Week zero is in the books, but this week sees the rest of the teams start their season, with some teams even starting region play down in Mobile.
We’ve hand picked the games we feel will be the ones to look out for and our staff has previewed them all. This week we preview:
Muscle Shoals at Spain Park
Hoover at Allen (TX)
Homewood at Vestavia
Manatee (FL) at Hewitt-Trussville
Clay-Chalkville at Bessemer City
Cordova at Pleasant Grove
Pinson Valley at Ramsay
Briarwood at Chelsea
Helena at Mountain Brook
Mortimer Jordan at Pelham
Opelika at Auburn
Benjamin Russell at Central-Clay County
Oak Mountain at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa
Oxford at Gadsden City
Don’t forget to check out our game of the week preview which features the top-ranked teams in class 6A and 7A according to the JoxPreps poll – James Clemens vs. Gardendale.
Muscle Shoals (0-1) at Spain Park (1-0)
by Aaron Daniel
The reigning 7A northern finalist found themselves in a jam last week in Gadsden with the Titans. Still, Spain Park’s defense found ways to score on the ground and the defense preserved a big 21-17 win over Gadsden City. D’Arie Johnson and Larry Wooden led the way on the ground with nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns while Rayfe Richey had the third. Hunter Howell led the Jags to the win under center but was little factor throwing the ball.
Muscle Shoals opened the season at home with great defense as expected but an offensive performance they’d like to correct fast. The Trojans picked up just 134 yards in the loss to Gardendale while giving up nearly 300. Carlos Davis must be the one to lead the way. His 45-yard touchdown run cut the Rockets’ lead to 14-10, but that was the end of the scoring.
Looking at this one, it comes down to the running game and two solid defenses. Wooden and Johnson are a more reliable combination than Davis, Tariq Garner, and Keevon Hankins.
Aaron’s Pick: Spain Park
Hoover (1-0) at Allen (TX) (0-0)
by Aaron Daniel
The Hoover Bucs showed up to Cramton Bowl in Montgomery and made clear how good the 2016 version could be. The defense in particular was outstanding, frustrating Central quarterback Zion Webb and holding the Red Devils to 63 total yards in the second half. Garrett Farquhar had a mixed start at quarterback. He completed just 32% of his passes but he had 153 yards, a touchdown pass, and a rushing TD. Both of those scores came late in the first half and gave Hoover the lead for good and the momentum they needed.
Their opponent lies deep in the heart of Texas just northeast of Dallas. The Allen Eagles are a perineal Texas powerhouse. Winners of four state titles in 5A and 6A the past eight seasons, Allen is seen as being in a “transition year” after losing in the state semi-finals in 2015. Sound familiar? Don’t kid yourselves, the Eagles are loaded with talent, including Ivy League-bound QB Mitchell Jonke, running back Kirby Bennett, and the most loaded receiver group we’ll see this season.
Defense will again be the key for Hoover as they need to hold one of the most prolific offenses in America (47.3 pts per game in 2015) to a number that their offense will be able to match. This isn’t the Hoover offense of old. The target line to hold Allen will probably be around 24. Gonna be tough to make that happen.
Aaron’s Pick: Allen (TX)
Homewood (1-0) at Vestavia Hills (0-0)
by Jon Lunceford
Homewood is looking to carry the momentum from their comeback victory over Pelham last week into a strong performance against Vestavia this weekend. Vestavia is the only team that Homewood has played every year since it’s inception in 1972, with the Rebels holding a 26-18 record in the series. Vestavia’s lead comes from nine straight wins starting back in 2007. There aren’t many teams that Homewood has played more than ten times in it’s history, so a win here would be a huge confidence booster in more ways than one.
Vestavia comes in to 7A play this season looking to build on last season where they split games with Hoover and also had a playoff win over Bob Jones. Despite finishing 5-2 in the region, they finished fourth on a tie-breaker. With all of the talk surrounding Spain Park and Hoover, Vestavia is looking to make some noise and knock one, if not both of them off in region play this season. This will be the Rebel’s first game of the year, with a jamboree last week.
Homewood will try to build on their fourth quarter performance from last week, and forget about the first three quarters. This rivalry game can set the tone for both teams, as it continues to be played on week one, instead of week ten like it used to. Homewood showed a lot of grit in a comeback last week, but Vestavia might be too much for them.
Jon’s Pick: Vestavia
Manatee (FL) (0-0) at Hewitt-Trussville (1-0)
by Jon Lunceford
Hewitt-Trussville got off to a better start this season with a win over Montgomery Bell (TN) instead of a loss, but now they get to turn around and play another national opponent as they take on Manatee out of Florida. We saw Manatee last season as they faced Hoover, where they lost 42-21. The Hurricanes will look to improve from last season where they finished 9-3 and exited the Florida Class 8A playoffs in the second round.
Hewitt-Trussville was led by UAB commit Grayson Cash and Noah Igbinoghene as they beat Montgomery Academy (TN) 33-24. The Huskies have made the playoffs each of the last seasons under Josh Floyd, but have yet to make it any further than that. With big wins over national programs, they are putting themselves on the map as a team to look out for when it comes to region play and the postseason.
The Huskies will look to make the most of this week’s game at home before starting region play on the road next week at Gadsden City. Manatee was one of the top teams in Florida coming into last season, but after a disappointing end to the season last year, will be looking to start strong with an out-of-state win. Even still, the Huskies look like the favorite in this one after a strong week zero.
Jon’s Pick: Hewitt-Trussville
Clay-Chalkville (1-0) at Bessemer City (1-0)
by Jon Lunceford
Both of these teams started off well last week with big wins, but Clay-Chalkville’s was easily one of the biggest in the state. A struggling Florence team that is looking to make it’s mark on Class 6A again came into try and knock off the Cougars, but after allowing Florence to make a huge comeback, Clay-Chalkville got the win 53-48. Bessemer City on the other hand shut out 5A Central-Tuscaloosa to begin their season on the right foot.
Both of these teams won multiple playoff games last season, but both have questions about whether or not they can perform up to the standards they were at last year. Clay-Chalkville still put up 53 points without names like Ty Pigrome and TJ Simmons and Bessemer City still shut out Central without names like Jeremiah Jones and Vincent Burrell on defense.
Bessemer City will look to compete for a region title this year with McAdory already sitting at 0-1 and Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa on the rise as well. This will be a good test for both teams, but I’m not sure that Bessemer City will have enough for the Cougars, even with Clay in what some might consider a “rebuilding” year. Regardless, look out for both of these teams come November.
Jon’s Pick: Clay-Chalkville
Cordova (1-0) at Pleasant Grove (0-0)
by Jon Lunceford
Cordova started their 2016 campaign off right with a win over Mortimer Jordan last week. The Blue Devils of Cordova are looking to have a strong year after being upset by Fayette County in the playoffs last season. Cordova had wins over all four of their non-region opponents last season, but didn’t play a schedule like they have this year, as they also have Munford to end the season. The Blue Devils have Kolbi Fuqua, Patrick Fleming, Deangelo Woods and more leading the way as they look to go undefeated again this season.
Pleasant Grove has had two pretty good years, finishing second in 5A Region 5 last season to Wenonah, and then making the state championship in 2014. This season, they lose Birmingham city schools Parker, Ramsay, and Carver-Birmingham, but they pick up a big region foe in Briarwood. Their non-region schedule is a tough one with Cordova, Hueytown, and Pinson Valley, but they at least get the first two at home.
The Spartans return Myles Mason, but that’s about it as far as all-state players are concerned. It will be a tough test for Pleasant Grove against the Blue Devils, who are not only one of the best 3A teams in the state, but one of the best pound for pound as well.
Jon’s Pick: Cordova
Pinson Valley (1-0) at Ramsay (0-0)
by John SaBerre
For all the various high school matchups that have ever happened here in Alabama, for the first time ever the Pinson Valley Indians will take on the Ramsay Rams on Friday.
This isn’t the only first time that Ramsay is embarking on. This year, they made the jump up to 6A and will have region games against Shades Valley, Parker, Jackson-Olin, and Homewood; not to mention wrapping up the season with consecutive road games against 7A opponents Smiths Station and Mountain Brook.
In another first for the Rams, their first game this year will be a tough contest. Their defense will be anchored by a crew of boys that will be playing on Saturdays this time next year. Keep your eyes-and ears-out for Austin Brundidge and Jalen Gladney to step up and make big plays. But you’re guaranteed to hear the names of their entire LB core, Cardell Jones, Matthew Kenty, and Justin Whisenhunt called on Friday, and Saturdays as well.
Even though this is a 6A on 6A contest, this is an out of region game so it MOSTLY won’t count at the end of the season. That said, Pinson Valley, coming off a MOSTLY lackluster 15-8 win over McAdory, can’t afford another less than stellar performance. With games against Minor and Clay-Chalkville, opponents who combined to defeat Pinson by 65 points, coming quickly, the Indians need to be sure the entire team is focused.
It was mentioned earlier that the Pinson-McAdory game was MOSTLY lackluster. The bright star in that game was Pinson Valley’s Khymel Chaverst. He rushed for 186 yards and both Indians TDs; however he only had 53 of those yards in the first half. If Pinson is going to have any success this year, they’ll need 2nd half Khymel Chaverst rushing that way all 4 quarters.
These two schools are separated by about 20 miles and after Friday, one will get bragging rights as the first ever victor in this matchup.
John’s Pick: Ramsay
Briarwood (0-0) at Chelsea (1-0)
by John SaBerre
Last week, Chelsea saw their stud RB Zalon Reynolds pull an Al Bundy and score 4 touchdowns against 7A squad Oak Mountain. And the Hornets needed every bit of Zalon’s 186 yards to get the victory 49-33. The defense, however, will need to play better. Against Oak Mountain, Chelsea allowed Matt Marquet to go 15 for 17 to six different wide receivers; not to mention Chelsea being down 14-0 before you could blink.
Briarwood begins their 2016 campaign coming off back to back losing seasons for the first time under Fred Yancey; that’s over 25 years. Senior QB William Gray looks to repeat the success Oak Mountain had against Chelsea’a secondary, as well as improve off his 1,800 passing yards and 5 TD junior year.
Briarwood holds the edge in this series 19-8-1, however Chelsea has won the last 2. It’s guaranteed to be exciting when the legendary Fred Yancey of Briarwood takes on Chris Elmore, the coach at Chelsea who used to call plays for some kid named Jameis Winston.
John’s Pick: Chelsea
Helena (0-0) at Mountain Brook (1-0)
by Jacob Bunn
Coach Chris Yeager’s Mountain Brook team blasted Gulf Shores 56-6 to start the season last week. Quarterback Hamp Sissom passing for over 100 yards and running back Sam Everette nearly rushing for 200 should give the Spartan offense confidence heading into this week’s home game against Helena.
Helena played a jamboree game in week zero against Ramsay, which the Huskies lost 20-10. While that was merely a preseason game, they are definitely going to need more offensive production to have any hope of knocking off the Spartans.
I’m going with Mountain Brook in this game, and it’s not solely based on the classification difference. I think the Spartans’ offensive attack with Sissom and Everette is going to be too much for Helena. After this game, Mountain Brook will have completed its opening stretch of two 6A opponents. Next week, the Spartans will be thrust into 7A competition with a trip to Hoover. Helena has a trip to Chilton County on the schedule next.
Jacob’s Pick: Mountain Brook
Mortimer Jordan (0-1) at Pelham (0-1)
by Jacob Bunn
Pelham had a stronger than expected showing last week against Homewood in the kickoff game at Samford’s Seibert Stadium. The Panthers held a 14-0 lead midway through the third quarter, but hey weren’t able to get the victory. There will undoubtedly be confidence gained from a competitive start.
Mortimer Jordan also dropped its season-opener last week at Cordova 21-14. The Blue Devils were the beneficiaries of four turnovers in that game, but they were unable to achieve a win the other set of Blue Devils from 4A. Mortimer Jordan quarterback Chase Crane threw a crucial pick-six late in the third quarter that tied the game. After that, Cordova was too much for Mortimer Jordan.
I think Mortimer Jordan wins this game. Pelham will probably keep it close, but they don’t have enough firepower to upend the Blue Devils. Pelham’s next opponent will be Benjamin Russell, and Mortimer Jordan has a trip to Springville next on the schedule.
Jacob’s Pick: Mortimer Jordan
Opelika (1-0) at Auburn (1-0)
by J.D. Cowart
In what is one of the state’s most intense rivalries, Opelika and Auburn will square off in Duck Samford stadium for the 91st time and one year removed from a 31-30 Opelika victory. The Tigers are coming off a squeaky win against Carver-Montgomery last week, winning 17-14. Junior RB Garrett Morris led the stat sheet for Auburn in the victory with 13 carries for 90 yards as the offense seemed to sputter out of the blocks in 2016.
Opelika stomped perennial power Carver-Columbus (GA) last week hopping out early and never rendering the lead again all the way to a final 34-7 score. With the transfer of highly touted QB Jake Bentley, Opelika was unsure of how their offense would be in 2016, but it seems the Bulldogs will be just fine with athlete’s Branton Burnett, Connor Smith and QB John David Worth finishing consistent on the stat sheet against a good Carver-Columbus program.
When rivalry gets thrown into the mix, anything can happen, but it certainly looks like Opelika is riding the highest momentum heading into Friday.
J.D.’s pick: Opelika
Benjamin Russell (0-0) at Central-Clay (1-0)
by J.D. Cowart
Benjamin Russell head coach Danny Horn returns to Clay County once again with the Wildcats ready to make it 3-0 all-time against Central-Clay (Formerly Clay County and Lineville). Horn, who won six state titles at the former Clay County High School has rebuilt Benjamin Russell from the ground up and it starts in 2016 with senior RB NeColby Maxwell. Replacing 2015 All-State athlete and QB Tyre Gray will be tough for Benjamin Russell, however offensive and defensive star Timmy Lawson will look to fill in those shoes.
Class 5A Central-Clay and head coach Kris Herron are coming off a victory last week over Class 4A Munford 14-10. In what should have probably been a better win, Central-Clay will be playing for their first win as a school over Benjamin Russell in what has become somewhat of an area rivalry.
J.D.’s pick: Benjamin Russell
Oak Mountain (0-1) at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (1-0)
by Joe Hunk
Last season, Oak Mountain started 2015 ranked fifth in 7A. They then proceeded to lose three straight and never returned to the top 10 for the rest of the year. This year they started the season off with a loss after hosting Chelsea and losing to the 6A team by 16 points. Now they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Hillcrest who features one of the best players in the state in 4-star running back Brian Robinson, who is committed to Alabama. Last week he only rushed for 55 yards, but two of those rushes went into the end zone while the Patriots destroyed Demopolis 42-7. For Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa this game could go the same way and the Patriots should once again come away with victory.
Joe’s Pick: Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa
Oxford (1-0) at Gadsden City (0-1)
by Joe Hunk
After losing Roc Thomas in 2013 and Tredarian Gamble in 2014, 2015 was not a great year for Oxford. This year Ryan Herring enters his fourth season as the Yellow Jacket’s head coach and last Friday they started the season off with a 27-6 win over Talladega. This week Oxford, along with 4-star inside linebacker KJ Britt, travel to Gadsden City to take on Toryque Bateman and Damon Williams, who are both 3-stars. The Titans lost last week to a Spain Park team that is coming off a season where they were one win away from the 7A State Championship. This week, Oxford should win on the road at Gadsden City which would mean that Gadsden City would start 0-2 for the first time in the school’s 10 year history.
Joe’s Pick: Oxford