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The playoffs get underway this week, and one of the best stories involves a team making their first playoff appearance in 17 years hosting a game against a persistent underdog as the Jackson-Olin Mustangs take on the Pinson Valley Indians in our Hendrick Hoover Auto Mall Game of the Week.

The Mustangs were a wasteland for Birmingham football for just over 15 years. But Tim Vakakes has used his previous three seasons to build a team that prided itself on tough defense and finding ways to win. After back-to-back years of finishing one game outside of the playoffs, Jackson-Olin rode an 4-2 region record and four non-region wins to a second place finish in a tiebreaker with Hueytown.

Jackson-Olin has defeated good competition like the Golden Gophers along with Fairfield and Calera, all playoff teams. Keep in mind wins over Shades Valley and Parker kept those two programs out of the postseason as well. The Mustang defense is led by linebacker T.D. Moultry and defensive end Coynis Miller. They’ve held opponents to 15.7 points a game throughout the year and have given up more than 21 just once to Ramsay.

On the other side is Pinson Valley, a squad making their seventh straight playoff appearance, the longest streak in school history. After back-to-back first round road losses, this year’s Indians aren’t much different from previous years. They still average under 28 points a game and have relied on defense and turnovers to win some nailbiters. However, there was one big difference this year: their early 21-14 double overtime win over Clay-Chalkville. That win began the propulsion of the Indians to winning six out of seven games the rest of the way.

The lone loss to Gardendale cost Pinson a first round home game, but once again, the Indians found a way to make the playoffs. They’ve also beaten playoff teams McAdory and Pleasant Grove in non-region play and have played the likes of Minor and Ramsay but will get to avoid them as far as the semifinals should they be so fortunate. Pinson is led by running back Khymel Chaverst and quarterback Jackie Matthews.

This will be one of the lower scores of the first round. Jackson-Olin prides itself on defense and Pinson has had more success in low scoring games. This game will be about field position, turnovers, and capitalizing on them. This game feels like a virtual coin toss. We’ll go with Jackson-Olin boasting T.D. Moultry and having home-field advantage.

Jackson-Olin – 21, Pinson Valley – 17