Welcome back football: A look at all Week 1 action with predictions

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

I’m not sure many of us expected to be looking at the first week of high school football during the week of Aug. 17 due to COVID-19, but the opening week of the season is here, and for the most part, we’re starting as planned.

The opening week of the 2020 season in Shelby County will feature nine total games with Shelby County and Cornerstone on bye and Montevallo forced to cancel its opener with Marbury due to a positive COVID-19 case in the program.

Beyond that, the county will have a game on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, with several great opening-week matchups to have on your radar.

Below, each game is broken down with a prediction:

Game of the Week: Thompson vs. Oxford (Saturday, Aug. 22)

To read more about the first Game of the Week in Shelby County for the 2020 season, click here.

Oak Mountain vs. Chelsea

For the fifth consecutive year, these two 280-area rivals will square off with each other to start the season. Oak Mountain leads the all-time series 7-1 and took down the Hornets 17-0 last year. Chelsea hasn’t scored more than 10 points in the rivalry in the last three years and has 19 combined points against Oak Mountain in that span. Going into this season, the Eagles bring back the most experience they’ve had in years with 13 returning starters and 16 experienced players, while Chelsea will be replacing a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. The Hornets, however, do get back Collier Blair, a now four-year starter at running back, and should be solid defensively. But at the end of the day, Oak Mountain’s experience and being a classification higher will be the difference. Oak Mountain 28, Chelsea 10

Spain Park at Huntsville

The Spain Park Jaguars have potential this season to compete with the best, but in order to do so, they’ll have to make a statement during the first few weeks of the season, starting with this week-one matchup against Huntsville. The Jags will be introducing a new quarterback in junior Bennett Meredith, but he’ll have top receivers Jaylen Ward and Cooper Kelley back, an experienced offensive line and several other playmakers. The defense needs to show improvement from last year’s 36.6 points per game, and this matchup against Huntsville not only offers a great chance for the offense to start with a bang but for the defense to take those steps of progression. I think the Jaguars are on a mission this year, and they’ll show that week one. Spain Park 35, Huntsville 21

Helena vs. Dallas County 

Coming off one of their best seasons in school history, the Helena Huskies have confidence coming into the 2020 season, and they should be able to flaunt that in this one.  Dallas County has gone a combined 5-16 the last two seasons, and while the Hornets showed improvement from 1-9 two years ago to 4-7 last year, Helena should be able to handle them to open the season. The Huskies will be replacing some talent, including all of their receivers and their starting quarterback, but they return the county’s best running back, a solid offensive line and a strong group of linebackers, as well as a confident group of young players. Helena 35, Dallas County 14

Pelham at Mortimer Jordan

Pelham is fresh off a 3-7 year, but the players not only remember a 0-6 start, they remember a 3-1 finish from last year. After winning three in a row, a young group of Panthers learned how to win and what it felt like. They don’t want to go back to losing this year. They’ll have the talent to be successful with what could become one of the state’s best offenses due to the entire offensive line back as well as several stars at receiver and two running backs with potential of topping 1,000 yards, but this will be a tough opener. The Blue Devils, although in Class 5A, are off a semifinal appearance last year with an 11-3 record. This should be one of the sneaky good games to open the season, and could end up being the best of the week depending on if both live up to their potential. I think the classification advantage and so many players back at every position will lead the Panthers to an opening win, but it will take a hard-fought battle, because Mortimer Jordan could run away with it if Pelham doesn’t come ready. Pelham 28, Mortimer Jordan 27

Briarwood at Fort Payne

Former Chelsea coach Chris Elmore, now at Fort Payne, will get to square off with rival Briarwood once again as well as good friend Matthew Forester, who is fresh off leading the Lions to the Class 5A semifinals and a 12-2 record in his first season. This marks the first 6A opponent of the season for the Lions, who are now up in the 6A classification. It also marks the start of a difficult schedule, taking on 7A Spain Park a week later and then one of the most difficult regions in 6A throughout the season. Briarwood returns loads of talent on both sides of the ball this year, and this opener should provide a good test for how the Lions will handle the season. This game could go either way, but Briarwood’s defense should make the difference. The offense, however, will have to see some form of passing game early in the season to truly be successful. Briarwood 21, Fort Payne 20

Calera at Demopolis

A former region rival in Class 5A, Demopolis will present a challenge for a young Calera team to open the season with. The Eagles now have the numbers to be able to hold a depth advantage over the 5A Tigers, but they’re so young. Calera has close to 90 on this year’s team, but close to 60 of those are underclassmen with only a handful of seniors. With just one win each of the last two seasons, the Eagles have a lot to prove, but are heading in the right direction with a full year under Trey Simpson. A win in this game would go a long way for a young group, but Calera has a lot to prove early in the year. The big things to look for to see progression will be the offense under quarterback Tyler Nelson and rotation of players for depth. If you see promising signs of that in this game, then you’ll get a team that is drastically better this year even if they lose the opener. Calera 21, Demopolis 31

Vincent at Winterboro (Thursday, Aug. 20)

The Vincent Yellow Jackets are coming off a 2-8 season last year, and despite winning one less game than the season before, they were in two more games than they were the season before and gave up six less points per game while scoring four more points per game last year. Those are steps in the right direction under third-year head coach Lucas Weatherford. Heading into the 2020 season, the Jackets will look to keep buzzing in the right direction, and with the return of several stars, they’ll have that chance. If they are going to do that, it has to start in this game against Class 1A Winterboro. Two years ago, Vincent won 57-14, but Winterboro came back to win 40-24 last year. This year, the Yellow Jackets’ success will depend on how fresh they are in the third and fourth quarter, which is when they lost last year’s game. Vincent 33, Winterboro 27