Week 5 predictions: Vincent set for Game of the Week, others set for big region matchups

Published 7:20 pm Sunday, September 11, 2022

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

Overall record: 31-8

Week 4 record: 7-2

Heading into the fifth week of the high school football season, we’ve already had a seasons-worth of excitement with county battles each week, final-second wins, comebacks and much more.

This week should feature more of the same with more in-county region showdowns, one of the best rivalries in the county and several teams looking to fight back into playoff contention or keep a stronghold on their respective regions.

Vincent vs. B.B. Comer (Game of the Week)

The only remaining unbeaten AHSAA team in Shelby County is the Vincent Yellow Jackets, and their toughest test to date will come this week against B.B. Comer.

The Jackets do still have difficult games against Isabella and Thorsby late in region play, so this game won’t make or break the season, but it is one that can show us whether they’re for real after their 4-0 start and ready to compete for a region title.

Vincent hasn’t just started 4-0 for the first time since 2001, but the Yellow Jackets have done it in dominant fashion so far. They started with a 41-26 victory against Ragland in week one and have since scored 50 or more the last three weeks and shut out each opponent.

It was the perfect stretch to get a strong cast of returning players confidence, but this week, B.B. Comer comes to town with a 3-1 record. They started with a 48-21 loss to Dadeville but have since bounced back with wins of 35-21, 48-3 and 32-7 since.

Both defenses have been playing well in the last three games, but Vincent’s three shutouts in a row mark the first time since 1997 that the Jackets have accomplished that feat.

Pair that with an offense loaded with returning talent that is scoring 53.8 points per game and you have a strong all-around team.

B.B. Comer is a talented team ranked inside the top 10 of the 2A classification that could compete for a state championship, so it will be a tall task for Vincent.

That said, they now believe they’re the best team every time they step on the field, and as long as they don’t play timid and walk onto the field with that same level of confidence, they’ll have a chance down to the finish in this one. For that reason, I’m riding with them this week. Vincent 34, B.B. Comer 26

Chelsea vs. Thompson

This game gained some intrigue after Chelsea’s 21-7 rivalry win against Oak Mountain last week in which the defense reclaimed its confidence and the offense continued strong growth against a second straight 7A opponent. The Hornets are starting to show they can compete at the 7A level and in this challenging region, which could make this one closer than many think. Thompson, however, should have a big advantage up front on both sides, but particularly with their defensive line. Thompson’s offense is still gaining confidence with so many new faces this season, but the defense has basically given up 14 or less every week. I think Chelsea’s defense can keep this close for a half, as Thompson has started slow out of the gate all season, but the Thompson defense will all them time to pull away in the second half. Thompson 35, Chelsea 10 

Spain Park vs. Vestavia Hills

On paper, this should be one of the more entertaining games this week. Both teams have played extremely difficult schedules so far with Spain Park beating Calera 14-10 and losing 23-21 to Briarwood, 24-10 to Hoover and 35-14 to Thompson. Vestavia has had a similar path to its 1-3 start, losing to Mountain Brook 24-14, beating Homewood 35-0, losing to Thompson 34-14 and losing to Hoover 20-14. Both had chances to beat Hoover, while Vestavia controlled its game with the Bucs until the final quarter. Both also fell to Thompson in similar games. To me, that shows that these two are pretty evenly matched with physical defenses that have improved since last year and offenses that are still trying to piece together consistency. I’m not sure either will be able to pull away with question marks on offense and defenses that have been ready to roll this season, which should mean whoever has the ball last will have the chance to win. Spain Park 14, Vestavia Hills 21

Oak Mountain at Tuscaloosa County

It won’t get much bigger than this for Oak Mountain the rest of the way, simply because the Eagles are now in a situation of needing to pick up wins any chance they can with games still left against Hoover, Thompson, Vestavia and Spain Park in the second half of region play. And this one, which usually can be chalked up as a win, won’t be as easy this season with Tuscaloosa County sitting at 3-1. The Wildcats are coming off a 35-7 loss to Hewitt-Trussville, but they beat Chelsea 42-41, who Oak Mountain just struggled with in a 21-7 loss. The big concern right now is that the Eagles have lost their edge defensively the last two weeks, which is the side of the ball that was expected to carry them early in the season while the offense got into a rhythm. This week, the defense will have to bounce back into form, while the offensive line needs to be ready for a war in the trenches. The offense has a strong enough run game to help sustain drives and wear down an opponent, but only if the offensive line plays well. If they can do that and help keep the defense off the field more than they have, then Oak Mountain will walk away victorious. Tuscaloosa County, however, won’t back down on its home field, which should create a tight contest. Oak Mountain 24, Tuscaloosa County 28 

Helena vs. Pelham 

One of the best rivalries in Shelby County, Helena/Pelham week is one of the more entertaining each season. Not only that, but this year’s matchup may have more excitement than most. The two have accounted for the last three region titles with Helena winning two and Pelham one, they have finished inside the top two of the region standings the last two weeks and both came back from at least 19 down late in the third quarter last week to pick up region wins. Pelham trailed No. 7 Briarwood 34-14 going to the fourth quarter and came back to win 35-34, while Helena trailed Chilton County 28-9 late in the third and ultimately won 35-28 in overtime.

Now, the Panthers are 1-2 overall and 1-0 in region with two losses by four points, while Helena is 3-1 overall and 1-1 in region play. Both have seen inconsistency at times on both sides of the ball, but both have shown promise as well. Helena is a run-first team that wants to be physical, but Dalton Lewellyn and Hunter Hale stepped up in the passing game last week to make a difference, which could play a key role this week. Pelham’s defense has talent, while the offense continues to grow under quarterback Clayton Mains, who has showcased an arm that can be inconsistent but big when it’s on. If both teams bring their A game, this will be a very entertaining matchup that should resemble last year’s thrilling 37-34 win for Helena. The only advantage I can find is Helena being at home, while the passing game complimenting the rushing attack may finally be there. Helena 31, Pelham 28

Calera vs. Chilton County

These two teams have to be kicking themselves after a couple of really tight losses this season, including region games last week that they led late. Calera’s offense finally came around last week after scoring 10 or less in the first three. Braylyn Farrington totaled five touchdowns and was on fire in every facet of the game. The defense, however, was the bright spot coming into the season and has taken a step back the last two weeks in losses to Benjamin Russell and Homewood. Chilton County is drastically improved from years’ past and led Helena 28-9 late in the third quarter last week before ultimately losing 35-28 in overtime one week after losing 36-29 to Briarwood in the final 10 seconds. The Tigers are very close to being a 4-0 team right now, while Calera is looking to put everything together for a complete game. Calera’s defense has to bounce back to have a chance, while the offense needs to continue off what it was able to do last week. Calera 21, Chilton County 24

Montevallo at West Blocton 

The Montevallo Bulldogs have showcased what their defense is capable of so far this season after improving to 2-1 a week ago with a 28-0 shutout against Dallas County. The Bulldogs have now given up 21 or less in each of their three games so far, and now, they get a West Blocton team that has failed to score more than 18 in any of their four games this season. West Blocton is averaging 9.5 points per game and sits at 1-3 on the season. Montevallo’s offense is continuing to grow, but we’re seeing more balance in the run and pass game. As that side of the ball continues to grow, the Bulldogs will get better and better. West Blocton will provice a stiff test to the MHS offense with a defense that is given up just 14 points in three of the four games this season. This one will be lower scoring, but Montevallo’s defense should make the difference. Montevallo 21, West Blocton 13

Cornerstone vs. Springwood

This will be the first game in a while for Cornerstone after two bye weeks in a row and it will be the Chargers’ toughest game of the season so far. Springwood is sitting at 3-0, while Cornerstone is 2-0, pitting these two 8-man AISA teams against one another in an undefeated battle. Springwood, however, has scored 40-plus in each game, including 52 and 60 in the last two, while Cornerstone’s offense scored 16 in a 10-point win against 0-4 Coosa Valley last time out. It will be the toughest matchup for each team, so it’s tough to gage how each will handle it, but I expect a tight battle with it coming down to whichever can make more offensive plays late. Cornerstone 27, Springwood 35

Coosa Valley vs. Pickens

Now 0-4 on the season, Coosa Valley’s offense has scored 11 or less in each of the fourth losses, while the defense has given up 40 or more in the last two games despite being the strong suit of the team this season. Pickens is sitting at 1-2 but has played a difficult schedule and is considered one of the better teams in the AISA. They have scored 20 or more in every game against solid teams and have given up 27, 28 and 38. I expect the Rebels to have a chance to reach double figures for the second week in a row on offense, but there is still too much growth needed on that side of the ball. Coosa Valley 13, Pickens 34

Evangel vs. Freedom

Off a bye week after their game a week ago was canceled, Evangel will get an important ACSC battle with Freedom this week. Both teams are sitting at 4-0 and have played extremely well defensively, but Evangel has given up 13 combined points this season with three shutouts in a row. Freedom’s offense has scored 34 or less in each of its wins this season. With that, Evangel’s defense should put together another impressive performance, and while the offense may run into its toughest game so far this season, it’s still tough to see the Lightning not scoring at least 40 points again. Evangel 48, Freedom 13