Week 7 predictions: Briarwood, Helena set for Game of the Week; others jump back into region play

Published 3:11 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2022

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

Week 6 record: 8-2

Overall record: 45-14

We have now hit the home stretch after crossing over into the second half of the 2022 football season.

Most teams have four weeks left of region play, while some are down to their final three region games, meaning each week will be crucial in whether a team makes the playoffs or possibly even wins a region championship.

That will certainly be the case this week with a busy week of region action featuring some of the state’s best games on Friday night.

Briarwood vs. Helena (Game of the Week)

It’s the first year of this region matchup, and it doesn’t get much bigger. If either wants a shot at the region crown this season, this game is a must with challenging slates still left the next few weeks. Briarwood enters 3-2 overall and 1-1 in region play, while Helena is now 5-1 overall and 2-1 in region play. Neither of these two are strangers to close games with the Lions playing in three games decided by seven points or less and the last four for the Huskies being decided by nine or less, including three in a row by seven or less and two in overtime.

With that, we’ll get the best version of each team in this matchup. Briarwood’s offense has found a consistent rhythm led by 5-star Clemson commit Christopher Vizzina. The Lions have scored 36, 34 and 34 in three straight, while the defense enters off its best game of the season in a 34-14 win against Oak Mountain. Helena’s defense has been consistent all season, giving up 18.7 points per game, and that should be key in this one as well against a talented offense. The Huskies have been consistent in giving up 28 or less in every game, while the offense is averaging 30 points per game and has also been consistent. Looking at this one on paper, it should be physical battle, and yes, you should expect another one that goes down to the wire. I think Briarwood, however, has found balance on offense that could make the difference at the end of the night. Briarwood 31, Helena 28 

Thompson vs. Hewitt-Trussville

Fresh off arguably the biggest win of the season in a 17-14 victory over Class 6A No. 1 Clay-Chalkville, Thompson jumps right back into region play with one of its biggest games this season. The Warriors will host Hewitt-Trussville this week in a battle of top-10 teams, and this could very well determine whether the Warriors win a region championship this season with every game the rest of the way now magnified and Hoover still on the schedule. The Warriors are now 4-2 overall after winning four in a row since those two nationally-ranked losses to start the season, while the Huskies are 4-2 on the season with a 17-7 loss to Hoover two weeks ago and a 37-21 loss to Central-Phenix City to start the season.

Thompson’s defense is coming off an impressive effort a week ago and has been dominant all season, so to see that Hewitt has struggled some offensively against those two quality teams tells me Thompson’s defense should have another good week should they remain hungry, focused and determined to make a statement. The Huskies, however, are giving up 16.7 points per game and since giving up 37 in the opener, they have given up 17 or less each week. Thompson’s offense has slowly progressed throughout the season and showed it had taken big leaps from week one last week by not making crucial mistakes. That will need to be shown again this week against a very talented defense. Thompson 28, Hewitt-Trussville 14

Oak Mountain vs. Hoover

It has been a rough few weeks for the Oak Mountain Eagles, but they can wipe all of that away with a first-ever win against Hoover this Friday. Oak Mountain started the season 2-0, but has lost four in a row to fall to 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the region. Even with those struggles, this game could be tighter than many expect, but that all depends on Oak Mountain’s defense. Expected to be the highlight of the team, they’ve struggled at times. If they can come into this one prepared and motivated, the Eagles will have a chance against a Hoover team that has scored 26 or less in five of six games so far. The offense, however, will have to be what takes Oak Mountain over the top for a win, and that will be a tall task. The Bucs have given up 17 or less in every game and are giving up 11.5 per game. That’s where the difference lies in this one. Hoover 31, Oak Mountain 14

Spain Park vs. Tuscaloosa County 

This is a big game for Spain Park coming off a bye week. Last year, the Jags lost seven straight after their opening win before beating Tuscaloosa County 35-7. This season, they won their opener and have lost four in a row since. Now, it’s another chance to end that losing streak against the Wildcats, but this is a top-10 Tuscaloosa County team this season that is 4-1 overall with the lone loss to a ranked Hewitt-Trussville team 35-7. Spain Park has a real chance to close the season with a 4-1 record the rest of the way if the Jaguars can win this one, and I think that will be a motivating force. Tuscaloosa County had to squeeze by Chelsea 42-41 and Oak Mountain 34-31. I think Spain Park is talented enough to make this a similar style game, but the big question is can the offense score enough after being held to 21 or less in every game and 14 or less in four of five. That, to me, needs to be proven on the field but could very well make the difference. Spain Park 21, Tuscaloosa County 27 

Chelsea at Vestavia Hills

Now 1-5 on the season, the Chelsea Hornets have lost three of those five games by seven points or less during their first season as a Class 7A team. Now, after a difficult 35-28 loss to Pelham a week ago, the Hornets jump back into region play this week with a road trip to take on a physical Vestavia Hills team. The Rebels sit at 2-3 overall this season following a difficult early schedule. They’ll enter off a bye week averaging 22.6 points per game, while they are giving up 17 points per game. The Rebels have been held to 14 points against Mountain Brook, Thompson and Hoover in their three losses, while they have scored 35 and 36 in wins against Homewood and Spain Park, giving up zero and seven in those two games. Chelsea is currently averaging 17.5 points per game and giving up 28.3 points per game, while the Hornets have been held to 28 or less in all but one and 21 or less in four of six. With Vestavia off a bye week, on their home field and such a strong defense, Chelsea will have to play the perfect game to have a chance, but this offense has grown enough to at least make it close. The defense, however, has been hot and cold so far and will need to be hot this week in order to give the Hornets a chance. Chelsea 14, Vestavia Hills 31

Calera vs. Pelham

In addition to our game of the week, we have another in-county Class 6A, Region 3 battle that is crucial for Calera and Pelham. Both enter knowing just how important this game could be in determining their playoff fate, which should lead to a thrilling battle at Calera. Both enter the game 2-3 overall, while Pelham is 1-1 in region play and Calera 1-2 in region play. Every game for Pelham so far has been decided by seven or less, and I don’t expect this one to be any different. The Panthers are giving up 25.6 points per game and averaging 24.2 on offense after a consistent start to the season on both sides, while Calera is now scoring 20.4 points per game and giving up 21 points per game. Calera scored 10 or less in its first three games to the season with the defense the highlight, before the offense found a rhythm and the defense took a step back in a 48-38 loss to Homewood. Last time out, however, the Eagles put together a balanced attack in a 38-14 win over Chilton County. That was huge going into a bye week and could give them the push they need. Pelham, however, is a dynamic team with so much athleticism on both sides that gives the Panthers a chance in every game. Ultimately, this one could go either way, but Calera is coming off a bye week and is at home, that’s the only big difference I can find. Calera 31, Pelham 28

Shelby County at Demopolis

A week after taking on No. 5 Moody in a 47-0 shutout loss, Shelby County now gets its most difficult region game against Demopolis this Friday. The Tigers are now 5-1 on the season with four wins in a row and have given up 16 or less with two shutouts in their five wins. To me, that’s the big key in this one. The offense is also scoring 43.3 points per game, but Shelby County’s offense is scoring 14.2 points per game and now gets another strong defense that the Wildcats will need to find ways to move the ball on to pick up a win. I think the defense will come out looking to keep the team in it after giving up 20 points per game so far, including seven or less in the three wins, but ultimately, the Bibb County defense should be too much. Shelby County 14, Demopolis 35

Montevallo at Sipsey Valley

The story of the season for Montevallo so far has been offensive struggles. That was the case again last week in a 20-12 loss to Jemison. The defense has now given up 21 or less in every game, but the offense has been held to 12 or less in the three losses, including six in two of the losses. Montevallo is now scoring 17 points per game, while the defense is giving up 13.2 points per game. Now, they’ll get a Sipsey Valley team that is struggling to score points at 16.8 per game, which means the defense should have another big week. But, can the offense score enough to win? Sipsey Valley is giving up 28.6 points per game, and I think Montevallo’s offense knows it has to come out and put together a big game this week. It will be low scoring again, but this one means too much for the Bulldogs. Montevallo 26, Sipsey Valley 14

Vincent at Ranburne 

Nothing helps losing a difficult game like bouncing back with a dominant week. That’s exactly what Vincent did against Childersburg this past Friday after falling 36-35 to B.B. Comer a week earlier. Now, the Yellow Jackets jump back into region play against Ranburne, and as long as they remain focused, they should be fine. Both enter this game 2-1 in the region, which makes it a big game, but looking at similar opponents this season, Vincent beat Fayetteville 53-0 and lost to Comer by one, while Ranburne beat Fayetteville 47-12 and lost to Comer 32-7. Vincent’s defense should also make a difference. The Jackets are giving up 12.5 points per game, while Ranburne is scoring just 23 points per game. Vincent is scoring 25 more per game so far this season. Vincent 35, Ranburne 14

Cornerstone at Southern Prep 

Cornerstone will be looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season this week after losing 52-48 to Southern Prep last week. The Chargers have performed extremely well on offense the last two weeks, scoring 52 and 48, but the defense has given up 50 and 52. This week, against Southern Prep, the Chargers will need to find a better rhythm on defense to walk away victorious. That said, Southern Prep lost 40-0 to Springwood, who Cornerstone just beat 52-50 two weeks ago. They also scored seven combined in the first three and gave up 40 or more in each of those three. Expect the Chargers to continue a strong season on offense and to bounce back defensively. Cornerstone 41, Southern Prep 20

Coosa Valley at Evangel Montgomery

Coosa Valley will be looking for its first win this week after falling to 0-6 last week in a loss to Banks Academy. The Rebels have now scored 14 or les sin every game and are averaging 5.2 per game this season. That said, they showed improvement last week. Now, they get a 1-3 Evangel Montgomery team that ha struggled as well, giving up 48 or more in three games. Evangel has scored 32 or more the last three weeks in a row, however. The key area of focus will be Coosa Valley’s offense taking a step forward if the Rebels want that first win. Coosa Valley 20, Evangel Montgomery 28 

Evangel vs. Ezekiel 

Usually the biggest game of the season for both teams, this year’s game has lost a little bit of luster due to Ezekiel losing four straight as part of a 2-4 start. They did bounce back last week with a win, but Evangel is now 6-0 and in dominant form right now. The Lightning will enter off a 63-28 win against Lighthouse last week and have now scored 41 or ore in every game and the 28 last week was the first time giving up more than 14. Evangel desperately wants this win after losing three of the last four and both matchups last week. Expect the Lightning to walk away with revenge. Evangel 50, Ezekiel 20