Playoffs the focus on high school football’s Week 8

Week 7 record: 8-1; Overall record: 43-18

Week 7 of the high school football season saw two streaks snapped in dramatic fashion.

Vestavia Hills had beaten Thompson 14 consecutive times, but the Warriors continued their progress under second-year coach Mark Freeman with a 17-10 win over the Rebels on Sept. 30 at Larry Simmons Stadium.

Vestavia took a 7-3 lead in the second quarter on a drive in which the Rebels converted a fourth-and-six play. Instead of succumbing to another close loss, Thompson found a way to pull out an important victory.

The game was won when quarterback Josh Huner connected with a diving Sam Holmes in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown pass on the first possession of the third quarter.

Then, the Warriors defense did not allow a single point in the second half to seal the win.

Across the county at Vincent, the Yellow Jackets ended a 19-game losing streak with a last-second tipped pass to beat Woodland, 29-27.

Having gone winless since Oct. 11, 2014, Vincent trailed 14-0 after one quarter of play and 20-8 at halftime but would not be denied.

Zavian Kelley returned the opening kickoff of the second half about 70 yards for a touchdown, and then Vincent took its first lead on a one-yard touchdown run by J.T. Youngblood in the fourth quarter.

Visiting Woodlance reclaimed the lead but left too much time (45 seconds) on the clock for the Jackets.

A 20-yard pass from Cole Fincher to Stanley Cooper with time running out —tipped and then caught, as if the ending would not have already provided enough drama—was the difference.

While no nail-biting endings or snapped streaks can be guaranteed for Week 8 of the season, the games will be worth watching nonetheless because they will go a long way toward determining playoff berths.

Spain Park (4-2) at Thompson (4-2) (Thursday)

There are plenty of reasons to believe this game will be close. Thompson has been competitive, if not dominant, in every game this season—even losses to Mountain Brook and Oak Mountain. And the Warriors lost to the Jaguars by only one point last season, 15-14. But after a midseason lull in the form of consecutive losses to Hoover and Mountain Brook, Spain Park seemed to have righted the ship in last week’s impressive 42-6 win over Huffman. The difference in this game could be that SPHS had a bye week on Sept. 23, while Thompson is playing its seventh straight game. Spain Park 20 – Thompson 14

Woodlawn (2-4) at Briarwood (5-1)

Briarwood has been nothing short of dominant after a season-opening loss to Chelsea. The Lions have since won five straight by an average score of 30-8. They will take care of business again this week even though their opponent, Woodlawn, has won its last two. Briarwood 23 – Woodlawn 14

Jemison (3-3) at Calera (4-2)

Calera needs a win over region foe Jemison in order to improve to 3-1 in region play and keep alive its hopes for the playoffs—and even possibly hosting in the first round. The Eagles won’t have an easy time with a Jemison team that has made strides since last year and is also in the middle of the playoff race. Calera 40 – Jemison 34

Pelham (1-6) at Chilton County (2-5)

Pelham has regressed after a perhaps unexpected win at Helena on Sept. 9. Since then, the Panthers are giving up an average of 41.3 points per game, and the Panthers offense hasn’t been able to do enough to keep them from avoiding losses to Chelsea, Thompson and Wetumpka. Chilton County will provide an opportunity for Pelham to pick up its second win of the season, but CCHS looks to have a little momentum, defeating Russell County two weeks ago and taking Benjamin Russell down to the wire last week. Chilton County 33 – Pelham 30

Wetumpka (6-1) at Helena (2-4)

Helena finds itself in a difficult position. The Huskies have lost two straight and three of their last four, and there are no breaks in Class 6A, Region 3. It also won’t help that Helena has been playing without its starting quarterback and has been unable to score more than 12 points the past two week. Unfortunately, Wetumpka doesn’t look like the right team to try to find your footing against. Wetumpka 27 – Helena 13

Oakman (4-2) at Montevallo (6-0)

Unbeaten Montevallo can’t afford to look ahead to next week’s visit to fellow unbeaten Gordo, or a solid Oakman team could spoil the Bulldog’s hopes for a region title. Though Oakman has dropped two straight, the Wildcats are still dangerous. However, Montevallo looks to be on a mission. Montevallo 27 – Oakman 20

Chelsea (5-1) at Opelika (6-1)

Opelika is undoubtedly one of the top team’s in the state’s 6A classification. Chelsea’s performance at Opelika this week will go a long way toward determining whether the Hornets belong in that category. Chelsea will likely benefit from a bye week on Sept. 30, but the Bulldogs may simply be too much. Opelika has outscored its region foes this season by an average of about 37-2, including 34-0 over Benjamin Russell, which handed Chelsea its only loss of the year. Still, the Hornets may present Opelika its toughest test of the year. Opelika 42 – Chelsea 28

Shelby County (3-3) at Pleasant Grove (2-4)

Shelby County desperately needs a win at Pleasant Grove to remain in the hunt for one of Class 5A, Region 5’s playoff berths. The Wildcats have dropped three straight region games and are in danger of falling out of the race, with four teams ahead of them in the standings. Backed into a corner, look for the Wildcats to put together one of their best performances of the season this week, but Pleasant Grove will be able to match their intensity, as the playoffs are also on the line for the Spartans. Pleasant Grove 21 – Shelby County 20

Oak Mountain (2-4) at Tuscaloosa County (2-5)

Oak Mountain is a better team than its record would indicate. If you take away last week’s 49-6 loss to Hoover because the Buccaneers look to be on a different level than anyone else in the region, you will see an Eagles team that seemed to find its footing after three straight losses to start the season. OMHS will prove to be the group that defeated Thompson and dominated Vestavia Hills instead of the team that could not find a win early on and lost badly to Hoover. Oak Mountain 35 – Tuscaloosa County 14.

Horseshoe Bend (3-3) at Vincent (1-5)

Vincent this week must quickly move on from the joy of snapping a 19-game losing streak in dramatic fashion because the next team on the schedule will present another challenge. Horseshoe Bend will be in an opposite frame of mind, trying to make amends after a 50-14 loss to LaFayette last week. Horseshoe Bend 38 – Vincent 23