Predictions: Region play kicks off with strong slate

Published 10:09 am Thursday, September 6, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

Week 2 record: 5-3

Overall record: 11-5

This week in Shelby County high school football brings not only the first week of region play, but so many great matchups that we will have two Games of the Week.

It’s also the busiest week of the year so far with 10 games between our 11 teams, including a Thursday night game, giving us a little bit of everything on the first night of region play.

It’s a week I’ve been looking forward to all summer, and one that is a treat for any football fans. Starting out 0-1 in region play, especially if you are playing a team that you’ll be battling for the region title with, would be tough to swallow. Below we pick each game from this week’s slate aside from our two Games of the Week.

Oak Mountain at Hewitt-Trussville

After a dominant start to the season with a 42-9 victory over Chelsea, followed by a bye week, the Oak Mountain Eagles will now travel to Hewitt-Trussville to kick off region play with a matchup against one of the best teams in the state.

Can freshman Evan Smith, who accounted for four touchdowns in two quarters against Chelsea, continue his incredible start to the season against a much bigger, more physical and fundamentally sound defense will be key in this one. I do think the Eagles’ defense will give them a chance, but the Huskies have seen two good out-of-state defenses to start the season and won’t be intimidated. This is the first of three straight games against the three best teams in the state, so we’ll see if Oak Mountain is prepared to handle the gauntlet this week. Oak Mountain 14, Hewitt-Trussville 27

Spain Park vs. Vestavia Hills

Last week just wasn’t good, and Spain Park knows it. It’s not meant to sound rude or to dishearten the Jaguars as a team because they know they are better than losing to 6A Bessemer City, and I expect to see that proven this week.

My prediction is that we see this team practice hard and angry all week and come out with a purpose on Friday night in this must-win game. This starts a two-week stretch where the Jags will have to win if they want to make the playoffs with Mountain Brook looming the week after. Spain Park’s defense is playing really well, but the offense has scored 24 and 14 points and will need to show some improvement against a Rebels’ defense that only allowed Homewood to score 10 points last week. I think Spain Park’s intensity after a loss, however, will lead to a low-scoring win. Spain Park 20, Vestavia Hills 13

Calera at Wetumpka

For the second week in a row, the Calera Eagles outgained their opponent on offense, but dropped their second consecutive game. It’s a team loaded with individual talent, but one head coach Andrew Zow and several of the leaders are trying to get to buy in together. This week, however, it won’t get any easier as the Eagles play possibly their toughest region game of the season.

So far this season, Wetumpka has beaten 7A Fairhope 34-14 and 6A Northview 44-14. I have faith in this team buying in together and eventually becoming a great team this year, but this is a Wetumpka team that can easily win a state championship. I think they drop this one, but keep it closer than expected, and then bounce back the following week. Calera 21, Wetumpka 31

Chelsea at Carver (Thursday) 

Our first Thursday night game of the season will take place at Carver-Birmingham this week, as Chelsea travels to take on the Rams in their region opener. Carver is coming off an 18-12 win against Fairfield to open its season, while Chelsea is coming off of two consecutive losses to start 2018.

That being said, I saw Turner Griffin transform into a solid quarterback on Saturday against Briarwood, making several great throws. If he uses that to spur his confidence moving forward, this is going to be a team that will compete moving forward. This is going to be a very close game, and if I’m head coach Dustin Goodwin, I take my chances throwing the ball again this week to see if Griffin truly can lead this team to a win. Chelsea 17, Carver 14

Briarwood at Pleasant Grove

Briarwood opened its season with a 19-6 win against Chelsea, almost identical to the 19-7 victory it had against the Hornets last year, before going on to finish 14-1 with that lone loss coming in the state championship game. The Lions, however, still have some work to do.

Their ground game looks to be second to none, but there isn’t much threat of passing the ball yet. Pleasant Grove is coming off two consecutive wins against Mortimer Jordan and West Blocton, games they should have won, which gives the Spartans confidence heading into this one. While Briarwood has some offense to figure out, I think they’ll be able to run the ball again this week and the defense will be enough to pick up another big win. It was a seven-point win for Briarwood last year, and it won’t come without some difficulty this year either. Briarwood 24, Pleasant Grove 17

Shelby County vs. Chilton County 

Shelby County’s offense has been a problem through the first two games of the 2018 scoring just six points per game thanks to 12 in a 22-12 loss to Montevallo this past week, but the defense has played pretty well through two games.

This Wildcats’ team is an offensive breakthrough game away from being a good football team, and I think this will be a week for them to gain some confidence and at important time in their first region game. The reason I feel confident in that is because Chilton County is also struggling to score, but their defense is much worse than Shelby County’s giving up 46 and 20 in the first two games. Shelby County 20, Chilton County 14

Montevallo at Dallas County 

The Montevallo Bulldogs have rolled out to a 2-0 start this season with wins against Marbury and Shelby County, two 5A teams, in the first two weeks. Now they take on a Marbury team that was in 5A last year, but won just two games.

The Hornets are coming off a 20-0 loss to open the season, which already gives the Bulldogs an advantage because their offense has shown they can make plays to win games the last two weeks in a row, and while the defense needs to continue to improve, I expect the same this week. Montevallo 27, Dallas County 13

Vincent vs. LaFayette

Vincent has played two great halves of football to keep themselves in matchups against White Plains and Holy Spirit, but the third quarter has seen both opponents run away in a hurry. Now the Yellow Jackets will take on their toughest opponent in Class 2A.

Despite an opening loss to Lanett by a final of 35-7 to start the season, LaFayette is the favorite to win this year’s region crown. The Jackets have given up 49 and 56 points in the first two games, most of which has come in the second half, so until the defense starts playing better, it’s going to be a tough go of it. Vincent 13 LaFayette 31