Teams jump back into region play during a busy week 7

Published 7:32 pm Sunday, September 27, 2020

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

Week 6 record: 6-0

Overall record: 40-6

Now that we are in the home stretch of the 2020 high school football season with just five weeks left in the regular season, this Friday marks an important week for many teams hoping to make the playoffs this season.

Right now, several local teams are right in the thick of the battle, which should create an exciting week of action with teams knowing what’s at stake. It also marks one of our busiest weeks of the season with 11 total matchups, including our Game of the Week featuring Oak Mountain and Spain Park, which is previewed in its own story. 

Thompson vs. Vestavia Hills

For the third consecutive week, the Thompson Warriors will look to take down a difficult defensive opponent, but Thompson’s offense has seemed poised and ready for every challenge this season. Through their first six games, the Warriors have been able to score 31 or more points and haven’t hit a major hurdle yet. The Rebels will have some momentum coming off their first win of the season against Tuscaloosa County, 17-10, and a bye week, but the Rebels narrowly squeaked by a Wildcats’ team Thompson beat 49-7. That said, they did play both Hoover and Oak Mountain tight with chances to win. At the end of the day, however, Thompson’s defense is getting better after a shutout against Mountain Brook last week and taking on an offense that has yet to score more than 28 points this season. That combined with the Warriors likely scoring more than 30 yet again in this one makes me think Thompson continues to roll. Thompson 35, Vestavia Hills 14

Calera vs. Stanhope Elmore

The Calera Eagles are starting to round into shape after some struggles the last few years. Despite youth throughout the roster, they have experience and confidence, and their play is benefiting from it.  But, this week the Eagles get a matchup with a difficult Stanhope Elmore team that is 3-23 on the season with dominant wins against Benjamin Russell and Chilton County as well as a forfeit victory. Two of their losses came by 10 points or less to Prattville and Pelham, two good teams, but the Mustangs lost 35-13 last week to Eufala, which is a concern going into this matchup. If Calera can go 2-2- over its next four games, the Eagles will have a chance at making the playoffs, and competing against Stanhope would be a major step in that process. They have the athletes to keep it close, and have seemingly gotten better as games go along, so I don’t think this will be a blowout. That said, these are the types of games we need to see Tyler Nelson, Chris Cotton, Kobe Prentice and others step up in to give us faith that the Eagles are a true contender to take down the best. We’ll see how they handle that pressure, but they already seem light years ahead of where they’ve been the last two years. Calera 28, Stanhope Elmore 34 

Chelsea vs. Woodlawn

It has been a tough season for the Chelsea Hornets at times, but they’ve also shown some positive signs with new starters at just about every position other than the secondary, running back and receiver. A 27-23 win against Helena was the highlight through the first five games, and while the offense has struggled at times, scoring three points or less in three of five games, last week was a step in the right direction. Sophomore quarterback Hayden Garrison stepped in to make his first start and threw for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns, making some impressive throws. This week, the Hornets get a matchup with a Woodlawn team at the perfect time. Not only has Woodlawn struggled this season only scoring 40 points through their first six games and giving up close to 200 points, but it offers a chance for Garrison to gain more confidence moving forward. Chelsea’s defense is also the strong suit of the team, and they’ll get a team scoring 6.7 points per game. This could be a turning point in the season for the 1-4 Hornets.  Chelsea 35, Woodlawn 7

Helena vs. Chilton County

After two consecutive forfeits due to COVID-19, the Helena Huskies will return to their home field this Friday for a crucial region showdown with Chilton County. The Huskies are now 2-4 overall with two of those losses being forfeits the last two weeks, including one region game, which put them at 1-2 in region play. But luckily, they are still firmly in the playoff hunt with winnable games the next three weeks that will likely determine their fate. This week, the Huskies will take on a Tigers’ team that has struggled at times on both sides of the ball. Chilton County has taken on some difficult talent so far with their best showing being a 34-16 win against Jemison. But the Tigers are coming off 27-21 loss to Shelby County in a game they trailed 27-0. Helena this season has gotten off to slow starts, but really responded in the second half. Their two head to head losses are by six points or less, and with better starts, they’d likely have won those games. I not only expect them to get off to a powerful start with their dominant ground game in this one, but the defense will also be fresh and ready to make plays after a two-week break. Helena 35, Chilton County 17

Pelham at Wetumpka

This may be the final obstacle for Pelham to hurdle en route to a region championship. As of last week, the Indians were reevaluating whether they could play this game after canceling their game with Greenville due to COVID-19. With both sitting at 2-0 in the region standings, this is clearly an important matchup. Both opponents left in region play for the Panthers right now are sub-.500 teams, meaning a win in this game not only gives them the tiebreaker against Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore but could mean an undefeated season in region play. And the way this offense is rolling, that’s plausible. Pelham is now 5-1 on the season with Will Lankford and Dylan Peterson big reasons why. Peterson has topped 100 yards in four straight games, while Lankford put up 169 rushing yards and more than 200 all-purpose yards with four touchdowns against Chelsea in a 47-28 win. The offense is now averaging 30.2 points per game and seems to get better each week. Wetumpka is giving up 24.8 points per game and has given up 35 or more in three of five head to head games. If the Panthers play the way they did the final three quarters against Chelsea in this matchup, they should be victorious once again. Pelham 42, Wetumpka 38

Briarwood at Shades Valley

With a forfeit win against Mortimer Jordan last week, the Briarwood Lions improved to 6-1 on the season and are currently sitting at 3-0 in region play in a tie for first in Class 6A, Region 5 with No. 1 Mountain Brook. The Lions technically lost 41-21 to James Clemens in an exhibition, but being a 7A opponent, that was a good test for Briarwood heading down the home stretch. The Lions now get another favorable matchup with a Shades Valley team that is now 0-5 on the season. The biggest problem for the Mounties in this game is that their offense has struggled and has yet to score more than 26 points in a game this season. They have taken on some of the best Class 6A teams in a brutal schedule and have yet to lose a game by more than 18 points. But, going up against a Briarwood defense that is giving up 12 points per game, it’s tough to see them scoring a ton in this matchup. Briarwood likely won’t either, but the Lions’ defense should continue to do enough. As long as they don’t get caught looking ahead to a showdown with No. 1 Mountain Brook the week after, they should get through another week unscathed. Briarwood 21, Shades Valley 14

Shelby County vs. Central Tuscaloosa

Shelby County held on for a 27-21 win against Chilton County this past Friday after holding a 27-0 lead heading into the final quarter. Now at 3-2 on the season, the important stretch of the season begins for the Wildcats with three region games in a row that will determine whether or not they break a playoff drought dating back to 2009. Luckily the next two are at home starting this Friday with a matchup against 2-3 Central-Tuscaloosa. Both teams are 1-2 in region play, making this a huge game to determine who might be a three or four seed out of the region. Both teams are pretty similar this year, but Shelby County looks to have a slight edge. The Wildcats are averaging 22.4 points per game offensively and giving up 19.8 points per game defensively, while Central is scoring 20.2 and giving up 22.8. What sticks out is the 19.8 that SCHS is giving up on the defensive side. That’s 16 points better than last year’s defense. And although the offense has matched their production from last year, the defense has shown it can make plays. For that reason, I don’t see Central scoring a ton of points, which gives the Wildcats a strong chance to improve their region record to 2-2. Shelby County 28, Central-Tuscaloosa 20

Montevallo at West Blocton

After both teams got a bye week last week due to scheduling changes, Montevallo will travel to West Blocton this Friday in what head coach Blake Boren describes as a big game for their playoff hopes. Already at 2-2 in region play due to two forfeit losses, after this, the Bulldogs don’t face a team with a record above .500. That means a win in this game and they could win out in region play. That won’t come easy, however, with West Blocton sitting at 4-1 on the season and 3-0 in region play. That said, the Bulldogs have competed well against two of the best teams in the classification, while West Blocton has played the easier of their games. This is going to be a fantastic football game with a lot on the line. I’m going out on a limb and say the Bulldogs will find a way because of the gutsy effort they’ve shown this season with a ton of athletes on the field. Montevallo 27, West Blocton 24

Vincent vs. Lanett

Vincent’s storied start to the season saw three forfeits due to COVID-19, before the Jackets came back to win their first two head to head games to improve to 2-3 overall and 2-1 in region play. It’s largely been because of clutch play late and an offense that has put up 39 and 41 points in its two games on the field. But, now they get the pleasure of the No. 4 team in Class 2A. While the Jackets’ offense has been rolling, it won’t be as easy to put up points against a Lanett team that is giving up five points per game. The Panthers have given up six or less in five games this season with three shutouts. Watching their defense against this Vincent offense, it will be interesting to see which one cracks first. The Yellow Jackets have shown they have the talent to test any defense this season, which leads me to believe they’ll score points in this game, but the defense has struggled to get stops. Taking on a top 10 team, Vincent will need both sides of the ball clicking in order to pull off the upset. Vincent 20, Lanett 35

Cornerstone at Coosa Valley

In a county showdown, Cornerstone will travel a few miles down Alabama 25 to take on the Coosa Valley Academy Rebels. So far this season, both have struggled on both sides of the ball and will be looking for a momentum boost heading into the final leg of the AISA season. Both teams have been lower on numbers this year due to COVID-19. The Rebels will be battle tested with a difficult schedule so far this season, but the Chargers may have slightly more talent. Neither has won a game head to head this season, meaning it should be a fun game for the two county rivals to see who can do so. Cornerstone 27, Coosa Valley 20

Evangel vs. Ezekiel

The rivalry between Evangel and Ezekiel will take place this Friday in a preview of what should be the ACSC State Championship game as well. These two teams always put together exciting games, and that should be no different this year. Ezekiel has scored 32 or more in every game this season and given up six or less in every game with four shutouts. Evangel, however, has scored 40 or more in every game and has given up 20 or less in all but one game, including six or less in four of six. I expect a tight battle, but the Lightning are the kings of 8-man football until someone knocks them off. Evangel 48, Ezekiel 36