Susan Moore opens on Thursday night

WEEK 1 PREVIEW

Susan Moore’s Sergio Olguin finds room against Springville in last week’s jamboree.

Susan Moore’s Sergio Olguin finds room against Springville in last week’s jamboree.

The high school football season kicks off this week – and there could be some dodging of rain for the next couple of nights, depending on what Isaac does.

The season will get started with a renewal of an old rivalry tomorrow night ( Thursday) when Susan Moore visits West End.

The other teams in the county will be in action Friday night. Cleveland travels to J.B. Pennington, Locust Fork goes to New Hope, Hayden hosts Sylacauga, Oneonta travels to Pinson Valley, and Southeastern will play its first game by hosting Falkville at Locust Fork.

Thursday, Aug. 30

Oneonta quarterback Cody O’Toole releases a pass during last week’s jamboree against Alexandria.

Oneonta quarterback Cody O’Toole releases a pass during last week’s jamboree against Alexandria.

3A Susan Moore (5-5) at 2A West End (3-7)

All-time – West End leads the series 19-12

Last meeting – (2007)

West End 6, Susan Moore 0

The Patriots and Bulldogs get together for the first time in five years.

Susan Moore will look to get the running game going against a West End defense that had plenty of trouble stopping the run last year. The Bulldog offensive line – which averages about 260 lbs. – will be the strength of the team and they will be working against a West End defense that is lacking in bodies. Preston Kent leads a deep group of running backs for Susan Moore. The running game needs to produce while the new quarterback and receivers develop. If the Bulldogs can establish the running game, then the passing game should find plenty of room downfield against a secondary that may be forced to come up and help against the run. The Bulldog defense must control the line of scrimmage against West End’s rebuilt offensive front. If Susan Moore can get a handle on the West End running game early then the Patriots will be forced to pass. Bulldog special teams need to make a play or two this week.

Cleveland running back Patrick Johnson takes the pitch.

Cleveland running back Patrick Johnson takes the pitch.

Randy Hallmark is back at West End and he has brought the Wing-T with him. Hallmark was 64-26 from 1990-1997 and went three years (1993-1995) without losing a regular season game. This year’s group of Patriots has a ways to go but there is some talent on the roster. The Patriots have some size up front (avg. 225 lbs.) on offense and this is a group that will have to play well this week. West End will try to pound out first downs and grind the clock and play keep-away from the Susan Moore offense. Quarterback Levi Weems (6’0, 170 Jr) will be a key against the Bulldog defense. If the Patriots have trouble establishing a running game, he will have to make plays through the air. The Patriot defense held up fairly well last year against straightahead running teams. It was the speed of teams like Fultondale and Tanner and the wide-open passing of Oakman and Ashville that gave the Patriots problems. Patriot special teams are a bit of a question mark.

Next week – Susan Moore stays on the road to open region play against Cleveland; West End goes on the road to open region play at Ider.

Friday, Aug. 31

1A Meek (1-9) at Appalachian (6-5)

All-time – this is the first meeting

New coach, new region – huge 1A Region 6 game starts the Eagle season.

Meek won the first game of the 2011 season – a 26-21 come-from-behind victory over Tharptown – and was then trampled eight straight times. The season ended with a 20-19 loss at Jacksonville Christian to complete the 1- 9 campaign. Lance Archer’s team has a lot of kids returning and the Tigers should be improved. The Tigers have some size up front (avg. 230 lbs.) and big fullback Cameron Hallmark (5’10, 210 Sr) fits in nicely with the ground-and-pound Tiger offense. If the Tiger offensive line is able to control the line of scrimmage, Hallmark can wear down the second level of a defense. The Tiger defense gave up more than 40 points per game last year and decent offenses ran up and down the field on them night after night. The Tigers are expected to be solid up front and at linebacker but the secondary is a big question mark. Meek special teams haven’t been very special at all the last couple of years.

The Eagles will look to get something going offensively this week after really struggling in last week’s jamboree against Cleveland. Joe Willie Whited’s team turned the ball over four times and failed to establish a running game against the 3A Panthers. The offense simply has to be better this week against a Meek defense that is expected to be pretty solid across the front. The Appalachian offensive line needs to have a good night and give quarterback James McMunn time to throw and give the running backs some room. Defensively, the Eagles were pushed all over the place by Cleveland last week. The same thing cannot happen this week. If Meek is able to pound the ball between the tackles with their 210-lb. fullback, it may mean the Eagles are in for a long night. The rebuilt Eagle special teams might be called on to make a play.

Next week – Meek takes on out of region trip to Woodville; Appalachian travels to Sumiton Christian for a big 1A Region 6 game.

3A Cleveland (3-7) at J.B. Pennington (0-10)

All-time series –

J.B. Pennington leads 31-19-4

Last meeting – (2009)

Cleveland 21, J.B. Pennington 20

Two teams looking for an early shot of confidence meet Friday night in Blountsville.

Danny Adams has been in charge of the Cleveland program for a little more than a year and he seems to have everything going in the right direction. The Panthers are far from a finished product but this is a team that may be able to make a little noise in their first season in Class 3A. Cleveland chewed up chunks of yardage in last week’s jamboree win over Appalachian and will look to do the same this week. The Panther offensive line is not huge but a year in the weight room has apparently made a difference. If the Cleveland front is able to control the Pennington defensive line then speedy Trevor Yates will be able to find a crease or two and make some plays. The Panther passing game was efficient last week (5 of 7 for 151 yards) and look for Christian Collum to throw even more this week. The Cleveland defense never gave the Eagles an inch. The Panther defensive front will face a similar offense this week and look for Pennington to try to slow down the Cleveland rush with a draw or screen every now and then. Cleveland special teams could be tested this week.

J.B. Pennington got off to a pretty good start last week against Vinemont. Actually, the start wasn’t great. Vinemont took an early lead but the Tigers forced four first-half turnovers and led 18-7 at the half. Vinemont had a big third quar- ter to get the win but the Tigers showed in the first half what the are capable of. Pennington will work out of the spread and that means sophomore quarterback Brandon Butts will need to play well. That’s a lot to put on a youngster but Butts isn’t your typical sophomore. If the Tiger offensive line can keep the Panther pass rush off of him, Butts may be able to find some openings in the Cleveland secondary. He is also a threat to run the ball. The Pennington defense played well early last week and forced some turnovers but they also got worn down as the night went on. Cleveland will look to pound on the Tiger defensive front and this group simply has to hold up. The Panthers have speed to go with a 230-lb. senior quarterback. The Tigers must tackle both to have a chance. Tiger special teams will probably have to have a good night.

Next week – Cleveland returns home to open 3A Region 5 play with Susan Moore; Pennington travels to Pisgah for the 3A Region 6 opener.

5A Sylacauga (5-5) at Hayden (5-5)

All-time series – this is the first meeting

The Aggies and Wildcats will look to start the season with a win.

Sylacauga put together a decent year in 2011 but couldn’t win a big game. The Aggies were just 2-5 in 5A Region 5 and were blown out by Chelsea (35-13), Center Point (33-10), and Briarwood Christian (42-21). Matt Griffith is starting his eighth season as head coach of the Aggies and he has some talent on the roster. The Sylacauga offensive line will average about 235 lbs. and there is some experience returning up front. The skill kids are young but there is plenty of speed in the group. Sylacauga must do a better job of holding on to the football as turnovers were a huge problem last year. Defensively, the Aggies really struggled last year against balanced offenses. Chelsea and Briarwood were able to balance the run and the pass and the Aggies had almost no chance of slowing them down. The Sylacauga defensive front is big (avg. 240 lbs.) and the linebackers are active but there are depth issues across the front seven. The secondary has a ton of experience returning. Aggie special teams are expected to be very solid.

Hayden coach Steven Kerby has a solid roster at his disposal this year. The Wildcats have a good mixture of size and speed and Kerby has installed his complete offensive package. The Hayden offense needs to have good quarterback play and senior Corey Ward has the size (6’3, 195), speed, and arm strength needed. The receivers and running backs are talented and Ward should have chances to find his playmakers working behind a veteran line with size (avg. 255 lbs.). The Hayden defense struggled stopping offenses with speed last year and Sylacauga will present some problems. The Aggies have an experienced offensive line and good speed at the skill positions. The Wildcat front must control the line of scrimmage and tackle well. Sylacauga has several running backs and receivers that will be hard to handle if they get past he second level. Hayden special teams will be seriously tested this week. Hayden might be catching the Aggies at a good time – Sylacauga’s home-opener is next week against Briarwood Christian, a noted Aggie destroyer.

Next week – Sylacauga returns home to face Briarwood Christian; Hayden opens the region schedule with a visit from Springville.

4A Locust Fork (1-9) at 3A New Hope (3-7)

All-time series – Locust Fork leads 5-2

Last meeting – (2003) Locust Fork 34, New Hope 28

Which defense has improved the most in the offseason?

Locust Fork head coach Mike Bramblett believes his team is ready for a turnaround in his second season. In his first year, the Hornets showed some explosiveness on offense but struggled on the defensive side. If the Hornet offense is called on to outscore people this year, they just might be up to the challenge. Geoffrey Bramblett has the arm to put the ball anywhere it needs to be and he has complete control of the offense. He has plenty of help around him with a deep receiving corps, talent at running back, and an offensive line with size and experience. The key is the rebuilt defense. There is a ton of experience back on defense for the Hornets but this is a group that gave up 50 points per game last year. New Hope has speed in spots and Locust Fork must get a handle on the Indian skill players early in this game. Hornet coverage units must have a good night. If they do, Locust Fork could have a huge advantage in the kicking game.

New Hope was similar to Locust Fork last year. The Indians put up some points (27 per game) but gave up even more (33 per game. Over the final three games of the 2011 season, New Hope scored 32, 41, and 35 points – and lost all three games to Plainview (55-32), Sylvania (42-41), and Ashville (50-35). The Indians lost their senior quarterback, who transferred to Hazel Green, but they have one of the most dangerous running backs around in Jonathan Ford. The 5’11, 190-lb. senior is a Vanderbilt commitment and is coming off a junior season in which he rushed for 1526 yards on 155 carries with 23 touchdowns. He also caught 18 passes for 245 yards and returned three kicks for scores. Speedy? Yep. He was clocked at 4.41 while camping at the University of Tennessee this summer. The Indians will look to get him involved in a variety of ways on offense. The Indian defense struggled to stop the run last year and the Hornets may look to test the interior of the New Hope defense early this week. Ford is a terror on returns but New Hope special teams are not very special otherwise.

Next week – Locust Fork returns home for the 4A Region 6 opener with Sardis; New Hope opens 3A Region 6 play with a trip to Sylvania.

4A No. 1 Oneonta (12-3) at 5A No. 3 Pinson Valley (9-3)

All-time series – Oneonta leads 7-5

Last meeting – (1999) Pinson Valley 48, Oneonta 0

Nothing like a battle of ranked teams to start the season.

The Redskins are looking to get off to a good start but it won’t be easy. The Redskin offense must be able to run the ball to take some of the pressure off the new quarterback. That said, the passing game will not be abandoned by any means. Cody O’Toole has gotten better throughout the fall and he has a pair of serious weapons outside in Alvin Scott and Jalen Johnson. If the Redskins are able to run the ball between the tackles behind their veteran offensive line, then O’Toole should have time to throw. If the Indian defensive front is able to stuff the running game, then the talented Pinson Valley defensive ends could cause trouble off the edges. The Redskin defense will face a balanced Pinson offense. The Oneonta defense is replacing the heart of the defense – a tackle, middle linebacker, and both safeties. The new starters are very talented but will need to play well on opening night. The Redskins will follow the same plan – stop the Indian running game and make Pinson Valley throw the ball. Oneonta special teams are as good as any around and will need to play well Friday night.

Pinson Valley is loaded this year, thanks to a senior class that is 32-strong. Matt Glover has his team ready after last week’s 7-7 tie with Hewitt-Trussville in a jamboree. The Indians didn’t show much that night but sophomore running back Nick Gibson (6’0, 185) stood out with 86 yards and a touchdown. He has the talent to be a difference-maker for the Indians. Pinson struggled to throw the ball last week (just 49 yards) as new quarterback Brooks Garrett was running for his life most of the night. Pinson is big up front (avg. 265 lbs.) but the Hewitt defensive front kept pressure on Garrett all night and sacked him five times. If he finds time to throw the ball, Auburn commitment Earnest Robinson (6’2, 205) will be tough to cover. The Indian defense improved throughout the year in 2011 and played well for the most part last week. Linebacker Zach Cunningham (6’4, 205 Sr.) is getting some looks from D-1 schools. He plays behind a big defensive front (avg. 270 lbs.) so he usually is free to run to the ball. The Indian linebackers and secondary are quick and active. Pinson special teams are expected to be a strength but these units made mistakes last week.

Next week – Oneonta jumps into 4A Region 6 play with a trip to Guntersville; Pinson Valley travels to Mortimer Jordan for the 5A Region opener.

1A Region 6 Falkville (1-9) vs Southeastern (0-0) at Locust Fork

All-time series – This is the first meeting

The first Mustang football team tests the waters of 1A Region 6.

Falkville really struggled in Class 2A last year. The Blue Devils scored in double figures just once and that was in a 41-14 blowout loss at Sumiton Christian to open the season. The point totals for the remainder of the year went 0, 8, 8, 7, 6, 2, 7, 0, and 6. That’s an average of 5.8 points per game. New head coach Joel Schrenk will look to change that. He’s already made an impression because the Blue Devils will dress 35 players – their highest number in years. Falkville has some talent and size across the offensive and defensive lines (avg. 235 lbs. across both fronts) but speed and quickness at the skill positions will need to develop. Quarterback Aaron Estes (6’1, 165 Jr) is a very good athlete and he will need to carry the load at times for the Blue Devils. The Blue Devil defense is big across the front but teams with speed and quickness just ran away from them a year ago. Southeastern has a little speed and will need to test the edges of the Falkville defense early Friday night. Blue Devil special teams are average.

Keith Moore’s Mustangs will probably have some opening jitters but they will need to settle in quickly against a region opponent that is looking to be improved from last year. The Mustangs have had a good fall camp but the lack of numbers on the roster has caused problems practicing against a full offensive or defensive look. The Southeastern passing game has been slow to come around so the running game will be key Friday night. The Mustangs have a little bit of size up front and that offensive line will need to play well. Defensively, the Mustangs will face a Falkville team that struggled to get anything going last year. The Blue Devils are supposed to be opening the offense up a bit this year but don’t be surprised if the Blue Devils don’t just try to pound a way behind their big offensive line.

Next week – Falkville will host region foe Shades Mtn. Christian for the home opener; Southeastern has a bye week.