Shelby County Football Predictions: Week 3

Published 10:57 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

This week, the games start mattering more and the quest for the playoffs begins. It’s time for region play to begin.

After spending the last few weeks learning about who each team is this season, Week 3 is when we truly get to see how each team stacks up against the teams they will be battling with for a region title and playoff spots.

We have 13 great matchups across the county this week, including a top-five battle in 7A, the annual battle for Hoover and a crucial game in the Class 6A, Region 3 playoff race.

With that, let’s dive into this week’s slate of games, starting with our Game of the Week.

Spain Park vs. Hoover (Game of the Week)

For the first time in a few years, the Bucs and the Jags could be a very close matchup. Spain Park is riding high after shutting out Calera in dominant fashion, and they should have all the confidence in the world after keeping the Bucs within two scores last year. Meanwhile, Hoover struggled in their Week 1 opener against Auburn. While the Tigers are expected to contend for a state title again, Hoover was picked to be up there with them come November, and a 39-14 loss doesn’t exactly reassure Bucs fans that the preseason hype will be true. If there was ever a year for an upset, it’s this year. To do so, the Jags will need a near perfect night from Brock Bradley and the passing game, both Shanks brothers at running back and defensive stars like Jared Smith. That’s a big ask, which is why I can’t quite bring myself to pick Spain Park. But the fact that I’m starting to believe the players, coaches and fans around this program (and one Alec Etheredge) who say this Jags team could do something special is absolutely saying something. Hoover 21, Spain Park 14.

Thompson vs. Vestavia Hills

It doesn’t get much better than two top-five teams battling it out in Thompson’s home opener to kick off region play. While the Warriors were unable to test themselves against IMG Academy, Thompson will still have chances in games like this to prove that the offensive and defensive dominance that they showed against Opelika was no fluke. Vestavia is as talented and hungry as they’ve ever been after losing to Thompson in the quarterfinals last year, and they are far from the sub-.500 team that they were in years past. The star quarterback battle will obviously grab the headlines, but I’m curious if Thompson’s defensive stars can perform like they did in the opener. I’m not concerned about the offense with what they showed in the opener, but if the relatively new players on defense can come together and be half of what last year’s defense was, they will easily take games like this and be well on their way to the title game. Thompson 28, Vestavia Hills 17.

Oak Mountain vs. Hewitt-Trussville

Oak Mountain’s region opener looks like it will be coach Shane McComb’s first big test as the Eagles head coach. These are two teams who showed signs in non-region play that this game could be closer than expected, as Oak Mountain’s offense played well, particularly against Northridge but also against Pelham, and Hewitt-Trussville fell victim to a stellar passing performance from Central-Phenix City in Week 1. No quarterback is going to throw for 428 yards like Andrew Alford did, but Will O’Dell may be wise to test the Huskies pass defense to see if he can find some success. However, Oak Mountain has shown that they have the talent to be a great running football team, and they may well try that route instead. Either way, the Eagles need to show up ready to play their best football on both ends of the field to make this close. I believe Hewitt will once again show why they are in the upper echelon of the region and the state. Hewitt-Trussville 35, Oak Mountain 17.

 Chelsea at Tuscaloosa County

As Chelsea enters region play ready to pick up some wins and make a bigger impact than they did last year, it’s contests like this where the Hornets will have to be ready to win and show that they can compete in this region. After a chance to recover from a rough season opener with a strong showing against Calera, the Hornets need to show a diversified offense and a defense that can stop what their regional opponents throw their way. Emerson Russell will always be a great tool to use to success, especially after his dominant first half a week ago, but he will have a target on his back from here on out and the passing game needs to support him. While the Wildcats finished in the bottom half of the region with Chelsea last year, they are no pushover and should be a great test for the Hornets. I think this will be a close game, but I give an edge to the home side. Tuscaloosa County 21, Chelsea 17.

Helena at Homewood

This game has all the makings of a great battle and could well decide playoff positioning in Region 3 like in years past, and it could possibly even be a region title game in the first week of region play. Homewood is still figuring some pieces out after losing a talented senior class last year, and they will hope to have some of those answers figured out when Helena rolls into town. Helena has shown so far that they have a balanced and talented team that can attack on all fronts and be prepared for whatever an opposing offense throws their way thanks to their two dominant wins. The Huskies have proven more to me up to this point, so give me them to overcome a hostile environment at Waldrop Stadium in a close one. Helena 24, Homewood 17.

Briarwood at Chilton County

The Lions endured an absolute gauntlet of a non-region schedule between Clay-Chalkville and Spain Park, but with wins starting to become more feasible in games like this week’s showdown with Chilton County, they will need to start putting it together to earn wins. The main area of concern for is the offense with the lack of proven talent at quarterback, and stars will need to step up at each position on that side of the ball in order for Briarwood to succeed. Luckily for the Lions, they look like they have another stout defense that can hold even elite opponents to low scores. Chilton County has defensive playmakers as well, including the third-ranked linebacker in the country for the Class of 2024, Demarcus Riddick, but are somewhat thin around him. This has all the makings of a defensive battle, but I haven’t seen enough of the Lions to pick them over the Tigers. Chilton County 24, Briarwood 14.

Calera vs. Benjamin Russell

The entire town of Calera has endured a tough week with the loss of 15-year old football player Brayden Ray, and while the hearts of everyone on the field and in the stands will be heavy, the community has a chance to find some catharsis even if just for a brief time with their game against Ben Russell on Friday. The on-field results almost matter less than actually being out on the field playing for their brother, but everyone in the Calera locker room will be playing to win more than ever. The Eagles will need to use that emotion to power them on the field, as Calera has had a difficult first two weeks against 7A county foes Spain Park and Chelsea, and Ben Russell looks to be a playoff contender in Class 6A, Region 3 once again. However, Calera showed signs of improvement on offense in the second half against Chelsea, and they can use the progress and lessons learned to show a complete performance against Ben Russell. Even with all of the emotions involved, I still give Ben Russell the edge, but Calera will bring the fight from beginning to end to honor Ray’s memory. Benjamin Russell 35, Calera 24.

Shelby County at Holtville

The Wildcats have shown in stretches that they can be a playoff team in 5A, but that needs to start coming together this week as Shelby County has a key game against a Holtville team which only just finished above them in the region standings last year. Beating the teams around and below in the region standings is usually a good recipe to put a team in position to get to the playoffs. To do that, the Wildcats will need to score more points as the Bulldogs scored 24.1 points per game last season and beat their average against Fultondale in their opener. The Wildcats will need to put to use the defense that they showed in their opening two games, especially since the offense hasn’t shown yet that it is improved from last year. Shelby County won this game handily last year, but I expect it to be closer than it was last year since I haven’t seen enough consistent signs from the Wildcats. I lean towards Holtville in this contest, but would not mind being proven wrong by Shelby County. Holtville 28, Shelby County 21.

Montevallo at Hale County

The Bulldogs are staring down a must-win game in just their second game of the season. Montevallo finished in a tie with Hale County and Sipsey Valley for the final playoff spot in the region, and early signs show that it may be those three teams battling to get in again. Luckily for the Bulldogs, they handled the Wildcats last year and have the tools on paper to make a win happen again. However, with Hale County hosting this year’s match, home-field advantage could play a factor. This could be a surprise battle, but Montevallo should win this and set themselves on a course for playoff contention. Montevallo 28, Hale County 17.

Vincent vs. Central Coosa

It may be early, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far of Vincent. Their issues putting away Ragland aside, the Jackets look like they may have the pieces on offense and defense to compete in the 2A playoffs once again. To do that, though, they have to beat 2A opponents, and they haven’t done that yet as both of their non-region matchups were against 1A teams. We know that Vincent can run the ball well with Rykelus Robertson and even quarterback Casen Fields, but Vincent will need to keep their passing game developing and find the killer instinct on defense that turned games like this into shutouts last year. That said, Vincent has proved to be a step above teams like Central Coosa, so I have no worries about them here, but if they have any holes, they should start patching them here with B.B. Comer looming on Sept. 21. Vincent 48, Central Coosa 7.

Evangel vs. Carolina Wildcats

While we could sit here all day and gush over Evangel’s offense so far this season with Kemp Swords as its new dynamic quarterback, Caeleb Austin asserting his dominance in the run game and Zion Thompson looking more and more like one of the top receivers in 8-man, it’s their defense that continues to impress. 8-man is known for all offense and very little defense, but after establishing that side of the ball well last year, they have continued to hold their opponents to low scores this season. They looked strong on both offense and defense last year against the Wildcats, and I don’t expect that to change. This Charlotte native certainly won’t mind if Evangel takes a second win over a Carolina team this season. Evangel 42, Carolina Wildcats 0.

Cornerstone vs. Riverside Christian (TN)

To nobody’s surprise, Cornerstone has continued improving in their opening games of the season and look like a state title contender this year. After a week off and a pair of 11-man games, it’s time to see Zeke Adams and the dynamic Chargers offense in 8-man football, and they’ll get a Riverside team coming in from Tennessee to start. While coach James Lee has emphasized that their 11-man games are very similar to their 8-man games, it will be interesting to see the differences in how they look from their first two weeks to now. I expect the Chargers to come out looking to make a statement and win handily. Cornerstone 46, Riverside Christian 12.

Coosa Valley at Lakeside

While many of Coosa Valley’s opponents up to this point were ones they struggled with offensively last year, Lakeside was one of the teams that the Rebels broke double-digits against last year despite the lopsided scoreline. Coach Vince DiLorenzo and his team have to take solace in that after a rough start to the season, but the hope is as time goes on that this team will grow into a better, more cohesive unit. Given what we’ve seen so far, that might not happen this week, but it could be a step in the right direction for Coosa Valley. Lakeside 35, Coosa Valley 6.