Week 8 predictions: Playoff implications for several teams

Published 5:36 pm Thursday, October 11, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

Overall record: 36-14

With four weeks left in the regular season, it’s make or break time for all of our local high school football teams when it comes to fighting for a playoff spot. Most teams have three region games left, and only a handful should feel good about their standing heading into Week 8 of the season.

Most teams control their own destiny right now with Briarwood and Thompson sitting in the best positions, but teams like Pelham, Montevallo and Vincent all have legitimate shots at a four seed or higher should they finish the season the way they need to. Below we break down an important Week 8 of the football season. 

Spain Park vs. Hoover

In four of their six games this season, the Spain Park Jaguars have failed to score more than 14 points, showing a team reeling offensively. Most recently, the Jags are coming off a 35-7 loss to Thompson, marking the third consecutive game they have failed to score more than 14 points, but have given up 24-plus points. Now, cross-town rival Hoover comes to town as the No. 5 team in the state.

This game went down to the wire a season ago with the Jags failing to close out the game in the final minute. This year, Hoover is arguably better than last year’s team and while they may have the tendency to give up large chunks of points at times, the Bucs are playing much better than SPHS, who has lost five games in a row. Spain Park 14, Hoover 35 

Thompson vs. Vestavia Hills

Sitting at 5-1 on the season to this point, scoring an average of 36 points per game and giving up just 13.3 points per game, the Thompson Warriors look like one of the best teams in the state on paper, but still are looking to improve each week. The defense has now given up seven points or less, including two shutouts, in four of the Warriors’ six games, while the offense has scored 35-plus points in all but one game this season.

It’s a team, that while impressive, is still looking for that one week of perfect complete play on both sides of the ball. The next two weeks will be key in making sure that’s the case when they take on Hewitt-Trussville in three weeks, as the Warriors take on two of the best defenses they’ll see this season. Next week it’s Mountain Brook, but this week it’s the Vestavia Hills Rebels. Early in the season, the Rebels looked like a tough out, but have now lost two of three with the schedule starting to get more difficult. Coming off a 41-6 loss to Hewitt-Trussville, it looks like a tall order for the Rebels to be able to pull off the upset with Thompson playing so consistent despite still having things to improve on. Thompson 38, Vestavia Hills 10 

Oak Mountain at Tuscaloosa County

After its opening 42-9 win against Chelsea, Oak Mountain has lost five consecutive games, trending the wrong way in each. Part of that was a three-game gauntlet against three of the top-5 teams in the state, but the last two against Pelham and Mountain Brook were a little more difficult to swallow, despite Mountain Brook also being a top-10 team.

Now, the Eagles get a three-game region stretch they can not only compete in but a stretch they could sweep if the offense can get its legs back under it. With the defense giving up 36.2 points per game, it’s definitely going to take the offense clicking again to pick up wins. This week, they’ll travel to Tuscaloosa County to take on the Wildcats, who have also lost five in a row. The difference is, Tuscaloosa County’s offense has been consistently bad all season, scoring just 12.2 points per game. Oak Mountain lost to the last place Wildcats a season ago, and won’t let that happen again this year. Oak Mountain 35, Tuscaloosa County 20

Pelham vs. Jackson-Olin

Pelham is back on a strong path after picking up a 28-6 win against Carver Birmingham for its third consecutive victory. The Panthers, who started the season 2-0 with wins by a combined score of 87-36, are back to that impressive play again, and it couldn’t have come at a better time with undefeated and ninth ranked Jackson-Olin ready to spoil Pelham’s win streak.

The Mustangs haven’t lit up the scoreboard this season, scoring just 27 points per game, but their defense is playing lights out, giving up 8.2 points per game, including 15 or less in all six of their contests. Something has to give in this one with Pelham’s offense scoring 34.4 points per game. If the Panthers can figure out Jackson-Olin’s defense, they’ll win this game because I don’ think the Mustangs have the fire-power to keep up. But scoring for Pelham may be tough to come by against the toughest defense they will have faced this season aside from Homewood, who held the Panthers to 7 points. Pelham 21, Jackson-Olin 27

Helena vs. Carver

After an 0-4 start, the Helena Huskies have won two consecutive games, including their first win against the Chelsea Hornets in school history, as the Richie Busby era is starting to take shape earlier than expected. While the Huskies have four difficult contests remaining, they’ll have another shot at a win this Friday night against a Carver team that has lost two of its last three games.

Those two losses were to Pelham and Jackson-Olin, so not bad losses, but in Carver’s four wins, three have been by six points or less to average teams. I think the Huskies have a shot to pull off the upset in this one, and with the momentum they are riding, I’ll go out on a limb and pick them to pull it off. Helena 24, Carver 21

Calera vs. Opelika

Calera is coming off its first win of the season, a 23-6 victory against Selma, and is riding that momentum as well as the fortune of being possibly the healthiest it has been since the start of the season. The Eagles’ reward? A matchup with Opelika.

While the Bulldogs are 2-4 overall, they have played a mammoth of a schedule with losses coming to two undefeated 7A teams, an out of state school and Wetumpka. Opelika is still 2-1 in a region play and an extremely good football team with loads of depth. The Eagles will have to pour on the points to keep this one close. Calera 17, Opelika 35

Chelsea at Homewood

Chelsea is still winless on the season at 0-6, but the Hornets have lost three games by seven points or less, putting them on the cusp of a breakthrough. Unfortunately, Chelsea will be taking on the 5-1 Homewood Patriots this week, who are in a tie for first with Jackson-Olin in the region with a 3-0 record.

The Hornets’ offense has struggled this season, scoring 17 points per game, which doesn’t bode well for a matchup with the Patriots’ defense that is giving up 10.8 points per game. In the end, that will be the difference as well as Homewood’s prominence as one of the best teams in the state. Chelsea 10, Homewood 31

Briarwood vs. Parker

Briarwood has just one blemish on its record this season, a 14-7 overtime loss to an undefeated Class 6A Hartselle team. The Lions are still giving up just 6.3 points per game and are the No. 1 team in the 5A classification in my opinion. They’re only getting better with the emergence of quarterback Jonah Carroll, who has allowed for the team to take advantage of playmakers on offense, especially with one of the best offensive lines in the state.

Sitting in a tie for first in region play with Ramsay thanks to a region record of 4-0, Briarwood will now take on Parker before a matchup with the Rams a week later. Parker is 3-3, giving up 20.5 points per game and scoring 30 points per game. It may be close for a while because of Parker’s raw talent, but the Lions will pull away in the second half thanks to a strong team effort. Briarwood 31, Parker 14

Montevallo vs. Sumter Central 

Following a bye week, Montevallo’s offense didn’t get left behind in the first half of the season and came back with its fourth consecutive game of 40-plus points in a 49-28 victory against West Blocton. Now sitting at 5-1 overall and third in region play (2-1) in a competitive region, the Bulldogs have an important game for playoff implications this Friday against Sumter Central.

The Jaguars are just 1-5 overall, but 1-2 in region play. While Montevallo is the clear favorite in this game, a slip up and loss could spell disaster for postseason hopes. One thing that helps me have confidence in Montevallo pulling off the win is Sumter’s defense that is giving up 36.7 points per game. With Montevallo scoring 44.3 points per game, that’s not a good combination, especially with the Jaguars scoring just 16 points per game. Montevallo 42, Sumter Central 20

Vincent at Horseshoe Bend

After an 0-4 start, the Vincent Yellow Jackets are starting to show some promise having outscored opponents 86-14 in the last two games. Now sitting at 2-4 with two consecutive wins, Vincent will travel to Horseshoe Bend for another winnable game against a team that is 1-5 on the season. Average wise, the Yellow Jackets are the better team on both sides of the ball, but this is a tough game to pick.

Horseshoe Bend has the positive of coming off a bye week, but sometimes that hurts when it comes to momentum. The Generals lost their last game before the bye week to a 1A Loachapoka team, while Vincent is carrying the momentum of two straight wins into the matchup. The Yellow Jackets are finally seeing hard work pay off, and that will continue this week. Vincent 28, Horseshoe Bend 13