2005 Prep football playoff preview

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Ten Shelby County high school football teams will take the field this Friday night in the first round of the 2005 AHSAA and AISA playoffs.

From the Shelby Academy Raiders, whose playoff spot was reserved soon after the season started, to the Shelby County Wildcats, a team that clinched a berth only after defeating rival Chelsea last week, every team’s trip has been a different one.

The 2005 regular season has been full of uplifting and heartbreaking moments; but as the teams take the field this weekend, it’s a sure bet that the drama will be bigger and better than ever.

John Carroll (4-6) at Oak Mountain (7-3), 7 p.m.

The Oak Mountain Eagles have had what many consider one of the school’s best season.

Playing in a difficult Class 6A, Region 6 with the likes of Hoover, Pelham and Mountain Brook, the Eagles have proven they are a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.

Oak Mountain earned itself a first round home game this year with an overall record of 7-3, good enough for the second seed in the region. The Eagles will play John Carroll (4-6) Friday night at Heardmont Park.

The Cavaliers have struggled in

non-region games this year including a loss to Fairfield last week, 27-14. But John Carroll’s 3-2 region record in the difficult Class 6A, Region 5 makes them a quality opponent for the Eagles.

&8220;They have a lot of kids with a bunch of talent,&8221; Oak Mountain head coach Jerry Hood said. &8220;They can all catch and run, so we’re going to have to prevent the big plays.&8221;

Hood said his team has remained focused this week in practice and is treating this game like any other.

&8220;We’ve got to be better every week,&8221; Hood said. &8220;It doesn’t matter who we play.&8221;

Pelham (6-4) at Tuscaloosa County (10-0), 7 p.m.

The Pelham Panthers have had a rollercoaster ride of a season.

The Panthers have won big games, such as their defeat of rival Thompson in Week 7, but have struggled at other times, including losses to Oak Mountain and Mountain Brook in Region 6 matchups.

As the team prepares to face its most formidable opponent of 2005 in Tuscaloosa County (10-0), a team that knocked off superpower Hoover in Week 5, the Panthers are hoping to start with a clean slate.

Quarterback Josh Thomason has been a consistent force for the Panthers this year, completing 185-of-282 passes for 2,009 yards and 14 interceptions.

The Panthers’ slinger has struggled with turnovers, however, giving the ball to the opposition’s defense 13 times this season.

Thomason and receivers Andrew Davis and Brandon Billings must have stand-out performances if they want to have a chance against the dominant Wildcats.

On defense, the Panthers are led by senior Cody Wash, who has notched 122 tackles this season and has three interceptions.

The Panthers are coming off a difficult loss to non-region opponent Clay-Chalkville in Week 10, while the No. 2-ranked Wildcats soundly defeated Paul W. Bryant High School, 46-19, last Friday night.

Pleasant Grove (6-4) at Briarwood (8-2), 7 p.m.

The Briarwood Lions have been a dominant force in Class 5A, Region 3 this season finishing with an overall record of 8-2 and a region record of 6-1.

The Lions’ only region loss came to 5A No. 1-ranked Homewood in week 8.

Briarwood has proven itself to be a powerhouse in Class 5A ball, and against 6A teams Vestavia Hills and Thompson.

Briarwood hosts Pleasant Grove (6-4), the bottom seed of Region 4, at Lion’s Pride Stadium Friday night.

The Spartans played the likes of McAdory (9-1) and Jess Lanier (9-1) this season and held their own with a 4-3 region record.

Lions’ quarterback Barrett Trotter and all-purpose back Bo Walters have led their team in its quest for a state title this season.

Trotter has completed 141-of-230 passes this season for 1,703 yards and 15 touchdowns.

At the same time, the Lions’ slinger has protected the ball, giving up a stingy four interceptions in the regular season.

Grant Luke has done his part this season for Briarwood, reeling in 42 passes for 635 yards and reaching the end zone five times in 2005.

The Lions are coming off a 30-17 win over Lee-Huntsville while the Spartans lost to 6A Mountain Brook in their final regular season game, 42-14.

Shelby County (6-4) at McAdory (9-1), 7 p.m.

The Shelby County Wildcats scraped their way into the playoffs last week with a 19-15 victory over rival Chelsea that earned head coach Bruce Breland’s team the fourth and final berth in Class 5A, Region 3.

The Wildcats entered last Friday tied with Chilton County and Valley for the final spot, leaving the teams’ non-region record as the tiebreaker.

The &8216;Cats win over the Hornets set Shelby County up to travel and face McAdory in the first round of the 5A playoffs.

McAdory won the Region 4 championship this year with a 9-1 overall record; but Breland said he believes his team will be up to the challenge ahead of them.

&8220;McAdory is a real good football team,&8221; Breland said. &8220;But by now, my guys know what they need to do and thanks to the Chelsea game they understand what kind of intensity they can expect in a playoff game.&8221;

The Wildcats will have to play without quarterback Aaron Howard, however, who suffered a finger injury in Week 10. Howard replaced injured starting QB Josh Dikis earlier in the year and proved to be a capable leader for the Wildcats. Breland said standout Tyrone Buie and Dikis will likely share the quarterback responsibilities in Friday’s matchup.

Moody (5-5) at Chelsea (8-2), 7 p.m.

The Chelsea Hornets finished off their best season in head coach Watt Parker’s career Friday night, despite losing to Shelby County, 19-5.

The Hornets used a stifling defense and a pounding running game this season to wear their opponents down, earning Chelsea an 8-2 record in 2005.

Chelsea welcomes playoff foe Moody (5-5) to Chelsea Field this weekend in a rematch of last year’s first round 4A game.

The Blue Devils from St. Clair County knocked the Hornets out of the playoffs, 35-14, in 2004, leaving Chelsea with a bitter taste in its mouth.

&8220;They’re the best 5-5 team in the state,&8221; Chelsea head coach Watt Parker said. &8220;They have a lot of returners from last year’s team and are still a very talented ball club.&8221;

The Blue Devils finished with the final playoff spot in Class 4A, Region 7, while the Hornets took home the Region 5 championship this season.

&8220;We have to see how this week progresses in practice,&8221; Parker said. &8220;How we play all depends on how we respond to last week’s loss.&8221;

Vincent (6-4) at Luverne (8-2), 7 p.m.

The Vincent Yellow Jackets quietly dominated Class 2A, Region 4 this year, but in the end the Jackets finished in a three-way tie for first place with a 6-1 region record.

Vincent’s overall record of 6-4 earned them the third berth in the region behind Gordo and Pickens County, and set the Jackets up for a matchup with Luverne (8-2).

The Tigers out of Crenshaw County will host Vincent Friday night after finishing second in Class 2A, Region 3 behind Highland Home.

Vincent will rely on the play of running back Desmond Yowe and quarterback Steven Adams.

The Jackets are coming off a 28-26 heartbreaking loss to 4A rival Montevallo last Thursday night, and head coach Dwight Spradley said he hopes his team will use the loss as a learning experience for the upcoming postseason.

Calera (5-5) at Highland Home (8-2), 7 p.m.

The Calera Eagles wrapped up the fourth and final playoff berth in Class 2A, Region 4 this season despite finishing with a 5-5 overall record.

The Eagles beat out Billingsley by one game with a 4-3 region record to finish behind Vincent, Gordo and Pickens County.

Calera drew Highland Home (8-2) in the first round of the playoffs, the top team out of the difficult Region 3.

&8220;They’re very athletic and fast,&8221; Calera head coach Lanny Jones said of Flying Squadron. &8220;If we play the way I know we can play, we’re in for a very good ballgame.&8221;

Highland Home finished right outside the top-10-ranked teams in Class 2A, garnering four votes in the AHSAA coaches’ poll.

The Shelby Academy Raiders will begin their quest for an AISA title this week as they host Lakeside Academy (8-2) out of Eufaula.

The Raiders lost in last year’s AISA title game to rival Southern Academy and finished this season with a 9-1 record, faltering only to Southern away from home earlier this year.

Lakeside Academy (8-2)

at Shelby Academy (9-1), 7:30 p.m.

The Raiders shut out eight of their 10 opponents this year and have scored 40 points or more in nine-of-10 games.

&8220;We definitely think we’ll be ready,&8221; Shelby Academy Dewayne Kervin said. &8220;The key to their game is their offense and they can really spread the field. We are definitely going to have to keep the ball away from them as much as possible.&8221;

Kervin’s squad has struggled, despite a stellar game record, to notch playing time among its starters. In almost every game this season, Kervin said he has been playing his second-string and junior high players by halftime.

&8220;We’ve been waiting a long time to play this kind of caliber team.&8221;

Pickens Academy (6-4) at Kingwood (9-1), 7:30 p.m.

The Kingwood Lions wrapped up their best season ever last week, finishing with a 9-1 record and earning a home playoff game for the first round.

The Lions will host Pickens Academy (6-4) Friday night, with the explosive duo of quarterback Andrew Pearce and receiver Cody Wells looking to light up the scoreboard like they have been doing all season long.

&8220;We’re going to continue and work the same way we’ve been working this season,&8221; Kingwood assistant coach James Lee said.

The Lions are coming off a 40-16 win over the Coosa Valley Rebels while Pickens Academy suffered a loss at the hands of AISA superpower Southern Academy Friday night, 45-13.

Cornerstone Christian (6-4) at Lowndes Academy (7-2), 7:30 p.m.

The Cornerstone Christian Chargers earned a matchup with Lowndes Academy (7-3) this week after defeating Central Academy on the road, 28-24.

The Chargers have had an up and down season this year, playing big teams such as Kingwood close but ending up with four losses.

&8220;They’re excited to be in the playoffs,&8221; Cornerstone head coach Tim Smith said of his squad’s reaction to earning a postseason berth.

&8220;We’ve already been watching a lot of tape on Lowndes, and I think there &8216;s a lot we can be doing to prepare,&8221; Smith said