The 2000 season opened in similar fashion by dropping a 28-20 decision to Mary Montgomery. Fortunes would change the following week against Shaw. Foley trailed the Eagles 20-7 in the third quarter but a pair of touchdown drives tied the score at 20 as regulation ended. Shaw scored first in overtime, but sophomore quarterback, James Denley, pulled the ball on the triple option and scored on third down. Robert Garris’ extra point gave the Lions the dramatic 27-26 victory. In week six, Foley upset Vigor 17-13 for the first win over the Wolves since a 44-0 victory in 1979. The defense played a magnificent game and forced a multitude of turnovers in the win. In the finale, Foley jumped out to a 26-0 lead over Fairhope and cruised to a 26-13 win over the Pirates. Raymond Lymon ran for 117 yards and James Denley threw for 130 yards to pace the Lions over Fairhope. This sent the Lions to the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Opelika would make a quick end to Foley’s playoff appearance with a decisive 49-0 score. The season ended at 6-5. 2001 brought a new but familiar face back as the coach. Lester Smith returned to the sidelines for a second stint as coach. The city was buzzing with excitement. However, the health of the legendary coach did not cooperate and a ruptured disc in his back and a subsequent infection caused Coach Smith to miss six weeks of the season. The season opened with a close 21-15 loss to 9-1 Mary Montgomery. Week two saw the Lions defeat Shaw 14-6 in a hard fought game. Shaw finished 7-3 and made the playoffs. However, a 26-0 loss to Robertsdale helped send the season spiraling downhill. Coach Smith missed the game that would be Robertsdale’s first shutout of Foley since 1945. The Lions would manage to defeat Satsuma (20-9) and Baker (48-21) in the 3-7 campaign. 2002 brought high expectations to the season. A 14-2 win over Robertsdale, the first opening game win since 1995, brought high hopes to the Foley faithful. The following week saw the Lions drop a heartbreaking see-saw game in which LeFlore scored on the final play of the game to hand Foley a tough 26-21 loss. The team bounced back with a 56-7 win over Satsuma. However a seven game stretch in which Foley played six playoff teams, five of whom won their first round game proved to be too difficult to navigate. The one remaining victory was a 21-20 thriller over Tate. Carlos Lizzaraga hit Ryne Engel for a 46 yard completion to set up a two yard run to pull the team to within a point of the Aggies. The two point conversion by Lizzaraga with 5:33 would provide the winning margin. The only other time one of Coach Smith’s teams played Tate was in 1969 in which the Lions also registered a one point win. Foley lost a tough 29-15 game to Fairhope to finish at 3-7 once again. Things did not improve in 2003. Mantel Casey, the team’s top tailback tore up his knee in the second quarter of the first game and the offense would struggle throughout the season. The team would manage to beat Satsuma 32-19 and would record an exciting 21-20 win over Washington. The defense forced six turnovers and Emmanuel Pickens scored from 19 yards out to pull out the dramatic one point win over the Wildcats. The season would end at a dismal 2-8. 2004 would open with three close losses, 14-0 to B.C.Rain, 14-6 to Robertsdale, and 34-27 to Satsuma. The next week, Hurricane Ivan came through the area. The Lions seemed to face a hurricane each of the next seven weeks and the youthful squad was unable to register a win. Prior to the close of the season, Coach Smith announced his retirement effective at the end of the season. The squad fought as hard as they could to send their coach out with a win. After driving 99 yards to take a 7-0 lead over McGill, it looked as if the Lions might well pull off the unthinkable. McGill finally exerted itself and pulled out the tough 21-7 victory. The players paid tribute to their coach by carrying him off the field. Coach Smith would finish his coaching career with a record of 127-75-2. He won more games than any other coach in Baldwin County history. 2005 would bring in winds of change. Todd Watson would leave a football dynasty at Hoover to try to resurrect the success of the Foley Lions program. He had been the architect and mastermind of Hoover’s great defenses. Hoover had been on a run unparalleled in the history of high school football in the state of Alabama. The Bucs had won four of the previous five state championships, including the last three. Coach Watson would serve notice in the opener that the Lions were back with a convincing 41-27 victory over a tough B.C.Rain squad. Hurricane Katrina would strike the next week forcing the Lions to play five games in 22 days. It would not matter as Foley convincingly defeated Satsuma, Bay Minette, Robertsdale, Baker and Vigor to start 6-0 for the first time since 1995. In the third game of the season against Bay Minette, Roosevelt Byrd threw for 243 yards, a new single game passing record. Two games later he would break his own school record by throwing for 256 yards against Baker. This would set up a showdown with unbeaten Daphne. The Lions would prove they were for real by storming out to a 21-9 lead over the shocked Trojans. Daphne would put together a furious rally to pull out a 31-21 win. Byrd threw for an incredible 438 yards against the Trojans, shattering his own record. The Lions bounced back to whip Fairhope 37-0 the following week, the first victory over the Pirates since 2000. In the regular season finale, Foley found itself down to McGill 31-14 midway through the fourth quarter. Foley would stage a furious rally to tie the game at 31 before winning it 34-31in overtime on Michael Davis’ field goal. This improved Foley’s all-time overtime record to 6-1. The following week would see the Lions host a playoff game for the first time since 1996. A tough Theodore Bobcat team would visit, setting the stage for offensive fireworks never before seen. The game was back and forth all evening with 17 touchdowns being scored between the two teams and 1,119 total yards of offense combined. The Lions came out on the short end of a 63-56 score but the Lions had recorded an 8-2 record, only the third 8 win season in the previous 18 seasons. Coach Watson was recognized as the state coach of the year for his efforts. Julio Jones and Ira Bodiford placed themselves at the top of the Lion record book for receptions in a season with 51 and 46 respectively. Roosevelt Byrd shattered Herbert Casey’s record for yards passing in a season with 2,313 and Kenny Stabler’s 43 year old record for touchdowns passes with 25. 2006 would be another record setting campaign. Foley rolled through the first five opponents. In week four, Roosevelt Byrd would throw for five touchdowns, a new single game touchdown mark, in a 34-9 victory over Fairhope. The stage was set for a classic showdown between the third ranked Lions and the fifth ranked Daphne Trojans. 25 seconds into the game, the score was already 7-7. Fans in the packed Trojan stadium and a television audience knew they were about to witness one of the greatest county games in Baldwin history. Foley began to pull away as touchdowns from Byrd, Mike Washington, Julio Jones, and Jonathan Gardner put Foley in front at the half by a score of 34-21. Foley would score again in the third quarter on a fake punt pass from Stuart Barbalich to Julio Jones to put the Lions in front 41-28. A touchdown by the Trojan’s Reggie Hunt would cut the lead to 41-34. The Trojans would break Foley’s hearts with less than a minute to play when Daphne’s Daniel Peterson scooped up a fumble and raced 93 yards for a touchdown. Chris Lambeth hit Matt Kuglar for the two point conversion to give Daphne an improbable 42-41 victory. The Lions would bounce back in a big way. The next week saw undefeated Niceville, Florida’s number 3 ranked team, come to town. Byrd threw for 359 yards and the Lions jumped out to an 18-0 lead. Foley never looked back in the decisive 32-18 win. The team dispatched of Robertsdale, Bay Minette, and U.M.S. in convincing fashion to end the season at 9-1. Julio Jones caught three touchdown passes of 5, 31, and 56 yards to break open a close game and lead the Lions to an impressive 35-14 victory over Enterprise. The victory was Foley’s first playoff win since 1995. The season would end the following week at eventual state champion Prattville, but the loss could not take away the team’s many accomplishments. The Lions had won 10 games for only the sixth time in school history. The teams 427 total points scored placed it in second place behind only the 1961’s 433 mark. Coach Watson after two short seasons found himself tied for sixth place on the school’s all-time victory list. Roosevelt Byrd broke his own records for yards passing in a season (2,480) and touchdown passes in a season (28). He holds the career marks in both categories with 4,850 yards passing and 53 touchdown passes. Julio Jones caught 75 passes, breaking his own record, for 1,299 yards and 15 touchdowns. Julio entered the 2007 season regarded by many experts as the best prospect in the nation. In fact, ESPN ranked him as the number high school football prospect in the entire country. Never before had the school entered a season with such hype. Foley opened with the Murphy Panthers. Devin Smith proved to everyone that he would be a very capable replacement for Roosevelt by completing his first 8 passes in route to a 16 out of 26 performance for 139 yards. Julio caught 7 passes in the impressive 35-17 win. The Lions rolled over Satsuma and LeFlore before blasting Fairhope 43-7 to claim the Blue-Gold trophy for the third straight year. Devin Smith completed 20 out of 32 passes for 230 yards in the win. A blowout win over Lake City paved the way for one of the most anticipated games in Foley football history. The showdown between the fifth-ranked Lions and the second ranked Trojans was televised by ESPN2 which allowed an estimated 400,000 households to join a jam-packed stadium in witnessing an instant gridiron classic. Foley drew first blood when Devin Smith hooked up with Julio Jones for a 30 yard scoring strike. Daphne answered with an 11 play, 80 yard drive to knot the score. Later, Coley White would scamper 41 yards to paydirt to give the Trojans a 14-7 advantage. Before the half, Jorge Santa Maria would drill a 26 yard field goal to cut the lead to 14-10 at intermission. The two teams slugged it out in the second half. Finally in the fourth quarter, Jones ripped a 28 yard scoring toss from the hands of Daphne defender Will Stringer for the go ahead points and the Foley defense made it stand. Robert Lester intercepted a desperation pass to sew up the victory, Foley’s first over the Trojans since 1997. Julio finished with 6 catches for 98 yards and Lavance Mitchell was the workhouse on the ground, finishing with 119 yards on 17 carries. The next week saw another dangerous opponent come to town. Pine Forest was the state-runnerup in Florida the previous year and brought a solid 4-2 record into the game. An injured Julio Jones played only 5 plays which was long enough to for him to catch an 11 yard touchdown pass. Lavance Mitchell would score from seven yards out and the defense would record a shut out in defeating the Eagles 14-0. The Lions would put on a clinic over the next five weeks. The team mauled Robertsdale and Bay Minette before ending the season with an exclamation point in jumping out to a 42-0 halftime lead and coasting to a 49-14 win over always tough U.M.S. It was the sixth time in school history that the Lions had finished the regular season undefeated. The playoffs opened at home against Sidney Lanier. 30 years previous, the Poets had broken the hearts of the Lions with a 22-15 win. History would not repeat itself on this night. The Lions ran out to a 33-6 halftime lead before finally crushing Lanier 54-12. The offense racked up a total of 545 yards in the massacre. That set up a rematch with the Murphy Panthers at Ladd Stadium. At halftime it was 21-0 in favor of the Lions. Before the night was over, Lavance Mitchell had crossed the goalline 4 times, setting a new school record for touchdowns with 25. Julio would close out the scoring with a 23 yard scamper. Devin Smith had thrown for 2,204 yards and 24 touchdowns in leading Foley to its first ever 12-0 start. In the third round loomed a rematch of the previous year. Foley would have to once again travel to Prattville to take on the defending state champions. The Lions jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but a poor no call on a dropped Prattville punt changed the momentum of the game. Julio Jones appeared to be interfered with on the play but instead Prattville was awarded possession of the ball and would go in for the score. They would go ahead and hand our Lions a 38-14 defeat and went on to repeat as state champion. It was still a record breaking year for the Foley Lions. The squad scored a total of 463 points, breaking the mark of the 1961 team. Julio Jones caught 69 passes for 1,181 yards and 16 touchdowns and was named Alabama’s Mr. Football for 2007, the first player from Baldwin County to receive this honor. Coach Todd Watson passed J.T. Middlebrooks on the school win list to move into fifth place in coaching victories. It was the first time that Foley had reached the third round and joined to 1981 team as the only 2 teams to ever reach the state quarterfinals in the state playoffs. 2008 found the Lions trying to fill a lot of holes on offense and relying on a rugged defense. The Lions opened at home against a tough Murphy Panther team and dropped a tough 14-3 decision. The Lions bounced back with a big win over the Bay Minette Tigers before pulling out a thriller the following week against Fairhope. Sophomore quarterback Darius Powell lead the Lions on a heart-stopping touchdown drive in the final moments to pull out a 14-10 victory. The Lions followed this performance with wins over Robertsdale and Mary Montgomery before fallen to Daphne by a slim 14-9 margin. The Lions bounced back with a huge win over Satsuma before pulling off an upset victory over an outstanding McGill team by the score of 24-17. Foley closed with an impressive victory over Bryant. The Lions finished in a 3-way tie for the region championship and after a complicated tie breaker finished third. This set up a tough first round match-up with Davidson. The Lions lost a hard fought game in overtime and Davidson would go on to advance all the way to the semi-finals where they lost to eventual state champion Prattville.