Predictions: Big region showdowns set for this Friday

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

Week 7 record: 10-1

Overall record: 50-7

This week will have a little bit of everything. A crosstown rivalry, an in-county region battle, a battle for the top spot in one region and playoff hopes on the line for many.

After this week, there are only three weeks remaining in the regular season and only two weeks left in region play, meaning playoff dreams will come true or be dashed the next two weeks. 

Spain Park at Hoover

The stage is set for another exciting battle between these two crosstown rivals. The Bucs have been rolling through this season in the always difficult Class 7A, Region 3, while the Jags have struggled to conquer the same region with inconsistent play on both sides of the ball. Hoover has won 17 of the 19 matchups in this series, but the Jags have played them close two of the last three years losing those two games by three and seven. Last year’s 42-35 loss came in a season much like this one where the Jaguars were struggling. But they showed they could compete with the Bucs. Now, Hoover is No. 2 ranked team and Spain Park is looking for the upset. The Jags have the talent offensively to hang around in this game, but slow starts have been costly this season. For them to have any chance, the offense has to get off to a fast start and not be relentless. Eventually though, it’s tough to not see Hoover hanging on for the win. Spain Park 21, Hoover 38

Thompson at Gadsden City

Thompson has an important three-game stretch starting this week. Win the next three, and they’ll be region champs once again, but one slip up could also cost them. So far this season, the Warriors have looked like the best team in the state, but they’ve also faced some injury concerns as of late. This week, that shouldn’t be too much of a concern with Gadsden City having given up 38 or more in three of the last five games to offenses that aren’t nearly as good as Thompson. The Warriors are still averaging north of 40 points per game and should be able to pile on more points in this one with such an efficient offense. But, Oak Mountain and Hoover loom after this one, so getting through it healthy will be key. Thompson 42, Gadsden City 14 

Oak Mountain at Tuscaloosa County

It’s another big week for the Oak Mountain Eagles, who are battling for a playoff spot and seeding the next three weeks. With top 10 teams Hewitt-Trussville and Thompson to close out region play the two weeks after this, a win is a must for Oak Mountain in this one. This is the kind of game the Eagles absolutely can’t let slip away. Tuscaloosa County has struggled on both sides of the ball, but the Wildcats have two losses by seven points and are coming off a 26-23 win against Gadsden City. The Wildcats have scored 20 or less in all but their two wins this season and will be going up against an Oak Mountain defense that is the best it has been in a while. If the Eagles come out and control this game with the confidence they’ve had for a large portion of the season, then it’s tough to see Tuscaloosa County keeping up with this talented offense. Oak Mountain 35, Tuscaloosa County 14

Helena vs. Calera

Both of these programs have been drastically impacted by COVID-19 whether it be canceling their own games or having games canceled against them. It’s unfortunately kept each from reaching their full potential this season, but we’ve also seen glimpses of success from both. And what should create the entertainment value in this one is the second-half play. Both have been strong in the second half this season, which has led to narrow losses in comeback attempts or strong wins. Calera’s offense has flashed signs of brilliance at times, while the defense is light years better this season. That said, Helena is such a physically bruising team with a strong run game, offensive line and defense. The Eagles are still young, and that, along with injuries, may cost them in this one, but it won’t come without another late surge. Helena 31, Calera 24 

Chelsea vs. Huffman (Game Thursday)

The Chelsea Hornets are starting to round into shape and should have chances to win games down the stretch after last week’s 56-0 win against Woodlawn. But, it still won’t come easy, especially this week. Huffman, a former Class 7A team, has lost four in a row, but the Vikings have taken on some of the best teams in the state during that span and lost to current 7A top-five team Hewitt-Trussville 3-0. The consistency defensively is what has been key for them. Yet to give up more than 28 points in a game this season, they’ll be taking on a Chelsea team that is just starting to find a groove offensively. While the Hornets are better than they were when they started the season, it may be a tall task to ask them to score enough to win this one. But, the defense for Chelsea will keep it close. Chelsea 17, Huffman 20

Pelham vs. Benjamin Russell

It’s a big week for the Pelham Panthers. The last time they won a region championship was 2006, and that was one of just two in school history. This Friday, the Panthers will take on Benjamin Russell looking to claim the Class 6A, Region 3 title. It’s tough to see them slipping up this week, unless they are just off and not focused because of what is on the line. Benjamin Russell is coming off a bye week, but the Wildcats are 0-6, giving up 40.8 points per game and scoring just 20 points per game. Pelham’s offense has been too good, especially lately, that it’s tough to not see the Panthers pulling away in this one. Expect Dylan Peterson, Will Lankford and Gabe Gamble to carry this team to their first region title in close to 20 years. Pelham 42, Benjamin Russell 28

Shelby County vs. Marbury 

The Wildcats have two area games left and they are both crucial in determining if this will be the year they break the playoff drought that dates back to 2009. This week, they’ll get a Marbury team that has struggled this season, especially on offense. Shelby County’s defense has had such a successful season for the most part, so that should bode well for the Wildcats in this matchup. Marbury has scored 18 or less in three of its last four games, and while the Bulldogs’ defense has played well at times, it has also been inconsistent. It’s an important game for both, but Shelby County has history in its sights, which should lead to the Wildcats giving everything they have. Shelby County 28, Marbury 20

Vincent at Randolph County

A tough two-week stretch for Vincent will conclude with No. 1 Randolph County this Friday. The Tigers are undefeated this season and playing great on both sides of the ball, averaging 31.4 points per game and giving up 13. But, they’ve also played a somewhat easy schedule so far. Vincent’s offense has put up points this season, and the Jackets will look to continue that this week. But last week’s game against Lanett, a 50-7 loss, showed competing with the best teams in the state still has its challenges. I’m not sure the defense can keep Randolph in check, but I do think the offense is talented enough to at least hang around and make this one interesting for a while. Vincent 20, Randolph County 42