Round one playoffs begin this week

WEEK ONE PLAYOFF PREVIEW


- photo courtesy Southern Exposure Photography

– photo courtesy Southern Exposure Photography

Blount County has four teams in the playoffs with two teams (Appalachian and Susan Moore) hosting first-round games as region champions and two others (Oneonta and J.B. Pennington) traveling as fourth-seeded teams.

All games will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7

1A Collinsville (6-4) at Appalachian (8-2)

Victory Christ. 10, Collinsville 7 Spring Garden 21, Appalachian 6
Spring Garden 24, Collinsville 14 Appalachian 33, Jax Christian 6
Gaston 69, Collinsville 27 Appalachian 47, Coosa Chr. 6
Collinsville 32,Woodville 8 Appalachian 54, St. Bernard 0
Collinsville 35, Fayetteville 8 Appalachian 13,Westbrook 6
Cedar Bluff 27, Collinsville 21 Appalachian 35,Victory Chr. 21
Collinsville 35, Gaylesville 20 Appalachian 58, Jefferson Chr. 0
Collinsville 41, Skyline 6 Appalachian 54, Parkway Chr. 0
Collinsville 31,Valley Head 29 Appalachian 28, Ragland 3
Collinsville 58, Brainerd, TN 20 Cleveland 21, Appalachian 14

Big-play Panthers could spoil the Eagle season.

Collinsville limped out of the gate with an 0-3 record but the Panthers have ridden a big-play offense to a 6-1 streak. The Panther spread offense is led by senior quarterback Robert Gray and he is one dangerous customer with the ball in his hands. On the year, Gray has accounted for 27 touchdowns, rushed for 1064 yards, and piled up 1756 yards of offense. He is lightningfast, has scored five touchdowns in each of the last two games, and without his 277 yards rushing against Valley Head in week nine, the Panthers would be at home right now. He is joined in the backfield by Jonathan Cole, who has rushed for 912 yards on 114 carries and scored 15 touchdowns. If the Eagles hope to win, slowing down this speedy duo will be the key. The Collinsville offensive line has a bit of size (avg. 215 lbs.) but this group just needs to get in the defense’s way for Gray and Cole to make plays. The Collinsville defense was banged around a good bit early in the year but came up big down the stretch when it had to. Gray is the leader of the unit at middle linebacker and Cole plays safety. They make a ton of tackles and, because of their speed, big plays are hard to find against this unit. The Collinsville defensive front has been just good enough to slow down better offenses. Gray and Cole are absolutely terrifying on returns but the kicking game has some holes.

Appalachian needs to pick things up again this week after falling flat at Cleveland. The Eagle offense needs to have a good week. If the Eagle offensive line can control the line of scrimmage and Appalachian is able to pound out first downs, the dangerous Collinsville offense will be kept off the field. However, Appalachian needs to score points, not just hand onto the ball. The Eagles need to score, especially early, and that means the running game with Colby Harvey and Coty Tawbush must produce. The Collinsville defense has had trouble against every good running attack it has seen (Spring Garden, Gaston, Cedar Bluff, Valley Head) and the Eagles need to come out and take control early. Gray and Cole make a lot of plays on both sides of the ball and Appalachian might look to wear those two down a bit. The Eagle defense will be tested by some serious speed, maybe more than they have seen this year. Seth Black and the defensive front must tackle well but the entire unit must play disciplined, assignment football. The Collinsville spread look simply opens up the field more by stretching the defense. Gray will throw the ball but the focus must be on stopping the running game. If the front can do a good job and slow down the running game, the Eagle secondary won’t have to make tackles and can play the pass but that’s a very big IF. Coverage units will be seriously tested but the return units could make a play or two.

Next week – An Appalachian win means the Eagles will host either Cedar Bluff or Victory Christian.

3A Pleasant Valley (6-4) at Susan Moore (8-2)

Ohatchee 14, Pleasant Valley 12 Susan Moore 35, J.B. Penn. 32
Tarrant 27, Pleasant Valley 22 Susan Moore 33,Holly Pond 20
Pleast.Val. 42,White Plns. 0 Susan Moore 20, Pisgah 9
Pleasant Valley 28,Walter Well. 7 Susan Moore 33, New Hope 0
Pleasant Valley 33, Jackson. 27 Oneonta 42, Susan Moore 7
Leeds 51, Pleasant Valley 7 Susan Moore 20, Sylvania 14
Piedmont 42, Pleasant Valley 21 S.Moore 39, Brindlee Mtn. 14
Pleasant Valley 22, Glencoe 21 Susan Moore 8, Sardis 6
Pleasant Valley 21,Weaver 7 Susan Moore 38, Crossville 6
Pleasant Valley 21, Fultondale 8 Locust Fork 8, Susan Moore 7

The Raiders are coming off one of their best performances of the season while the Bulldogs are coming off one of their worst.

Pleasant Valley head coach Jeff Davis has a gritty team that will not go down without a fight. The Raiders won their last two region games to lock up the No. 4 seed out of Region 5 and then forced six turnovers to take out athletic Fultondale last week. Pleasant Valley has eight offensive starters returning from last year’s 7-4 2A playoff team. The Raider offense is led by junior quarterback Michael Lockridge (6’1, 165-lbs.) who throws pretty well (5 of 10 for 127 yards and one touchdown last week) and is mobile enough (ran 59 yards for the Raiders’ first score last week) to make plays. His touchdown pass last week went to tailback Kyle Bean (5’11, 170-lbs. Soph.), who rushed for more than 1400 yards as a freshman. The Raider offensive and defensive lines are aggressive but not very big (avg. 210 lbs.). The Pleasant Valley defense struggled at times this year but has really come on over the last couple of weeks. Fultondale had run the ball on every team it had faced but did very little last week against Pleasant Valley. The Raider defensive front is not dominant but very active and aggressive. The Pleasant Valley secondary has been very solid on the year and has made plays against the pass. The kicking game is good but the punting and coverage have been suspect.

Susan Moore got knocked off stride last week but needs to put things back together in a hurry. Locust Fork took advantage of Bulldog mistakes to get the win and Pleasant Valley is the same type team. The Susan Moore offense has gotten good production from the running game over the second half of the season but the Bulldogs will be without leading rusher Blake Weaver who is now out for the year due to injury. The running game will again turn to more of a committee approach with Juan Espinoza, John Evatt, Victor Estrada, and possibly Junior Diaz sharing the carries. Quarterback Justin Hawkins and receivers George Purpura and Trey Parsons will be challenged by what has been a very solid Pleasant Valley secondary. The Raiders have done a decent job against the pass but have struggled against some of the more explosive offenses they have seen (Tarrant, Piedmont, Jacksonville), however, most of the better teams have moved the ball on the ground not through the air. Susan Moore needs to run, even without Weaver in the backfield. The Bulldog defense must continue to play physical across the front and contain a Pleasant Valley offense that has some playmakers. Limiting Bean on the ground will be key. If he is kept in check, it will be easier for Flavio Guerrero and the Bulldog defense to keep Lockridge under fire with penetration and pressure. Bulldog special teams need to have a good week.

Next week – With a win this week, Susan Moore would host either Piedmont or Sardis in the second round.

3A J.B. Pennington (5-5) at Elkmont (8-2)

Susan Moore 35, J.B. Penn. 32 Elkmont 7, Ardmore 6
J.B. Penn. 41, Carbon Hill 13 Elkmont 14,Madison Academy 6
J.B. Pennington 40, Winfield 29 Elkmont 42,West Limestone 20
J.B. Pennington 54, Hanceville 39Elkmont 42,W.Morgan 35 4OT
J.B. Pennington 26, Cleveland 6 Elkmont 35, Clements 7
Good Hope 35, J.B. Penn. 26 Colbert County 30, Elkmont 7
Vinemont 44, J.B. Pennington 40 Elkmont 38, Colbert Heights 30
Hamilton 33, J.B. Pennington 0 Elkmont 35, Sheffield 6
J.B. Pennington 40, Danville 18 Elkmont 17, Lauderdale Co. 12
Oneonta 34, J.B. Pennington 6 Tanner 24, Elkmont 9

The Tigers must make a long trip to battle one of the heavyweights.

J.B. Pennington couldn’t take advantage of an early Redskin mistake last week and the visitors were simply too much to overcome. The Tigers were without a Devyn Murphree after he went down on the first drive but he should be back and ready to go this week. Pennington has to run the ball. The Tiger passing game has been very effective this season but the Tigers are not a straight drop-back passing team. Murphree has been able to keep defenses honest and his speed and quickness have caused some concern for the Elkmont defensive staff. Lee Morton has come back to good health after missing a game with a minor knee injury but the Tiger offensive line must give him better protection. If Murphree is able to get yards consistently against the Elkmont defense, Morton and receiver Derik Vanmaanen will be much more effective. The Tiger defense must have a good night. One bonus this week is that the Tigers are facing a spread team. Pennington has seen at least some spread in each of the last four weeks, including two teams – Hamilton and Oneonta – that are all spread, all the time. The Tiger defensive front must have a good night and get pressure on the Red Devil quarterback. Elkmont is too good to allow the quarterback to sit in the pocket and pick and choose down the field.

Elkmont may not be the most talented of the three teams that tied for first in Region 8 but the Red Devils definitely are deserving of the No. 1 seed. Former Bear Bryant quarterback Don Jacobs has taken a solid bunch of athletes and plugged them into his spread offense. The attack is led by quarterback Dylan Brazeel (6’1, 190-lbs. Jr) who has thrown for 22 touchdowns and better than 1500 yards on the year. His favorite targets are the interchangeable duo of David Solomon (5’11, 170-lbs. Sr) and Ian Milan (5’8, 160-lbs. Jr), each of whom are capable of making the spectacular catch and then picking up big yards afterward. The Red Devil offensive line has decent size (avg. 220 lbs.) and this group has been very solid on the year. Only Colbert County and Tanner were able to get much of a push against the Elkmont offensive front. The Red Devil defense has been pretty consistent on the year. The strong, physical running games (West Morgan, Colbert County, Tanner) were able to cause some problems but the Elkmont defensive front has otherwise held up pretty well. Jacobs may not be a wishbone man but he does have one common belief with the Bear – to be a championship football team, you must play good defense. Elkmont special teams have been very good throughout the year.

Next week – With a win, J.B. Pennington will either travel to Good Hope or host Colbert County.

4A Oneonta (8-2) at Midfield (9-1)

Last year – Oneonta 40, J.B. Pennington 7

Oneonta 58, Arab 31 Midfield 34, Tarrant 0
Oneonta 35, Jacksonville 14 Midfield 54, Corner 0
Oneonta 68, Locust Fork 24 Midfield 46, Dora 0
Cherokee County 37, Oneonta 21Midfield 49,West Point 14
Oneonta 42, Susan Moore 7 Midfield 23, Jackson Olin 18
Oneonta 41, Ashville 17 Midfield 21, Brookwood 14
Oneonta 38,Hokes Bluff 14 Midfield 32, Fayette County 19
Oneonta 27, Alexandria 21 Midfield 20, Oak Grove 14
St. Clair County 14, Oneonta 6 Midfield 30,Haleyville 7
Oneonta 34, J.B. Pennington 6 Fairfield 41,Midfield 23

Two ways to look at this one – pity Oneonta for falling to fourth in the region or pity Midfield for drawing a very tough fourth seed.

Oneonta took care of business last week after a bit of a rough start. You can bet that Gardner Gilliland and his Redskin coaching staff have talked about starts this week. Against the better competition on the schedule, the Redskins have shot themselves in the foot. Oneonta trailed Cherokee County 28-0 after the first quarter and Alexandria 14-0 at the half, and led St. Clair County just 6-0 at the break. Midfield is good enough on their own and don’t need any help from the Redskins. These teams are familiar with each other. Midfield beat Oneonta 27-21 at Gilbreath Stadium in 2006 and then wrecked the Redskins 46-10 last year at home. Oneonta needs to play solid football. Midfield is good enough to make plays but so are the Redskins.

The Redskin offense needs to avoid turnovers and not put the Oneonta defense in tough situations. Midfield will try to take away the Oneonta running game and that could leave Nolen Smith one-on-one on the outside – a situation tailor-made for a big play. The Redskin offensive line will have a size advantage and needs to pound a Midfield defense that is coming off a very tough game last week. The Redskin defense needs to play fast and aggressive, especially across the front early in the game and show the Midfield skill kids that they are in for a long night. The Patriots have playmakers at all the skill spots and Oneonta must tackle well to limit the big plays and make the home team drive the football. Oneonta special teams need to make a couple of big plays.

Midfield ran through Region 5 with only a tough game against Fayette County (closer than the score would indicate) and a near-upset by Oak Grove causing concern. The Patriots have a solid quarterback in Justin Evans, who has made plays all year. Despite playing with an injured rib, he completed 26 of 35 passes for 337 yards and one touchdown last week against 5A Fairfield.

Darrell Sanders (5’10, 185-lbs. Sr) is the most dangerous of the Patriots. He is a threat to go the distance any time he touches the football, although better defenses (Jackson Olin, Fairfield, even Oak Grove) have been able to keep him in check. He had just 83 yards on the ground last week and another 41 receiving – well below his 200 yard per game average. The Midfield scheme on offense is all about getting the skill players in the open. The Patriot offensive and defensive lines are not as big as they have been but these groups have been very solid. Midfield averages about 210 lbs. across both fronts and several linemen will go both ways. The Fairfield spread offense was able to find all kinds of room last week and Oneonta will give the Patriots some of the same looks. The Midfield secondary has had problems tackling at times and has gotten lost in pass coverage. The return game is very good but kicking and punting are not strengths.

Next week – With a win, Oneonta would either travel to Alexandria or host Haleyville.