As we near the halfway point in the season, region playoff pictures will become much clearer after tonight as teams will wrap up the first half of region play before taking a bye next week or playing a non-region game.
Our Hendrick Hoover Auto Mall Game of the Week this week is Gardendale traveling to Adamsville to face Minor in 6A Region 6. We also have many other great featured games as well this week, including:
Parker at Ramsay
Demopolis at Calera
Oak Grove at Bibb County
Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa at McAdory
Mae Jemison at Russellville
Munford at Tallassee
Blount at BC Rain
Rogers at Central-Florence
Benjamin Russell at Opelika
Eufaula at Carroll
Parker (3-0, 2-0) at Ramsay (3-0, 2-0)
by Aaron Daniel
A 5A city rivalry comes to 6A with high stakes on the line.
The seventh-ranked Ramsay Rams have been on a surge since their return to football in 2012. Ramsay faced a similar situation two years ago in 5A when they faced Parker in early October with the region title on the line between two unbeatens. The Rams’ offense revolves around quarterback Baniko Harley, but Ramsay’s identity is their defense featuring Justin Whisenhunt and Starling Thomas IV.
The Rams have run through their early competition with their closest win being 16. They haven’t seen much adversity which makes one wonder how they’ll handle it, but the Rams will be looking for revenge from the losses suffered to the Herd the last two years.
Parker has had a little more of a struggle, winning over 7A surprise Huffman and preseason region favorite Homewood by 10 combined points. However, this past week they were able to break out against lowly John Carroll.
Chris Alexander went for 126 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Javonte Hurst added 127 rushing yards of his own while star receiver Eugene Minter caught two touchdown passes from backup Jacob Millhouse. Parker will be looking to win their second region title in three years under Andre Robinson after not having one since 1991.
Ramsay looks like they rely too heavily on Harley for their offensive production, but their defense normally makes up for it. Parker has the more dynamic offense, but they’ve struggled against decent defenses before. However, this game will be at Legion Field so Ramsay might lose a little home field advantage.
Aaron’s Pick: Ramsay
Demopolis (3-1, 2-0) at Calera (4-0, 2-0)
by Aaron Daniel
The #5 Calera Eagles said farewell to the Wiley McKellar era after 2015, an era that saw five underachieving seasons. Despite two 10-win seasons, the Eagles failed to win a region title and never made it past the second round in the playoffs. This season’s team shows off the talent of Calera mixed with what Andrew Zow brought to the table for Montevallo the previous year. It may not happen overnight, but Calera has a chance to become a major player in 5A South while Zow is there. The offense features playmaker Trez Harris and quarterback Jermaine Ross.
#6 Demopolis was a favorite to threaten St. Paul’s and Jackson, but that took a hit early with a season-opening 42-7 loss to 6A Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa. Since then, the Tigers have roared back. In their last three games, they’ve outscored opponents 135-21. That defense is led by backs Logan McVay and Demetrius Davis (both double on offense) as well as nose guard Khyrim Bryant. Demopolis’ lone true road game of the season ended in a 44-0 dissection of Central-Tuscaloosa.
Calera has been a mixed bag, especially when you look at how they escaped Dallas County with a last-second field goal after a penalty gave them a retry on a missed attempt. Still, there’s no denying they’re unbeaten for a reason. Demopolis has still been the more dominant team and Calera has allowed at least 22 points in each of the last three games while Demopolis has allowed 14 at most. Advantage, Tigers.
Aaron’s Pick: Demopolis
Oak Grove (2-1, 2-0) at Bibb County (3-1, 2-0)
by Aaron Daniel
The Choctaws had one of the bigger wins last week when they knocked off preseason favorite Northside in a classic. D’Angelo Thompson was the hero with the touchdown that put Bibb County up 26-20 in the fourth. Thompson is a haas, pushing 250 lbs. at 5’11”. It makes him a nightmare for any defense. Matt Hiott leads under center while linebacker Andrew Martin is the player to watch on defense.
The Oak Grove Tigers have done what would be expected of them with Holt and Hale County (our picks to finish in the last two of Region 4) to start region play. The meat of their schedule remains, starting with Bibb County. They’ve put themselves in a good early position with three teams at 0-2 in the region. The Tigers will look to running back Erick Stinnett to carry the load as he did in their most recent win. Stinnett rushed for 267 yards and five touchdowns in the 55-36 victory over Hale County.
As good as Oak Grove has looked the last two weeks, it’s come against subpar competition and the Tigers lost their opening game to 6A doormat Brookwood. Bibb County is the reigning region champion and has already taken down the team seen as their biggest challenger along with Greensboro. Bibb is more well=prepared for this game and it’s at home in Centerville. I may have been wrong about Oak Grove making the playoffs (still plenty of games to play), but this would be a big upset with where Oak Grove has been in the last five years.
Aaron’s Pick: Bibb County
Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (4-0, 2-0) at McAdory (2-1, 1-0)
by Jon Lunceford
Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa passed their first major region test last weekend with a 49-13 win over Bessemer City. The Patriots now turn their attention to a date with McAdory on the road. The Yellow Jackets have won four region titles in a row and despite an early season loss to Pinson Valley, are on the hunt for a fifth one this season.
David Powell has built a powerhouse in McCalla, and won 11 region titles over this time with McAdory. The Yellow Jackets are still hunting for that state title though, only making it one time back in 2012 when they lost to Spanish Fort. Hillcrest on the other hand, hasn’t won a region title since 2011 in the old Class 6A. Sam Adams is trying to change that this season.
Hillcrest is averaging 45.3 points per game behind 4-star Alabama RB commit, Brian Robinson. McAdory has their own 4-star athlete in Auburn commit Malcolm Askew. McAdory has only averaged just over 29 points per game though, in three games. Their victories haven’t been as impressive, and their loss to Pinson Valley means a little more after the Indians knocked off Clay-Chalkville last week. McAdory is a team that we are still trying to understand, but one thing is clear about Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa – they want to be in Auburn in December. That first step comes this weekend.
Jon’s Pick: Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa
Mae Jemison (3-1, 2-0) at Russellville (3-0, 2-0)
by Jon Lunceford
If there is one coach who is familiar with Russellville, it’s Mae Jemison’s Kelvis White. As an assistant with Homewood from 2001-2005, he coached his defensive lines against them three times, winning all match-ups, including two for state titles. White then took the defensive coordinator position at Russellville in 2006, leading the Golden Tigers to the third round of the playoffs, only giving up 13.8 points per game. White then coached under Joey Jones at Birmingham-Southern in 2007, before moving to Dothan in 2008 where he led that program to five winning seasons and three postseason berths.
On the other side, Mark Heaton is looking to lead Russellville back to the 5A state championship game for the first time since 2009 under Doug Goodwin. Since Perry Swindall left the program after the 2006 season, the Golden Tigers have only won two region titles after winning six in a row from 2001-2006. Heaton led the Golden Tigers to a title last season, but fell in the third round of the playoffs to Alexandria.
This season so far, Russellville is the only undefeated team in 5A Region 8, but has given up 25.7 points per game. After an early season loss to Andrew Zow and Calera, White defeated his brother at Tanner, then picked up two big region wins to set up this match-up that could possibly play into the region title picture in October. Mae Jemison is off to a great start under their new name, but Russellville is still the top dog for now. This should be a great game, with Russellville coming out on top in a close one.
Jon’s Pick: Russellville
Munford (2-1, 2-0) at Tallassee (4-0, 2-0)
by Jon Lunceford
Typically, when a team drops in classification, it presumed that things might get a little easier for that team. That’s not always the case, but Tallassee has taken advantage of a 4A schedule after being in 5A the last couple of years. They are a team that sits on the edge and have gone back and forth multiple times in the last decade. Right now, they sit at 4-0 and are on a quest for their second region title in three years.
On the other side of the region, you have Leeds and Munford fighting for their region again as you have had the last couple of years. The Leeds match-up against both of these schools to end the season should be great, but first they have to go through each other.
Tallassee is only allowing 11.3 points per game so far this season. Munford is allowing 12.7, and dropped a game to a very good Central-Clay County team to start the season off. Munford was a hot pick to start the season with the questions about Leeds this season, but right now, Tallassee is showing they belong in the conversation as well. This should be a good, close game, but I’m leaning in the direction of Tallassee.
Jon’s Pick: Tallassee
Blount (4-0, 3-0) at BC Rain (3-0, 2-0)
by Jacob Bunn
The Blount Leopards are off to a successful start to the 2016 season. They are 4-0 with a win at Vigor and region wins at Robertsdale, at Saraland and Baldwin County at home. Needless to say, they sit atop 6A, Region 1 and are third in our 6A Jox Preps Power Rankings. This game against BC Rain is one of the biggest remaining challenges to the Leopards. They will be helped in this game by their Florida-commit quarterback Kadarius Toney, who contributed four total touchdowns in the 42-7 win over Saraland last week.
BC Rain is also undefeated at 3-0 and 2-0 in region play. Albeit the two wins within the region were against the two teams at the bottom of 6A, Region 1, both were convincing victories by 18 points. Keyshawn Harper rushed for 292 yards and three touchdowns for the Red Raiders in their most recent win over Gulf Shores. He will need to have another big game for his team to have a chance against Blount. Quarterback Clifford Powell will also need a solid performance.
I’m taking Blount to keep on rolling this season with a win over a solid BC Rain squad.
Jacob’s Pick: Blount
Rogers (4-0, 2-0) at Central-Florence (3-1, 2-0)
by Jacob Bunn
The Rogers Pirates are 3-0 and sitting atop 4A, Region 8. They have beaten Lauderdale, Danville and West Limestone, with the latter two being region wins. The Pirates are currently ranked 9th in our 4A Jox Preps Power Rankings.
Central-Florence is 3-1 on the year and 2-0 in region games. They’re off to a decent start, but they haven’t had a tremendous challenge to this point. Their region wins were at Deshler and at Priceville, two teams that have 0-3 records. Otherwise, the Wildcats beat Phillips, a 1A team that is 1-3, and they lost to Lexington, an undefeated 3A team, 27-0. They will certainly have their hands full this Friday against Rogers.
Rogers will win this one. They have too much, and Central-Florence has yet to see a test this challenging.
Jacob’s Pick: Rogers
Benjamin Russell (2-1, 2-0) at Opelika (4-0, 1-0)
by J.D. Cowart
In what will in all likelihood be the top two teams out of Region 3, Class 6A, both Benjamin Russell and Opelika will look to establish themselves as the top dog in the region. Opelika (4-0) is blazing so far in 2016, as the Bulldogs are only giving up 8.75 points per game so far in 2016 and coming off of a throttling against Chilton County last week, 42-0. Talik Jackson, Demontrae Martin, Jay Jones and Callahan Saggus all had sacks in the victory. RB Weldrin Ford led the Opelika offense eith 131 yards on 20 carries.
Benjamin Russell (2-1) has things clicking offensively with the dual QB system of senior Timmy Lawson and sophomore Landon Cotney. Lawson, who also plays safety for the wildcats does it all, as he ran for a touchdown at QB and an interception return defensively. But the workhorse is RB NeColby Maxwell, who slashed Chelsea last week for 213 yards on 32 carries and three touchdowns. Benjamin Russell has scored 40 points or more the past two contest.
This is a long time regional rivalry in this part of the state, as both schools are two of the oldest in the Auburn/Montgomery area and I think it will come down to asserts their will more: the Opelika defense, or the Benjamin Russell offense.
J.D.’s Pick: Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa
Eufaula (3-1, 1-0) at Carroll (3-0, 2-0)
by J.D. Cowart
Carroll High School is 3-0 through the first three weeks of the 2016 season. Some would think that’s not too much of a feat, but it is at Carroll, where the last team to do so was the 1999 squad 17 years ago. The Eagles have score 34 points or more in all three contests so far this year and haven’t given up more than 14, including last week’s 35-0 shutout over region foe Headland. Carroll bread and butter is their rushing attack led by CJ Roberts and Jonathan Fells. Both runningbacks are physical and talented and will be relied on heavily.
Eufala’s season has seen some highs and lows. The Tigers (3-1) have defeated good teams in Early County (GA) and Central of Clay County last week, but lost to Wetumpka in a shut out 33-0 in week two. This game will be for a playoff spot and both teams certainly look like it in the early part of 2016. Eufaula is led by three RB’s that are all capable of toting the rock in Jordan Glenn, Thomas Jackson and Jujuan Whigham. Eufaula is also breaking in a sophomore QB who appears to already be quite talented on the varsity level in Taylor Gover (threw for 150 yards and 2 TD’s in week three against B.T. Washington).
J.D.’s Pick: Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa