “We’re very close. Matter of fact, my girlfriend calls Dante my boyfriend.”
“He’s like a brother to me as he was very supportive during my rehab after my knee surgery,” added Snodgrass. “He’s a big part of who I have become. We both love to smile and try and keep others in a good mood and in emotional check throughout each game.”
Snodgrass, who his teammates nicknamed “Lamonsta,” was born with Gastroschisis, which is a condition where a baby’s intestines are on the outside of the body. He underwent surgery and spent months at the Ronald McDonald House in Nashville. He fully recovered and has no after effects.
“We are one big family here at James Clemens and each of us are very proud of the work we’ve put into our season,” added Snodgrass. “My ‘security’ takes care of me and I show my appreciation of them by giving each one of the guys a hug at every practice. I recently bought them cookies they ate during a Sunday afternoon film session.”
The Jets are gearing up for the final run at the upcoming playoffs as they are ranked No. 5 in the latest state rankings. Both Lopez and Snodgrass indicated the entire team has confidence of a possible run deep into post-season play. Besides, with top-notch “security” leading the way the “Classic Combo” is a facet each opponent will have to face eye to eye.