Second half of region play begins Friday

Friday, Oct. 3
2A Victory Christian (4-1, 2-1 in Region 5)
at 1A Appalachian (4-1, 3-0)
Last year – did not play
Victory Chr. 10, Collinsville 7 Spring Garden 21, Appalachian 6
Ragland 20,Victory Chr. 17 Appalachian 33, Jax Christian 6
Victory Chr. 28, Jackson. Chr. 14 Appalachian 47, Coosa Chr. 6
Victory Chr. 22, Coosa Chr. 19 Appalachian 54, St. Bernard 0
Victory Chr. 26, ASD 15 Appalachian 13,Westbrook 6

The Eagles get a chance to wrap up a playoff spot but it may not be as easy as some might think.

Second-year head coach Scotty Smith, who was an assistant at Cleveland before taking the job at the private Pell City school, has done a nice job with the Lions. Victory has moved down this year from Class 2A to 1A and the difference is evident. Smith’s team dresses about 30 kids and plays most of the skill kids – but few of the linemen – both ways. The Lions are a spread team that can move the ball with junior quarterback Michael Kirby (5’9, 155-lbs.) directing the show. His best game came in week four against Coosa Christian when he completed 18 of 34 passes for 285 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. His leading receiver is Josh Tinsley who caught six passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns against Coosa. The Lions will run the ball behind an offensive line that has decent size (avg. 200 lbs.). Lee Ferrell (6’0, 270-lbs. Sr) is the best of the offensive linemen. Defensively, Victory is small but aggressive across the front. The Lions will try to get penetration with the defensive front and linebackers and that has worked in just about every game this year. Victory has played solid football week in and week out and appears to thrive in close games.

The Eagles had been rolling merrily along, thumping average or below-average teams. Last week’s win over Westbrook Christian showed that the Eagles are capable of beating good teams, as well. The Appalachian offensive and defensive fronts played well and allowed the Eagles to run the ball and control the Warrior running game. This week, the Eagles will face an undersized Lion defensive front and the home team needs to get the running game going early to wear down the visitors. This will be a good test because even Ragland – in Victory’s lone loss this year – struggled to run the ball consistently against the Lions. The Appalachian passing game hasn’t been consistent but the big play early last week was a 21-yard touchdown pass from Jeremy Hill to Colby Harvey. Defensively, Appalachian needs to get some pressure on Kirby and not let him get into a rhythm in the passing game. If the Eagle front can mount a pass rush, then the linebackers and secondary can play coverage without having to blitz. Kirby and Tinsley are more than talented enough to make plays in the passing game. Harvey and the return units might be able to break loose this week.

Next week – Each team will be on the road in Jefferson County as Victory plays at Parkway Christian and Appalachian travels to Jefferson Christian.

Cleveland 20, Locust Fork 15 Oakman 40, Northside 0
Sulligent 47, Cleveland 6 Winston County 7, Oakman 6
Lamar County 42, Cleveland 25 Oakman 14, Falkville 7
Cleveland 56, Cold Springs 6 Addison 33, Oakman 0
J.B. Pennington 26, Cleveland 6 Col.Heights 62, Oakman 42

2A Cleveland (2-3, 1-2 in Region 7)

at Oakman (2-3, 1-2)

Last year – did not play

With each team 1-2 in the region, this game definitely qualifies as a playoff eliminator.

The Panthers have been about as hot-andcold this year as a team can be. Even last week, Cleveland made plays at times on both sides of the ball but consistency remains elusive. Good news this week is that Colbert Heights runs the same type of spread offense that the Panthers run and Oakman had all kinds of problems slowing down the Wildcats last week. The Panther passing game has weapons but the offensive line must provide protection and give Dusty Cornelius time to throw. When the passing game is clicking, that opens up the running lanes for Billy Rushing. The Panther defense didn’t play bad football last week and held the Pennington offense to just 26 points – the Tigers lowest output of the year. The challenge this week comes from facing an Oakman offense that can do a bit of everything and will line up in a variety of formations. The key for the Panther defense is to get lined up correctly first and then play physical against an Oakman offensive front that has some size. Cleveland coverage teams need to play well against Oakman’s speedy return men but the Wildcats have struggled covering kicks themselves this year.

Oakman has been either very good (blowout of Northside, close loss to 2A No. 7 Winston County) or very bad (horrible losses the last two weeks). Mike Cain’s team has some talent but the Wildcats haven’t quite put things together yet. Oakman has an offense that will show just about any formation that is possible. Spread, split-backs, pro-set – you name it and you might see it. Oakman has several speedy backs but the most dangerous is probably senior Damiane Douglas who had just six carries last week but picked up 171 yards and scored on runs of 96 and 60 yards. The offensive line has good size (avg. 225 lbs.) but little depth. The Wildcats had trouble stopping the spread of Colbert Heights last week and struggled when Addison ran it down their throat in week four. Oakman lost a starting senior middle linebacker in the season opener but the linebackers are considered to be the strength of the defense. Colbert Heights exposed some gaping holes in the Wildcat secondary and look for more stunts and blitzes from the front this week to create pressure. Oakman has done a good job forcing turnovers and at one point had surrendered 13 points while forcing 12 turnovers. Douglas, and several others, are return threats but coverage units have struggled.

Next week – Cleveland host region-leading Winston County while Oakman travels to Cold Springs.

3A J.B. Pennington (4-1, 3-0 in Region 7)
at Good Hope (3-2, 2-1)
Last year – did not play
Susan Moore 35, J.B. Penn. 32 West Point 21, Good Hope 14
J.B. Penn. 41, Carbon Hill 13 Hamilton 38, Good Hope 16
J.B. Pennington 40, Winfield 29 Good Hope 38, Danville 13
J.B. Penn. 54,Hanceville 39 Good Hope 20,Vinemont 13
J.B. Pennington 26, Cleveland 6 Good Hope 24, Fultondale 14

The battle for playoff positioning begins and the Tigers have a tough draw on the road.

Pennington needs to win to keep pace with Hamilton – the only other undefeated team in Region 7 – but it won’t be easy. The Tigers have been playing very good on the offensive side of the ball but have given up some yards and points on defense. That changed last week in a solid road win at Cleveland. The Tigers used the running game – a traditional Pennington strength – and good defense to limit the Panthers. Good Hope will challenge the Tigers with a bit more traditional attack and will look to establish the run early. Pennington must do a good job across the defensive front to limit what has becoming a very strong Good Hope running game. On the other side of the ball, the Tigers must get the running game started to open up the passing game. Good Hope gave up some plays through the air early in the season but the last three opponents have been run-first (and maybe run-only) attacks. The Tigers have relied on the speed and quickness of Devyn Murphree but it may be the power of Cody Hodge from the fullback spot that will be needed to bludgeon the Raiders early this week.

Good Hope coach Chris Moss has a solid football team. The Raiders struggled a bit early against a pair of good football teams but have played very sound football the last three weeks. This with a schedule that called for four of the first five games to be played on the road. The Raider wing-T offense revolves around the play of fullback Jake King (5’8, 155-lbs. Sr) and tailback Taylor Hollis (6’1, 200-lbs. Jr). They run behind a line that has good size – avg. 220 lbs. – but its a line that has a new 180-pound starter at right tackle after the first-teamer (who weighed 325 pounds) suddenly transferred. The Raiders can throw the ball but the run is the bread and butter. Defensively, other than the spread attack of Hamilton, teams have struggled moving the ball consistently against the Raiders. The defensive front has good size and the linebackers are active and athletic. The secondary was exposed a bit against Hamilton but has held up well since week two. Special teams are solid.

Next week – Each team will be at home as Pennington hosts Vinemont and Hanceville travels to Good Hope.

3A Sylvania (3-2, 3-0 in Region 6)
at Susan Moore (4-1, 3-0)
Last year – Sylvania 30, Susan Moore 6
Geraldine 27, Sylvania 14 Susan Moore 35, J.B. Penn. 32
Sylvania 39, Crossville 7 Susan Moore 33,Holly Pond 20
Sylvania 28, Sardis 3 Susan Moore 20, Pisgah 9
Sylvania 43, Brindlee Mtn. 0 Susan Moore 33, New Hope 0
Plainview 28, Sylvania 13 Oneonta 42, Susan Moore 7

The winner is all alone in first place in the region and guaranteed a playoff spot.

The Rams are a solid, workman-like football team that will not try to trick you. Sylvania will line up and come right at the opposition on both sides of the ball. They are also a wing-T team on offense that has backs that may be big- ger than the line. Heath Shankles (5’10, 200- lbs.) leads the team from his wing position with 387 yards on 50 carries while fullback Logan Jones (6’0, 220-lbs.) has picked up 327 yards on 65 carries. Quarterback Dakota Patterson will run – 396 yards rushing – and throws it a little – 17 of 36 for 383 yards, three touchdowns, three interception. Almost all of the passing comes from play-action. Sylvania runs the ball 80 percent of the time and has picked up 1178 yards (235 per game) on the year. The Ram defense is tough. Geraldine stung the Rams on the ground and Plainview’s spread caused some problems through the air but Sylvania choked the life out of Crossville, Sardis, and Brindlee Mtn. The linebackers and secondary are the strength of the unit but the defensive front has played solid. Plainview spread out the Rams and caused some match-up problems – something you can bet the Bulldog coaching staff noticed. Sylvania plays as many as eight players both ways so the Bulldogs may look to speed the tempo up again this week.

Susan Moore played with emotion last week and must get back up this week. Oneonta was much bigger across both the offensive and defensive fronts and the Bulldogs were never able to make much of a dent in the Redskin lines. Sylvania is not as big as Oneonta and the Bulldogs will need to get a better push across both fronts this week. The Bulldog passing game could give the Rams some trouble. Sylvania gave up some plays to Plainview’s spread offense last week and the Bulldogs have some of the same formations in the playbook. The secondary is a strength for Sylvania but Susan Moore still needs to test the Rams deep. The Bulldog defense will face an offense that had rather grind down the opposition than necessarily hit an opponent with the big play. The Rams have some speed and quickness at the skill spots and will pose problems with a running quarterback. Susan Moore must play well across the front to keep the Bulldog secondary from having to make plays against the running game. If Sylvania is able to run the ball with authority, then the Ram play-action passing game becomes even more dangerous. Susan Moore’s George Purpura and Trey Parsons could test Sylvania coverage units.

Next week – Sylvania hosts Pisgah while Susan Moore goes on the road at Brindlee Mtn.

4A Locust Fork (2-3, 1-2 in Region 6)
at Alexandria (4-1, 3-0)
Last year – Locust Fork 34, Corner 13
Cleveland 20, Locust Fork 15 Alexandria 9, Anniston 0
Hokes Bluff 34, Locust Fork 12 Cherokee Co. 27, Alexandria 21
Oneonta 68, Locust Fork 24 Alexandria 28, St. Clair Co. 21
Locust Fork 24, Ashville 19 Alexandria 49, Jacksonville 13
Locust Fork 40, Corner 29 Alexandria 42,Walter Well. 19

The Hornets must make one of the tougher trips in North Alabama.

Locust Fork has put together back to back weeks of solid football and should be feeling a bit better about life. The Hornets were able to run the ball almost at will against Ashville and Corner and that has been the difference. Colton Armstrong has done a nice job carrying the football since injuries forced his move to running back from wide receiver and Tyler Junk flashed some promise last week with a pair of touchdowns. Locust Fork must be able to run the football this week. Alexandria is explosive offensively and the Hornets need to pound the football, move the chains, and keep the Valley Cub offense off the field. Cherokee County was able to run the ball against Alexandria but most teams have struggled moving the ball on the ground. The Hornet defense has not been dominant but this unit has made some plays, particularly over the last couple of weeks. Alexandria has as many weapons on offense as any team in the region. The Valley Cubs will run the ball and then throw off the play-action but the Cubs can also line up with multiple wideouts if need be.

Alexandria is in the running for a home playoff game and Frank Tucker’s Valley Cubs are very talented. Terrell Stewart (5’10, 175-lbs. Sr) is a big-play threat at running back and the Valley Cub offensive line, which averages 225 lbs., has been able to give him plenty of room to operate. The Valley Cub offense is led by Ethan Vinyard (6’0, 180-lbs. Sr) who is simply a wonderful athlete that can run and throw. He is a smart, steady leader for the Valley Cubs. The Alexandria defense gave up some plays against Cherokee County and St. Clair County but has not surrendered much the last couple of weeks – admittedly against a pair of offensively-challenged opponents. The front has good size and quickness but depth is an issue, particularly on the interior of the defensive line. The Alexandria secondary started the year with three new faces and both Cherokee County and St. Clair County were able to make some plays through the air. Coverage will be very important this week as Stewart leads a deep and dangerous group of return men.

Next week – Locust Fork returns home to face St. Clair County while Alexandria travels to Ashville.

4A Ashville (0-5, 0-3 in Region 6)
at Oneonta (4-1, 2-1)
Last year – did not play
Albertville 38, Ashville 14 Oneonta 58, Arab 31
St. Clair County 48, Ashville 7 Oneonta 35, Jacksonville 14
Jacksonville 20, Ashville 16 Oneonta 68, Locust Fork 24
Locust Fork 24, Ashville 19 Cherokee County 37, Oneonta 21
Moody 12, Ashville 0 Oneonta 42, Susan Moore 7

The Redskins can’t get caught looking ahead.

Ashville coach Jonathan Nix is trying to get all he can out of his team but injuries have taken a heavy toll. One positive, says Nix, is that some of the younger players have come on and really grown up. The Bulldogs got back speedy running back Travis Ambrosius (5’10, 180-lbs. Sr) last week for the first time since he suffered a concussion in week one. He wasn’t able to dent the Moody defense for much but he is capable. The Ashville offense has some talent, especially with quarterback Barry Woods (6’1, 180-lbs. Sr) and receiver Xavier Newton (6’1, 205-lbs. Jr). The return of Ambrosius means that Newton can move back to receiver, his more natural position. The offensive line is undersized but center Dale McCay (5’11, 185-lbs. Sr) is the leader of the group. The Ashville defense has struggled, especially stopping the run, but the Bulldogs got their best performance of the year from the defense in last week’s close loss to 5A Moody. Middle linebacker Chase Seals (6’3, 195-lbs. Sr) is the leader of the group and he will make plays all over the field. The Bulldog secondary has seen a lot of new faces in and out of the lineup and this group really struggled against the best passing team it has seen in St. Clair County. Ambrosius and Newton are return threats but coverage teams have not been good.

Oneonta got a complete win last week with solid play from the offense, defense, and special teams. The Redskins will not deviate from the formula this week – establish the run from the spread look which creates plenty of running lanes for William Phillips and the backs. When the running game is working, look for Casey O’Toole to throw and last week’s emphasis on the deeper passing game caused all kinds of problems for Susan Moore. The Redskin offensive line will again have a size advantage this week and the big boys need to make sure Ashville knows it. The Redskin defense played fast and aggressive last week and didn’t surrender much of anything in the first half (just 54 total yards). Linebacker Joe Garrett has been steady all year and the defensive front got great play from Judd Hunt, Dylan West, David Dobson, and Hunter Dickie last week. Ashville has some speed in the skill positions and the Bulldogs have the ability to make some plays. Ashville has reached the point of almost trying anything on the offensive side so the Redskin defense needs to be ready for something different – different formations, reverses, misdirection, double passes. Oneonta must continue to tackle well. Ashville has a couple of threats in the return game but the coverage teams have been up and down.

Next week – Ashville has a home date with Alexandria while Oneonta gets Hokes Bluff for homecoming.

5A Curry (1-4, 0-4 in Region 6)
at Hayden (1-4, 1-3)
Last year – Mortimer Jordan 26, Hayden 6
Mortimer Jordan 14, Curry 6 Cullman 35,Hayden 0
Erwin 34, Curry 10 Haleyville 19,Hayden 13 2OT
Springville 50, Curry 15 Hayden 24, Brewer 0
Cullman 33, Curry 14 Walker 49,Hayden 0
Curry 27, Dora 12 Pleasant Grove 21,Hayden 9

Wildcats get a Curry team that is struggling through some growing pains. As an added bonus, it’s homecoming for the Wildcats.

Curry is in a rebuilding mode under new head coach Shay Oliver. Curry has just 34 players on the roster and injuries have really taken their toll on the team in a couple of spots. The Yellow Jackets got a big win last week against Walker County rival Dora and were more than competitive against Cullman (trailed just 14-7 at the half). Oliver’s team operates out of a wing-T set on offense with physical fullback Brian Clemons (6’2, 220-lbs. Sr) leading the way. Dylan Harbin (5’10, 160-lbs. Jr) is the halfback and possibly the speediest of the Yellow Jackets. The offensive line has some size but the best player up front is tight end Daniel Evans (6’0, 185-lbs. Sr) who is also the team’s leading receiver. Running teams – Mortimer Jordan, Erwin, Dora – have had trouble moving the Yellow Jacket defensive front. Eder Martinez (5’10, 205-lbs. Jr) leads the team in tackles from his middle linebacker spot with 60 spots and he had a season-high 18 against Cullman. The Yellow Jacket secondary has struggled when the ball is in the air. Curry special teams have been average.

Hayden needed just another play or two last week to pull off the upset at Pleasant Grove. The Wildcats gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown – on an onside kick attempt, no less – and then had the ball deep in Pleasant Grove territory before turning it over on downs and then surrendering a long touchdown run. The Wildcat running game, while not flashy, has been getting the job done with Jason Warden, Isaac Veitch, and Josh McCoy sharing the majority of the carries. The biggest problem for the Wildcat offense has been the lack of anything remotely resembling a passing game. In six attempts last week, the Wildcats completed one pass for five yards and had another picked off. That’s not good enough. Oakman has struggled in the secondary but can the Wildcats do enough through the air to make them pay? The Hayden defense has battled this year and that is a compliment. Oakman will try to run the ball between the tackles out of the wing-T and Hayden, especially linebackers Matt Brown and Owen Hargett, must keep the Yellow Jackets from wearing down the smaller Wildcats and taking control of the game down the stretch.

Next week – Each team gets a rival with Curry hosting Walker and Hayden traveling to Mortimer Jordan.