Some great games this weekend as we lock up playoff spots across the state, and some region titles as well.
Here are our featured game previews for week nine across the state of Alabama.
Etowah at Scottsboro
by Aaron Daniel
5A Region 7 has come down to two teams. One is a squad that some expected to be here after falling just short last year and bringing in a senior SEC commit quarterback. The other is a team seen by many to perhaps be ahead of schedule.
The Scottsboro Wildcats were seen as a wildcard entering Class 5A after spending a couple years in 6A. Perhaps that two-year prepared the ‘Cats better than we thought. With three-year starting sophomore quarterback Bo Nix and DK Billingley, Scottsboro has carved a path of destruction to the tune of 45.4 points a game while the Wildcat defense has given up just 11.5 points a game, including holding Guntersville, North Jackson, and Arab to single digits.
In Attalla, the Blue Devils of Etowah have been a little less impressive in their season averages, but they’re getting the job done behind senior transfer quarterback Daulton Hyatt. Hyatt, a former Arab quarterback committed to Arkansas, has led the Devils to eight straight wins after a season opening loss to Southside Gadsden. Etowah has scored at least 50 in each of their last three match-ups, however two of those have come against Boaz and Crossville.
This game will be a great battle of future college quarterbacks that could actually live up to the billing. Granted, Nix and Hyatt aren’t relied on as much as would be expected. Billingsley is the true X-factor for this game. The senior running back is averaging 142 yards a game on the ground (on pace for 1,500 to 2,000 yards depending on playoff finish) with 18 touchdowns on the year. He also doubles as a defensive back for the Wildcat defense. To me, Billingley and home-field advantage at Pat Trammell Stadium gives this one to Scottsboro.
Aaron’s Pick: Scottsboro
Spain Park at Oak Mountain
by Aaron Daniel
In a murky 7A Region 3, two games have the biggest influence in dictating the playoff picture. One of those is off Highway 119 when the third and fourth place teams do battle at Heardmont Park Sportsplex.
The Oak Mountain Eagles have had a roller coaster season, which mimmicks their ride over the first four seasons under Cris Bell. They’ve been back and forth as it pertains to making the postseason, and last year was a miss. The triple option offense can be a handle to defend when run properly.
The Eagles’ offense will revolve around young quarterback Jackson Kimbrell and interchanging A and B-backs Daniel Salchert, Jaylin Gaines, and Luke Percer. If they can get the offense moving and scoring early, it will take a lot of pressure off that defense and allow them to pin their ears back to mess with Spain Park’s Hunter Howell.
After a hot start to the season, Howell has been up and down since the humbling performance he had against Hoover. The Jags have also lost to Mountain Brook and nearly took a third loss to Thompson two weeks ago. The Jags’ bread and butter though is in the backfield with Larry Wooden and D’Arie Johnson. They have the ability to jumpstart Spain Park’s offense, but with two starting linemen injured, the Jaguars will be climbing uphill a bit.
Last year, it was a tight ball game as Spain Park defeated Oak Mountain 20-10. This year, Oak Mountain’s defense is statistically playing worse and their offense is being led by a sophomore in Kimbrell. I like Spain Park to handle their business on the offensive side of the ball and let the defense play aggressively to create turnovers.
Aaron’s Pick: Spain Park
Leeds at Munford
by John SaBerre
To quote the intellectual savant Lloyd Christmas, “So you’re saying there’s a chance?!”. As it stands right now, this game won’t be for the 4A Region 3 championship….unless a “One in a million” kind of upset happens Friday night. Currently, the Handley Tigers sit atop the region at 5-1 and they play Holtville, who is in the midst of a 28 game losing streak and only has 3 wins since 2011. If Handley defeats winless Holtville, they’ll clinch their first region crown in 5 years. However should Holtville complete the Annexation of Puerto Rico and get the win over Handley, then this region could be up for grabs.
Try and stick with me on this: Handley is 5-1. Munford is also 5-1. Leeds is 4-2. Tallassee is also 4-2. If Handley loses, making them 5-2, that opens the door for Munford to claim the region out right at 6-1 with a win over Leeds. Should Leeds get the win, that makes them 5-2 along with Munford and Handley (in this scenario). Given that Handley defeated both Munford and Leeds, that would still put them atop Region 3. But then there’s Tallassee. Tallassee is 4-2 and plays Elmore County, a team they’ve defeated 7 of the last 10 years. Should Tallassee get the win, they’d be right in the thick of this region title hunt.
This has been the postseason history for Leeds since 2008: Championship, semi-final loss to eventual champ, Championship, 3rd-round loss (forfeited), 3rd-round loss, loss in championship game, Championship, Championship. Which is why it was surprising to see Leeds not only lose to Tallassee last week, but give up a 13 point lead and 26 straight points. Every player on this squad, except for the freshmen, has always been to the championship game. This is a team that’s used to winning and not struggling in the regular season. There’s a very real possibility that the 2-time defending state champs could miss the playoffs.
Which is exactly why I’m choosing Leeds to win the game. Yes, I could break down the Munford rushing defense or explain how Leeds has been airing it out, but teams with the championship pedigree don’t lose games like this (plus, I may be secretly pulling for chaos so Lunceford has a headache trying to figure out playoff positioning). Leeds reminds region 3 that you have to go through the Green Wave to hoist the crown.
John’s Pick: Leeds
Fayette County at Haleyville
by John SaBerre
This contest, which will be for the 4A Region 5 championship, has some history to it. This will be the 52nd meeting between Fayette County and Haleyville. Fayette County holds the edge 29-23 however the point differential across all 52 contests is just under 3 points. These games are close and often go down to the wire. In fact the last 2 years required late 4th quarter TDs by Fayette county to secure each victory.
Fayette has seemingly found its offense as of late. After amassing 47 points in their first 5 games, and going 1-4 in the process, the Tigers have scored 33, 28, and 45 in their last 3 games. They’ll need to continue that trend because Haleyville is a squad that enjoys the offensive pyrotechnics. Only once this year have the Lions failed to put up 4 or more touchdowns, and that was their lone loss to Madison Academy 31-21. What Haleyville needs to shore up is playing in front of their home crowd on Bubba Scott Field at Memorial Stadium. In their last 9 home games, they’re only 5-4. Compare that to being 11-3 on the road since last season, and you have the makings of a team that needs to get better where most schools have it easier.
Fayette County has won 8 straight in this series which dates back to 1949. Haleyville, looking to snag their first region title since 1993, gets their first win over Fayette county this century (think about that) and completes a perfect record in 4A Region 6.
John’s Pick: Haleyville
Homewood at Hueytown
by Jon Lunceford
The good news for both of these teams is that all they have to do is win, and they are not only in the playoffs, but they are either second or third. Homewood is in no matter what, but Hueytown has to win to guarantee a spot in the playoffs. Should they lose, they can still make it as long as Jackson-Olin wins. If you’d like to know specifics, check our bracketology for this week.
Homewood has been looked at as much weaker this year than in the past few years, however, they have put themselves in a good position thanks to wins over Shades Valley and Jackson-Olin. That Jackson-Olin tiebreaker really helps them out and is what puts them in regardless. For the Patriots, it’s easy – win and you’re second with home field, lose and you’re fourth starting off against Minor.
Hueytown needs this win to be safe. Their win over Parker helped them get to this point, but Jackson-Olin’s win over the Gophers is holding them back a little bit. This is a good chance to use a home game against a semi-struggling Homewood team to their advantage and get a huge win to avoid Minor in the first round. Home field advantage is what will do it for Hueytown, and the slight complacency that Homewood is in the playoffs no matter what. Hueytown has to win to guarantee anything, so they will come out and get the W in a tight one.
Jon’s Pick: Hueytown
Jackson-Olin at Parker
by Jon Lunceford
Just like the Homewood/Hueytown game, this is for a playoff spot. The good news for Jackson-Olin is, if they win, they are in and avoid Minor. If Parker wins, then Jackson-Olin can still make it thanks to beating Hueytown, but Homewood will hold the tiebreaker over them if the Patriots lose as well.
For Parker, it’s simple – win and you’re the third seed, avoiding Minor, or lose and you avoid Minor again…by missing the playoffs altogether. The Thundering Herd have to win this ball game to have any chance.
Parker started the season strong with wins over Huffman, Homewood and John Carroll, but a 41-7 loss to cross-town rival Ramsay put them on a 3-game losing skid which included a 21-point loss to Shades Valley and a 4-point loss to Hueytown. Jackson-Olin on the other hand beat Shades Valley and Hueytown leading up to this game, and have all the momentum in the region behind Ramsay. That week one loss by one point to Homewood will haunt the Mustangs, but it will also serve as motivation to try and win because they are not secure in the playoffs yet either.
Look for Jackson-Olin to shut down Parker’s offense and get the win and move away from that fourth seed, possibly even earning home field advantage if Hueytown wins.
Jon’s Pick: Jackson-Olin
Helena at Chelsea
by Jon Lunceford
As confusing as some regions are, 6A Region 3 is no different. The Benjamin Russell/Wetumpka game will put into motion some things while this will either help Chelsea secure home field advantage and knock Helena out of the picture, or allow Helena to sneak into a top 3 seed.
Chelsea has looked strong all season, barring their early loss to Benjamin Russel and then of course the loss to Opelika. Their early three-game winning streak included 7A Oak Mountain, 5A Briarwood and then Wetumpka. They got Wetumpka at a good time before losing to Benjamin Russell.
Meanwhile, Helena snapped a three-game losing skid with a 35-24 win over Benjamin Russell last week. Their early loss to Pelham will sting, but they have a chance to stay alive with a win over the Hornets. I still like Chelsea though, and like them to lock up the second seed after a Wetumpka win.
Jon’s Pick: Chelsea
Benjamin Russell at Wetumpka
by J.D. Cowart
Like many games around the state, this game has considerable implications on Region standings in Class 6A. If Benjamin Russell wins, the Wildcats (3-5) will be the No. 2, leaving Wetumpka and Chelsea falling into No. 3 and 4, respectively. If wins Wetumpka, they will take the 2 seed and based on the Chelsea game against Helena, Benjamin Russell and Chelsea will fall in No. 3 and 4.
Benjamin Russell has slid to a 3-5 record this year with an offense that only has one playmaker in RB NeColby Maxwell, and a sophomore QB in Landon Cotney. Defensively, Benjamin Russell can’t get off the field, with this team having the highest points allowed defensively since head coach Danny Horn’s first season at Benjamin Russell. That season they gave up 24 PPG, this team is currently giving up a whopping 32 PPG given up.
Wetumpka is having one of their best years out of the past five, sitting at 7-2 heading into the final game of the season. The Indians are averaging 39 PPG offensively and are coming off a narrow one point loss to Class 6A power Opelika, 38-37. Look for Wetumpka to ride that high and finish out the season 8-2.
J.D.’s Pick: Wetumpka
Lee-Montgomery at Enterprise
by J.D. Cowart
After starting the season 6-0, Lee-Montgomery has lost two games in as many weeks to region foes, Auburn and Central Phenix-City, who will in all likelihood finish No. 1 and 2 in Region 2, Class 7A. With a win over Enterprise, Lee would throw a wrench into the region standings, with it finishing Central-Phenix City at No. 1 and most likely, three other teams, Enterprise, Lee and Auburn, all at 4-2 in Region play. The Generals started this season posting 40 PPG or more in all six wins, but the past two, they have fallen under that number and given up 40 points defensively to a lackluster Auburn offense and 59 to state power Central.
Enterprises one blemish is against Central this season as the Wildcats sit at 8-1 and are hoping to beat Lee and wrap up the No. 2 seed in the Region. Enterprise is outscoring opponents on an average of 37-11 in 2016, and trying to finish the regular season with only loss for the first time since 1984. The Wildcats pound the ground with QB Koty Fulton-Tice and RB’s Cameron Harmon and DaJuantre Robinson.
Lee has had one of their best teams in a decade, but I don’t see this Enterprise squad wasting a spectacular season by laying a dud on their season finale at home.
J.D.’s Pick: Enterprise
Hayden at Mortimer Jordan
by Jacob Bunn
This is another region championship game, and it is for 5A Region 6. Both teams have had excellent seasons to this point and come into this one undefeated in region play at 5-0. The good news for both of these teams is that the loser will finish second in the region.
Hayden lost the opening game by three touchdowns to Weaver. Since then, the Wildcats have breezed through the rest of their schedule with only one win being by less than double-digits. Perhaps the most impressive win of the year was a 34-0 beatdown of a 6-3 Corner team two weeks ago.
Mortimer Jordan’s two losses came to teams outside of their region, a nine-point defeat by Briarwood and a touchdown loss at Cordova at the beginning of the season. In addition, the Blue Devils beat Pelham 42-14 in non-region play. They have averaged scoring 41 points in their five region games.
This is going to be a good one. I’m going to side with Mortimer Jordan at home to win the game and 5A Region 6.
Jacob’s Pick: Mortimer Jordan
Opp at Daleville
by Jacob Bunn
This game will decide 3A Region 2. Both teams are once-beaten overall and undefeated in region play at 5-0. They would both love to earn a number one seed in the playoffs. The loser will finish second in the region.
Opp is 7-1 with its only loss of the year coming in mid-September to Andalusia 37-14. They have put up 55 points in four of their six region contests. The most impressive non-region win for them would be beating T.R. Miller 30-20. They will finish up with Elba next week.
Daleville is also 7-1 on the season with its only loss coming in week one to Carroll by a score of 49-13. Their most impressive non-region win was a five-point victory over Elba from 2A.
I’ll take Opp to win this game and the region title.
Jacob’s Pick: Opp