Shelby County Football Predictions: Week 2

Published 8:00 am Sunday, August 27, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

After almost nine months without high school football, it just felt right to have football back in Shelby County.

We saw some fantastic matchups in Week 1 last week, as well as a likely record for heat timeouts, and now, we can turn our eyes to another loaded slate in Week 2.

This week will feature a matchup of national powerhouses, multiple in-county rivalries and lots of close and intriguing games in a rare week where every area team will play inside the Shelby County lines.

Just as a quick reminder, you can make your predictions in the Google Form at the end of the article, and I will post the results of the Fans’ Choice picks versus my record each week. Since Thompson and IMG will play on Thursday night, all picks must be made before that game begins at 7 p.m. in order to count.

Now, it’s time to dive into the Week 2 schedule and offer my thoughts on each matchup, starting with our Game of the Week.

Week 1 Record: 9-1

Thompson (1-0) vs. IMG Academy (Florida) (2-0) (Game of the Week, Thursday)

Our second Game of the Week is arguably the most highly anticipated matchup of the season. If you follow high school athletics at a national level, you likely know who IMG is. They are one of the premier destinations for top high school athletes in every sport, and as a result, they are perennially one of the best teams in the country and prove that against the nation’s top teams. 2023 is no different, as the 2020 national champions took down Lipscomb Academy in Nashville in Week 1 and are fresh off facing Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s Prep in an ESPN2 showcase. The Ascenders are currently the #4 team in the nation according to MaxPreps, and have multiple preseason All-Americans, including running back Jerrick Gibson, defensive lineman David Stone, defensive back Ellis Robinson and offensive lineman Jordan Seaton.

With that said, Thompson is playing them for a reason, and that’s because they are the #30 team in the country and have stars across the field. This game will be a showcase on both sides of the field, and it should be full of intriguing positional battles. While this game doesn’t mean much for Thompson in their battle for a state title, this is an opportunity to prove they can contend with the best teams in the nation, and fairly or unfairly, the country, as well as national rankings voters, will judge the Warriors in the future based on how they play in this game. While a win would catapult them into the national title conversation, I don’t think that’s in the cards this time around, although I believe it will be closer than many believe. IMG Academy 28, Thompson 20.

Spain Park (1-0) vs. Briarwood (0-1)

Last Year: Briarwood 23, Spain Park 21

The first Highway 280 battle of the year will happen this week when Briarwood makes the short drive to Jags territory. Both of these schools share the same community, and the battles between neighbors and friends on the field always make this an intriguing game. This year, both the Jags and the Lions very much have to prove themselves on the field, Spain Park because of the preseason hype and talent around the locker room, and Briarwood because of last year’s disappointing finish and the loss of talented seniors. I think Spain Park is in the better situation of the two teams coming into this matchup, but Briarwood always has the capacity to surprise, especially in rivalry games like this. The biggest battle on the field will be between the Shanks brothers in the backfield for Spain Park against Briarwood’s run defense led by Jack Cornish. Whichever side wins that battle should be well positioned to take advantage elsewhere on the field. I believe the Jags will be too much for the Lions, but don’t be surprised if this game is closer than expected as well. Spain Park 21, Briarwood 10.

Chelsea (0-1) vs. Calera (0-1)

Last Year: Calera 10, Chelsea 6

Chelsea may have had a disappointing opening game against Helena, but they showed some solid signs on offense that they have the playmakers and ideas to perform well. The Hornets’ goal here will be move on to the next game and keep building before region play starts, and luckily for Chelsea, they have the perfect opportunity at home against a Calera team that is still figuring out who they are under interim coach Jerad Holder. Calera certainly has the weapons to punish Chelsea on offense, but Chelsea’s defense should come out motivated to make a statement this week. Over on the offense, Emerson Russell played a key role in last week’s game against the Huskies, scoring both of the Hornets’ touchdowns. If Chelsea runs their offense through him again this week, I expect that they will find more success against the Eagles than they did against the Huskies last week, but as Chelsea builds for the future, I want to see Carter Dotson test his arm and start finding weapons like Jaxon Shuttlesworth and Anthony Lanzi on the sidelines and spread out the passing game beyond the short throw. Chelsea should get a win here to get back on track before their regional slate begins. Chelsea 24, Calera 14.

Pelham (1-0) vs. Oak Mountain (1-0)

Last Year: Oak Mountain 21, Pelham 17

This matchup fascinates me on so many levels. For starters, it’s a county rivalry that has led to close games in the past, and even though there is a classification difference between the two schools, they are a lot more similar in talent than the eye is led to believe. In addition, both teams have gone in opposite directions since their meeting last year, with Pelham recovering from the loss to make a run to the second round of the playoffs and Oak Mountain sliding to a 3-7 record after winning this matchup at home in 2022. Both have reasons to be optimistic this year, and that hope should lead to a great battle. Going deeper, both of the quarterbacks should be the ones in command on the offense. Both Clayton Mains and Will O’Dell have experience under center and have shown more poise and comfort as they have developed, and each signal caller has the weapons to make plays on offense. I’m excited to see which one has the edge come Friday night. I also think the veteran linebackers will play a big role here. While Oak Mountain’s Le’Kamren Meadows and Pelham’s Mike Grayson and Kaleb Porter are all talented running backs, they are still learning how to be the main backs, and they will have formidable opponents at linebacker in Jacob Porco and Colton Moore for the Eagles and Will Felton and Bishop Rellah for the Panthers. This game should be a great battle all across the field, but I give the edge to Pelham thanks to their defense. Pelham 21, Oak Mountain 10.

Helena (1-0) vs. Buckhorn (1-0)

Last Year: Helena 55, Buckhorn 17

After such a dominant performance against Chelsea last week, hope springs eternal for Helena fans and they truly believe that it could be a special year. With both the running game and passing game firing on all cylinders and the defense looking as strong as ever, it’s hard to doubt that they could go far this year. This week, they will have a chance to live up to that opening game hype against Buckhorn, who barely squeaked into the playoffs with a 2-3 region record and a 3-7 record overall, which includes a 38-point loss to the Huskies last year. With Helena having the home field advantage and all of the momentum in the world, another dominant win seems in the cards. Helena 45, Buckhorn 10.

Shelby County (0-1) vs. Montevallo (0-0)

Last Year: Shelby County 21, Montevallo 6

It’s time for another chapter in arguably one of the best rivalries in the entire area. I’ve had the privilege of covering each of the last three editions of this battle, and I couldn’t be more excited to cover it again. This year, we will see two teams with as much playoff potential as they have ever had but still trying to figure out who they are on the field. Shelby County has a week’s advantage thanks to their game against West Blocton last week, and they will look to continue their offensive growth against a Bulldogs team which the Wildcats had above-average numbers against last year. For Montevallo, it’s all about getting off to a strong start in their season opener, and their offense will need to figure out Shelby County’s defense in a way that they couldn’t last year. One of the key battles to watch will be between Bulldogs receiver Javon Rogers and Wildcats defensive back Micah Swain to see who gets the upper hand in the passing game. I think we’re going to see a pair of sides that look completely different from when they met last year, and that should lead to a great, close game. Give me Montevallo behind their offensive playmakers. Montevallo 28, Shelby County 21.

Vincent (1-0) vs. Winterboro (1-0)

Last Year: Vincent 56, Winterboro 0

While this game was an easy win for the Yellow Jackets last year, there are still a lot of new pieces settling into their roles across the Vincent roster. Coach Lucas Weatherford’s goal for non-region play has been to get the new and younger players on both the offense and defense up to speed before the battle for the region title begins. As a result, we could see some growing pains, but also, the talent on both sides of the field is very strong and should carry Vincent to wins in matchups like this. In this early stretch, I’m interested to see if the defense can get back to their shutout form that they were to close the 2022 regular season. Over on the offense, I think the Jackets will use running backs like Rykelus Robertson to establish the run and open up the passing game for Casen Fields to make some big plays, which could be a recipe for success for Vincent this season. Vincent 42, Winterboro 7.

Evangel (2-0) vs. Southern Prep (0-2)

Last Year: Evangel 41, Southern Prep 0

Evangel has run absolutely roughshod over their competition so far on both sides of the field, and they have already established themselves as the team to beat in Alabama eight-man football once again. I’m still interested to see the continued evolution of their passing game under Kemp Swords because in the limited times he has thrown to receivers like Zion Thompson and Kye Gray, it has led to big plays for the Lightning offense. Whether we will see more of a balance in both sides of the ball going forward remains to be seen, especially thanks to the success of the run game with Swords and Caeleb Austin, but with the defense forcing turnovers and the offense putting up points in bunches, it’s hard to believe that anything will change this week. Evangel 55, Southern Prep 12.

Coosa Valley (0-1) vs. Lowndes (1-0)

Last Year: Lowndes 40, Coosa Valley 0

The Rebels are still bonding as a team after undergoing many changes from last year, so they will need to come together fast to earn wins in a section of the schedule where they struggled last year. Lowndes will likely be a solid team in AISA this year, and Coosa Valley will look to stand up to them on defense to avoid falling in a deep hole that their offense can’t claw out of. On the other side, the offense’s goal will be to establish themselves early, especially with a touchdown since that could rattle a Lowndes team expecting another shutout. Look for more developments from the Rebels this week, but it more than likely won’t be enough to make a difference here. Lowndes 42, Coosa Valley 7.

Make your voice heard in the Fans’ Choice picks through the form here.