Week 10 Predictions: Region title game headlines chaotic final week of region play
Published 10:23 am Monday, October 23, 2023
By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor
This is what it all comes down to. It’s the final week of region play, and there is still so much up for grabs.
We have a region title game on our hands in Alex City between Helena and Benjamin Russell as the Huskies seek to cap an undefeated run through region play, but beyond that, Spain Park is fighting to get into the playoffs and Briarwood, Montevallo and Vincent are all battling for higher seeds.
For multiple teams, this is the end of the road for the regular season, and Thompson, Oak Mountain, Chelsea, Cornerstone and Coosa Valley will all seek to end the season on a high note, regardless of if their season will continue in the playoffs or not.
For a deeper breakdown on every clinching and seeding scenario, tune in to this week’s Shelby County Football Show, but for now, let’s focus on the matchups on the field this week and go classification-by-classification, starting with our Game of the Week.
Last Week’s Picks: 8-4
Overall Record: 80-17
Helena (8-0) at Benjamin Russell (6-2) (Game of the Week)
Outside of the playoffs themselves, there’s nothing more exciting than a region title game, and that’s exactly what Helena and Ben Russell will be this week. For the Huskies, a win would capture their third region title and undefeated region season in five seasons. Expect coach Richie Busby’s boys to come out swinging, and they’ll need to do so against a great team like Ben Russell. On paper, Helena is the better team in both offensive points per game and defensive points allowed per game. However, Ben Russell’s passing game as been firing on all cylinders the last two week, mainly thanks to standout receiver Malcolm Simmons. Helena’s biggest challenge will be containing him and the rest of the offense in the secondary by preventing them from getting into space. The Huskies have the speed and physicality to do so, and when they get off the field, they have enough weapons to hurt the Wildcats in many different ways. Beyond that, I expect Helena’s momentum and fresh legs from last week’s blowout win to give it the edge for a hard-fought win. Helena 35, Benjamin Russell 28.
Thompson (7-1) at Hoover (4-5)
Thompson-Hoover week is always one of the most exciting weeks of the season, but this one will have a different feel because Thompson has already clinched the region title and Hoover is fighting with Spain Park for a playoff spot. Both teams are rolling into this matchup with arguably their best forms of the season, which when combined with the stakes make this a tricky game to pick. Hoover dominated Chelsea in the run game last week, and the Bucs could find success with that path if they try that this week if Thompson struggles with getting off the field on defense like it did against Tuscaloosa County. However, Thompson overcame that slow start to put up another great offensive performance like we expect from this unit that averages 43.1 points per game. Between the Warriors’ pass rush of Jayden Davis and Tyler Hicks as well as the rhythm they are in offensively, I expect Thompson to walk away with a win even if it uses part of the regular season finale to rest ahead of its bye. The Warriors are just too talented to not walk away with the win, even with Hoover’s playoff status still slightly up in the air. Thompson 42, Hoover 17.
Oak Mountain (1-8) vs. Spain Park (5-3)
Jags coach Tim Vakakes loves to refer to his team as heavyweight fighters. While last week’s win over Hewitt-Trussville wasn’t quite as shocking as Ali-Frazier, it was still unexpected and exactly what Spain Park needs right now. Another thing the Jags could use this week is a favorable matchup in the last week of region play, and that’s exactly what they have against Oak Mountain, despite this being a big rivalry game. While these rivalry games can be unpredictable, especially with the Eagles looking to finish the season with a win, the Jags are exactly the kind of team that Oak Mountain has struggled with this year. If Spain Park comes out and establishes the tempo on offense with big plays and a balanced attack, their defense should be able to hold an Eagles team with one touchdown in two weeks to a low score and get the win. Spain Park 45, Oak Mountain 7.
Chelsea (2-7) vs. Hewitt-Trussville (6-3)
Chelsea will honor its senior class as the Huskies come to town, and the Hornets may have their hands full again at home for the second straight week. We saw Vestavia Hills come out and make a statement in response to its loss at Hewitt two weeks ago, and now after the Huskies lost to Spain Park by double digits, expect the same from them this week. Hewitt is one of the best offenses in the state this year with Peyton Floyd’s air attack, and that isn’t good news for a Chelsea team allowing 36.1 points per game on defense. Even if the Hornets hold the Huskies on defense, I don’t believe Chelsea’s offense will be able to overcome Hewitt’s defense. The Hornets will put up a fight in their final game of the season, but expect Hewitt to come out motivated and wrap up not just a high seed, but a playoff spot as well since the Huskies’ fate is not yet determined. Hewitt-Trussville 42, Chelsea 14.
Briarwood (4-4) vs. Homewood (5-3)
Briarwood has a playoff spot locked up, but its mission is to avoid the top teams in Class 6A with a higher seed. Homewood has the same goal, and with Will Myers likely back after a week out, the Patriots will be well-equipped to bring the fight to Briarwood. That means the Lions defense is going to factor in more than ever, especially defending the run since that was how Homewood dominated the game against Pelham. However, the Lions have a much stouter defense than the Panthers, and I expect that to be key if this matchup is close down the stretch. Briarwood’s offense is peaking at the right time with three touchdowns or more in its last three games, which bodes well against a Patriots team that has a habit of letting teams hang in games, especially last week with two late touchdowns surrendered to Pelham. It’s hard to tell where this game may swing if it is close late given both teams’ recent struggles in tight situations, but I think the Lions will get the stops they need to get the win. Briarwood 24, Homewood 17.
Pelham (4-4) vs. Chilton County (3-5)
While both teams are eliminated from the playoffs, this is a very close matchup on paper and could be entertaining on the field. Pelham’s is averaging 22.1 points per game on offense and 21.9 points per game on defense, while Chilton County averages 20.9 points on offense and 26.5 points on defense. That leans Pelham’s way, but it will need to get the passing game going consistently to take advantage of that matchup. The Panthers have looked good when Clayton Mains is able to find his receivers in both short and long situations, but the plays haven’t consistently been there this season. The run game will be limited by the Tigers pass rush, including Demarcus Riddick, so that makes the air attack even more important. At the end of the day, I think Pelham will be motivated to bounce back in the seniors’ final home game and will prevail in a close situation. Pelham 21, Chilton County 14.
Calera (0-8) at Gadsden City (6-3)
Calera’s struggles with containing high-scoring offenses will likely be on display again against a Gadsden City offense that has been flying this year. The Class 6A, Region 8 champions have averaged 39.9 points per game on offense this season, including 69 points against Hazel Green, 42 against Mae Jemison and 41 against Lee Huntsville in their last three games. Combine that with Calera’s 44.0 points allowed per game on defense, and it could be a long night for the Eagles. Calera will bring the fight in the last two games of the season to try and finish the season with a win, but Gadsden City is firing on all cylinders and should take this game easily. Gadsden City 45, Calera 7.
Shelby County (2-6) vs. Rehobeth (4-4)
After a grueling and high-pressure battle for the playoffs in region play, Shelby County still has a lot to play for after finishing in a three-way tie for third place since the deciding factor between these two teams will be decided by the number of wins the non-region opponents that they beat have earned. Within this matchup, while Rehobeth struggled in region play, they have a slight edge on paper over Shelby County and had better results against the top teams in their region thanks to a win over Charles Henderson and a tight loss to Eufaula. The Wildcats’ offense is coming off of its two best scoring performances of the season, so that will help flip a 23-12 defeat from last season. However, the defense hasn’t been as strong in the past couple of weeks, so they need to turn that around to keep this game close. This matchup is a coin flip in my eyes, but I think Rehobeth will edge it with an extra scoring drive. Rehobeth 28, Shelby County 21.
Montevallo (6-2) vs. American Christian (7-2)
The Bulldogs have three big reasons to get a win this week: first, so they can clinch a home playoff game as the two seed out of Region 3, second, to beat ACA for the first time since their first meeting in 2016, and third, to avoid a potentially messy tiebreaker that could eliminate Montevallo from the playoffs. A win would be program-defining, but that is also because of how tough it is to beat the Patriots. ACA is on a tear, having scored 44 or more in each of its last three games. Its only losses are to 5A playoff team Demopolis and 4A No. 9 Bibb County, both by single digits. It will take the best performance of the season to earn a win here. I believe Montevallo will be competitive and bring the fight across the field, but so much not only relies on its defense consistently getting stops, but its offense presenting a diverse and dangerous attack. While games aren’t played on paper and every team has a shot to win in any given week, all of the evidence points towards another ACA win. American Christian 35, Montevallo 21.
Vincent (6-3) at Thorsby (6-2)
Vincent can still dodge the top teams in Class 2A even with a loss to Isabella last week if it can move above Thorsby with a win here. Vincent’s defense is key every week with how solid it has been this season, but especially here given that Thorsby’s offense has posted some impressive results despite being statistically similar to the Jackets’ attack. Getting consistent stops will be a good way to at least ensure the offense has a chance to make the plays needed to win. Beyond that, the Jackets should like their chances here as long as they limit errors. Turnovers and other self-inflicted wounds arguably decided last week’s game against Isabella. As long as the offense keeps control of the football and finds the end zone while the defense holds firm, Vincent should walk away with a win even if it is close. Vincent 28, Thorsby 21.
Evangel (10-0) vs. East Central (4-4) (ACSC Semifinals)
After a week off, it’s time for the postseason for the Lightning as they hope to end the season lifting the national championship trophy in Florida. That journey starts this week against East Central, a team that Evangel defeated 44-0 back in August en route to finishing the regular season undefeated. It’s always hard to beat a team twice, but the Lightning commanded this matchup earlier in the year and have only gotten better since. I don’t see the Lightning struggling here, especially after taking a well-earned bye week last week to rest up ahead of the playoff battles to come. Evangel 48, East Central 6.
Cornerstone (9-0, 2-0 11-Man) at Bessemer Academy (3-6 11-Man) (Thursday)
One more opponent stands between Cornerstone and a historic first undefeated regular season. That would be 3-6 Bessemer Academy, who have struggled at the 11-man level this season. All three of those wins have come against opponents with three wins or less right now. On the flip side, Cornerstone has the best record in school history and is rolling on offense and defense. Expect a lower-scoring contest as the Chargers prepare for a postseason run, but Cornerstone should walk away with an easy victory to secure a 10-0 record. Cornerstone 36, Bessemer Academy 12.
Coosa Valley (1-8) vs. Sparta (1-8)
Coosa Valley’s loss to Southern Academy last week means this is the end of the road for the Rebels as they will miss the playoffs. This team should be well-motivated to win in its final home game of the season, especially after continuing its positive momentum on offense last week. This matchup was a low-scoring one-point win for the Rebels last year, and it should pit an improved, albeit still struggling Coosa Valley team against a Sparta team that hasn’t found much success either. I think this will be close like last year, but I believe the Rebels will have just enough motivation and firepower to see out their second win of the season. Coosa Valley 22, Sparta 12.