The wait is over: Predicting Week 1 of high school football

Published 4:06 pm Tuesday, August 21, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

This Friday night, we will finally be back under the lights as high school football kicks off with a strong slate of county games, including several top 10 matchups and a couple of in-county games.

Nobody will open the 2018 season with a region game, but they’ll have the chance to gain some important momentum heading into region games as several will need to be in midseason form early in the season.

Below we predict the outcome of the eight AHSAA football games taking place on opening night.

Oak Mountain vs. Chelsea

All time, Oak Mountain is 5-1 against the Chelsea Hornets, but this rivalry of U.S. 280 teams has brought a fun build up to the first game of the season for each school on and off the field. Two years ago, the Hornets got that lone win in a 49-33 victory, while the Eagles responded with a 21-10 win last season.

It’s an important game, as each of the last two years, the winner has gone on to start 3-0, while the loser has lost at least three in a row. Both teams won a combined four games in the last three weeks of the season last year, meaning they will carry momentum into this year. The only difference right now is Chelsea breaking in a new head coach. It will be close for a while thanks to an improved Chelsea offense, but I think Oak Mountain is slightly better and the home field advantage doesn’t hurt. Oak Mountain 28 Chelsea 17

Spain Park vs. Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa

This is a matchup of the No. 8 7A team versus the No. 7 6A team. Hillcrest will bring in a ton of momentum after making it to the semifinals of the playoffs last year, beating Opelika to earn that spot. The Patriots also showed they can compete with teams in the 7A classification losing to Oak Mountain by just one point last year and Thompson by just six points.

The Jaguars, however, will be looking to build some momentum early in the season thanks to some inconsistency last year. After starting 3-0, Spain Park went on to lose five of its next eight games, including a first-round playoff game against Hewitt-Trussville. The Jags will be feeling out their offense to start the season, but head coach Shawn Raney is extremely excited about what the defense can bring to the table. Until they prove me wrong, I know a good Raney defense can carry this team a long way. Spain Park 27 Hillcrest 17 

Thompson vs. James Clemens (Challenge of Champions in Montgomery)

This is an interesting game to keep an eye. Thompson is expected to win with high praise coming into the season, but the Warriors will have some new kinks to work out in the opening game of the season. The same can be said for James Clemens, which is coming off a 3-7 season a year ago.

The Jets amped things up in the offseason and now have an incredible coaching staff, and one of the state’s best quarterbacks. Thompson, however, is so loaded on offense, that it will be tough for James Clemens to hang around late in the game. I do think the Jets have the offense to keep it close for a while, especially with Thompson replacing so much talent defensively, but the Warriors will get more comfortable as the game goes along. Thompson 42 James Clemens 20

Calera vs. Pelham (Game of the Week) 

Talent will be spread all over the field in this one, but both teams have to realize it’s more than an important game individually, because while it’s not a region game, it’s one that will be telling for each team this season. If Calera wins, the Eagles will show they can compete in the toughest Class 6A region in the state after moving up from the 5A classification. And if Pelham wins, the Panthers will establish themselves as a true contender for a region championship. Losses, however, could hurt the morale of both.

It may be the toughest game to pick this week because both teams are so loaded at so many positions, but at the end of the day, depth becomes a big part of football. Calera will be playing several guys on both sides of the ball in its first game as an official 6A team, while the Panthers have experience at the 6A level and seemingly more depth going into the first game. Pelham 38 Calera 31

Helena @ McAdory

The Helena Huskies are coming off a 1-9 season, but the offseason hire of Richie Busby has the program excited for the future. A victory in the opening game against McAdory would send that excitement soaring through the roof. The Yellow Jackets were an average 6-5 football team a season ago, but are also a team that has been to the playoffs 21 consecutive years.

McAdory’s defense was impressive last year, giving up just 14.6 points per game, which is something the Helena offense will have to solve in this one. This game is really a solid opportunity for quarterback Luke Stamba to make connections with some new receivers and for Busby to learn where his team is to start the season. I think it will be a close game throughout, but I need to see some proof from the Huskies to be sold. Helena 17 McAdory 21

Shelby County @ Childersburg

Both of these teams are coming off losing seasons and will be looking to kick start their 2018 campaigns. Childersburg has had three consecutive losing season, while the Wildcats are coming off their second 3-7 season in the last three years. Shelby County, however, put a culture change in place during the offseason and seems like a different program and team moving into the new year. Not only will having that new attitude help, but the Wildcats are also a classification higher and more talented this year. Head coach Heath Childers knows this team needs to win because they can’t afford to have any doubt this season. Shelby County 27 Childersburg 20

Montevallo vs. Marbury

This will be an interesting game this season because Marbury hasn’t had a winning season since 2011, but is coming off its best season since then after going 5-6 last year, and also holds a classification advantage by being in 5A. Montevallo, on the other hand, is coming off a difficult 3-7 season. I have faith in the Bulldogs this season because of a strong cast of returning, talented players, but this is going to be a tough tossup game to start the year. I am going with Montevallo to win a very tight game, but I need to see something impressive to know this team has turned the page from last season. Montevallo 28 Marbury 24

Vincent vs. White Plains

The only difficult part about deciding if Vincent will win this game is the classification difference, as White Plains sits in Class 4A and Vincent in Class 2A. That being said, the Yellow Jackets are riding a load of momentum after a strong year last season and have pretty much their entire roster back this year, while the Wildcats haven’t won more than two games in a season since 2013. The only thing that could bite Vincent in this one is depth, but I’m going all in on the Yellow Jackets to start the season. Vincent 31 White Plains 21