JoxPreps Featured AHSAA Football Games – Week Five

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Week Five brings a ton of great match-ups between different regions as everyone takes a break and either plays their second or third region game, or takes a break before diving into the second half of the schedule.

After this week, we will know a lot about various teams as we will see some match-ups between classifications, and even some potential playoff games that could happen down the road.

Here are our featured games for this week. There were so many, we’ll actually have almost double this in our staff picks tomorrow.

If you missed our Hendrick Hoover Auto Mall Game of the Week, you can read the preview here as Briarwood takes on Mortimer Jordan.

McGill-Toolen at Blount
Hartselle at Russellville
Ramsay at Grayson (GA)
Andalusia at Opp
Leeds at Piedmont
James Clemens at Clay-Chalkville
Gardendale at Chelsea
Jackson at Thomasville
Cleveland at JB Pennington
Benjamin Russell at Oxford
Central-Phenix City at Opelika


McGill-Toolen at Blount

by Aaron Daniel

In my view, this is the best match-up in the state this week and the best quarterback match-up of the entire year, regular and postseason.

The Leopards look to be just as impressive as last year. Kadarius Toney is leading Blount to what they hope will be a special season. Coach Lev Holly believes this team is better than last year. It’s hard to believe that unless they can beat Spanish Fort next week or if they can make a deep, deep playoff run. One thing they’d like to do from last year is take down the Yellow Jackets.

McGill-Toolen went 13-1 in their 2015 7A state championship season. That one blemish came at home to the 6A Leopards in Week 5. In fact, the Jackets have lost the last three to Blount, two of those by three points or less. While there was doubt about the offense’s ability to repeat their 28.8 points a game, that was erased in the offseason and early in the regular season by quarterback Bubba Thompson. Last year, McGill-Toolen scored 24 points or less five times. Thus far, they’ve scored 24 or more in all four wins. There are few signs of that slowing down.

To me, this comes down to talent, which McGill-Toolen has more of on both sides of the ball. Toney can improvise at a phenomenal rate, but McGill-Toolen has seen him once before and held the Leopards to 17 in 2015. The difference was Blount held the Jackets to 14. I’m expecting more points in this year’s game. And this time, Bubba Thompson is the difference.

Aaron’s Pick: McGill-Toolen


Hartselle at Russellville

by Aaron Daniel

The Hartselle-Russellville rivalry is one of the more enjoyable experiences I’ve had following Alabama high school football. Unfortunately, these two haven’t met as many times as they could have throughout the years. There have been lengthy stretches where the game wasn’t played, but from 2002 to 2013, they played every year except 2011. While the game wasn’t scheduled for 2014 and 2015, it’s back now.

The Hartselle Tigers have taken a bit of an adjustment period from 5A to 6A the last two seasons. This year, things look to be back to full swing for a team used to being in the mix for region and state titles just five years ago. The Tigers are led by quarterback Trevor Oakes and running back Jordan Stover on offense while the 3-3-5 defense led by Riley Wood at safety and 323-pound nose guard Shamaud Swopes has given up an average of 14.2 points a game (9.5 through the first four before a 36-33 double overtime win last week).

Just two spots ahead of Hartselle (598) on the all-time wins list sit the Golden Tigers of Russellville (607). Running back Xavier Boyd and quarterback Payton Nichols will look to help Russellville find another tough win on the season. Lee-Huntsville and Mae Jemison were a combined 29 seconds away from beating the Tigers. But heroics from Nichols, Boyd, and Colin Garrison kept the unbeaten season going for Russellville. Russellville can’t afford too many tight games like that to win the region title over Brooks or East Limestone or make a deep playoff run.

Hartselle has played exceptional defense, but the competition has been suspect. They were taken to the brink by Muscle Shoals last week. Russellville has skirted by a couple of potential losses, but that’s building character with the Golden Tigers. Russellville has won 24 or the 32 meetings between these two, but Hartselle has won three of the last four. Still, Russellville looks to be back to their old selves and are at home.

Aaron’s Pick: Russellville


Ramsay at Grayson (GA)

by Jon Lunceford

When the schedules first came out, one game many people circled was Grayson out of Georgia coming into to town to take on the Hoover Bucs to end the season. But in the middle of that schedule was a trip to Grayson by the Ramsay Rams. Head Coach Reuben Nelson told us in our summer preview series that he was looking for a game of that caliber, and found Grayson to play and thinks it’s a great opportunity for his team to experience. It will show us a lot more than originally thought as Ramsay is now one of the top teams in class 6A, sitting atop region 5.

On the other side, sits Grayson. The Grayson Rams came into the season ranked as high as #2 in many national polls. After losing to IMG Academy (FL) in their first game, they now sit at #8 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, but are still considered by many to be the top team in Georgia. Ramsay looks to continue their high scoring ways as they currently average just over 40 points a game, and are only allowing 11 a game.

On the other side, Grayson is only averaging 20.6 points per game with Clemson QB commit Chase Brice, who is ranked as the 12th best pro-style QB in the country. Grayson also features many other top recruits including 4-star S DeAngelo Gibbs, 4-star South Carolina commit CB Jamyest Williams, 4-star OT Tony Gray, 4-star ILB Breon Dixon, 3-star Duke commit OC Will Taylor, 3-star DT Ellison Hubbard, 3-star OLB Aaron Brawley, 3-star OG Jalen Jackson, and 3-star Fresno State commit CB Demetrius Murray.

It will be a tough test for Ramsay, but if anything, get them ready for the back half of the season that includes region dates with Jackson-Olin and Homewood, along with 7A non-region games against Smiths Station and Mountain Brook.

Jon’s Pick: Grayson (GA)


Andalusia at Opp

by Jon Lunceford

Opp hsa made the 3A playoffs in both of Brent Hill’s previous two years, but are looking to capture the second region title in that time. The Bobcat’s playoff record is only 3-2 in that time, losing to Gordo each year. In preparation for a tough playoff road ahead, Opp has scheduled some of the biggest teams in 2A, 3A and 4A. After beating TR Miller to start the season, they now face Andalusia, and will take on Elba to end the year.

Andalusia on the other hand, is looking to get things back going after losing to UMS-Wright two weeks ago. After a dominant performance over Brooks in the Champion’s Challenge in Montgomery, Andalusia was thought to be a possible contender for not only the 4A Region 1 title, but the state title as well. Their offense has averaged almost 41 points per game in their wins, but only put up 7 against UMS-Wright.

The Bulldogs’ defense is their strong suit, only allowing 7.8 points per game right now, with the most scored in a single game being 14 in their UMS-Wright loss. Opp is averaging 42 points per game right now, so this is a case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Andalusia is one class up from Opp, but don’t let that fool you. Opp is capable of pulling off a win here and heading back into region play with a lot of momentum. They have a tough final two games against Daleville and Elba, but this should be a good test for them, that shouldn’t hurt their playoff standing too much. Opp has everything to gain from this game, so I’m leaning in the direction of the Bobcats.

Jon’s Pick: Opp


Leeds at Piedmont

by Jon Lunceford

Leeds was a team that many thought would struggle a little this season. But with a first win over Lincoln on the road, followed by dominant performances in and out of region, Leeds was flying high. That was, until Handley came to Leeds and beat the Greenwave 14-7 last weekend. Now, they will have to pick themselves up and face off in what can be seen as a champion’s challenge of sorts, as last year’s 4A champion faces off against last year’s 3A champion Piedmont.

Piedmont comes into this game ranked #1 in the JoxPreps poll, and sitting at 5-0 with bit wins in region, out of region and even out of state. The Piedmont Bulldogs are no doubt one of the favorites to repeat as champion this year in 3A, and a win over last year’s 4A champ in Leeds will give them all the momentum they need to get to October 14 and face off against Ohatchee in a region title showdown. They could easily be the first 1-seed locked up after ending region play in week eight.

On the other side, Leeds needs to prove to themselves that they are still a solid team that compete against the best of the best, and keep this game respectable. It’s on the road in Piedmont, so the Greenwave will be in an unfamiliar environment as they try to get back on the horse. It will be hard for Leeds to do, and they can still fight for a region title despite last week’s loss and a potential loss this coming weekend.

Jon’s Pick: Piedmont


James Clemens at Clay-Chalkville

by John SaBerre

Sometimes change is a bad thing, and sometimes change can be exactly what you needed. During the first two losses for the James Clemens Jets, they scored an average of 16.5 points per game while allowing 27 points per game and committing 7 turnovers; and then they made the change to Jamil Muhammad. The Jets, now sitting at 2-2, have rocketed to scoring 21 and 40 points in the next 2 games, while committing only 3 turnovers. And apparently Muhammad plays on defense too because JC’s D went from allowing about 27 points per game to 29 points COMBINED in their last 2 games.

That said, this is Clay-Chalkville. James Clemens has four losses since the start of last season; this senior class of Clay-Chalkville has four TOTAL losses in their time there – plus two championship appearances and one state title.

If both teams showed up with a yellow or green O on the side of their helmets like a certain Pac-12 power, you would not be surprised. These two squads can score, score big, and score often.

Clay-Chalkville wins in what will look like a basketball score.

John’s Pick: Clay-Chalkville


Gardendale at Chelsea

by John SaBerre

Gardendale got some what of a shock last week in their loss to Minor. JaCure Jackson, QB at Minor, threw for 325 yards & 5 scores AND ran for another 68 yards and a TD. That doesn’t happen to Gardendale, at least not the team we’ve gotten used to seeing. Unfortunately the Rockets of Gardendale face the Chelsea Hornets who have not only been putting up points, but rushing yards as well. On the back of Zalon Reynolds, who rushed for 201 yards and 4 touchdowns last week, Chelsea has been more than effective running the ball and dominating their opponents.

Taking a quick look ahead to next week, Gardendale welcomes in Clay-Chalkville, a team they’ve never beaten and the closest loss was by 25 points. Gardendale wants to be on top of the rock and has to take out Clay-Chalkville to do so. I bring that up because the major question for the contest will be can Gardendale bounce back from an somewhat surprising loss and not look ahead to Clay-Chalkville next week; if Gardendale can be focused on this week, they’ll win.

That said, Zalon goes wild again (maybe not for 200+ yards but will be the guy yet again) and Chelsea knocks off Gardendale.

John’s Pick: Chelsea


Jackson at Thomasville

by Jacob Bunn

This is a best in 5A versus a team in 4A matchup. Jackson is off to a very hot start with wins over Clarke County 33-14, Faith Academy 48-20, Wilcox Central 47-6 and Williamson 21-6. They sit atop the Jox Preps 5A Rankings at 4-0. The Aggies head into this rivalry game with Thomasville with a lot of momentum and confidence.

Thomasville is 3-0 on the year with wins over Sweet Water 42-35, W.S. Neal 26-20 and Monroe County 41-14. The Tigers are a half-game back from UMS Wright for the lead in 4A Region 1. They will play UMS Wright on October 14th in a game that will carry a ton of 4A significance. This Friday, the Tigers are looking to make some serious noise and knock off the highly ranked Aggies.

I think Thomasville will play well in this game. Both of these teams are located in Clarke County and know each other well. In the end, though, I have to go with the Jackson Aggies to come out on top.

Jacob’s Pick: Jackson


Cleveland at JB Pennington

by Jacob Bunn

Cleveland’s trip to J.B. Pennington is a matchup of teams from 2A and 3A. The 4-0 Cleveland Panthers are sitting atop 2A Region 7 by two games, while the 5-0 J.B. Pennington Tigers are in the lead of 3A Region 6. Cleveland is ranked seventh in the Jox Preps 2A Rankings, and J.B. Pennington is ranked eighth in the Jox Preps 3A Rankings.

These two schools are separated by about seven miles. Last year’s game at Cleveland was won by the home-standing Panthers 35-7. I think you will see a closer game this year, but Cleveland will prevail once again.

Jacob’s Pick:Cleveland


Benjamin Russell at Oxford

by J.D. Cowart

Benjamin Russell (2-2) was derailed from gaining any momentum that they may have gained from weeks two and three of the season, as the Wildcats were shut out last week 34-0 by Opelika (who is playing like a team worthy of a state title game berth so far this season). The Wildcats did nothing offensively as 2015 honorable mention All-State RB NeColby Maxwell ran for only 33 yards on 23 carries. Benjamin Russell finished the contest with just 99 yards offensively. Sophomore QB Landon Cotney completed the longest pass play of the night for Benjamin Russell, with a 25 yard pass in the first quarter. Defensively, Benjamin Russell is still inexperienced and looking for both identity and consistency on a game to game basis.

Oxford is off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 2008 and the Yellow Jackets showed no signs of slowing down last week, beating Abbeville, 44-0. Oxford has a dynamic offense, with RB Tyetus Smith-Lindsey rushing for 192 yards and two touchdowns last week, while QB Abe Peoples accounted for 182 total yards and two scores as well. Defensively, Oxford hasn’t given up more than 28 points in a game yet this season and only a total of 63 points five games into 2016. The Yellow Jackets have playmakers that are hot right now, similar to Benjamin Russell’s last opponent in Opelika.

J.D.’s Pick: Oxford


Central-Phenix City at Opelika

by J.D. Cowart

The Opelika Bulldogs took no prisoner last week against Benjamin Russell. First year QB John David Worth threw for 122 yards and two touchdowns in just 13 attempts and the Bulldogs rolled offensively and defensively as they steam roll into their biggest game so far this season. Opelika held a Benjamin Russell team that is averaging 33 points per game to a shutout in what is possibly becoming one of the best defenses in the state. Opelika has given up just 21 points over their past five games, for a 4.0 average per game. At this rate, Worth just has to continue to be above average, put up anywhere from 10-14 points, and the defense is doing the rest.

Central-Phenix City is coming off of a stomping of rival Smith-Station 51-14 as the Red Devils are cruising every bit as much as Opelika. QB Jaxton Carson had two rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown last week and Central had an interception return go the distance, as well as a 73 yard punt return taken to the house as well. Head coach Jamey DuBose knows how to find athletes and put them in positions to not only stand out, but win football games. Alabama commit Markhail Benton will be one to keep an eye on for the Red Devils, who will need to assert their will early in this game and set the tone.

Phenix City holds the all-time record in this series at 41-32, but Opelika defeated the Red Devils last year 27-21. This will be one of the best games if not THE best game in the state this week.

J.D.’s Pick:Opelika