Last Week’s scores
Leeds 34 Holtville 21
Springville 23 Moody 14
Ragland 47 Valley Head 6
Cherokee Co. 54 Ashville 13
Clay-Chalkville 61 Pell City 0
Central Clay Co. 40 St. Clair Co. 7
Spring Garden 39 Victory Christian 13
Ashville Bulldogs (1-6) @ Cleburne County Tigers (1-7)
Ashville should not look at Cleburne County’s record and get complacent. The Tigers deploy a very exciting and effective spread offense with a strong RPO element that is capable of scoring a lot of points. Cleburne County’s running game has bounced back now that their best running back (#2) A.J. Brown has recovered from an injury earlier in the year and has returned to the field.
Brown’s understudy during his absence was (#3) Richard Cantrell, who has done a fine job in his role as lead running back, but will now have to be accounted for with the three and four receiver sets the Tigers deploy. Overlooking all of this offense is quarterback (#12) Reese Morrison, who has a good command of the offense and loves to throw the ball all over the field. The Bulldogs’ secondary will have to show up for work on Friday.
Ashville will need to rev up their running game because Cleburne County’s run defense is suspect. They do have a couple standout players in junior defensive end (#30) Micaiah Ross and their defensive leader in middle linebacker (#44) Cade Smith, but they just don’t have enough run stoppers to contain their opponents. The Tigers have surrendered 49 points or more in six of their eight games, and have been outscored this season 368-197. Ashville will likely get into a shootout that will come down to who scores last.
Leeds Green Wave (2-5) @ Handley Tigers (3-4)
The Green Wave has begun to turn its program toward better days having just come off their first regional win of the year. This week they travel to play Handley - a traditional powerhouse team that has been a bit off this season.
Handley is 2-2 within Region 4 as of this week, and sees this game as crucial for their playoff hopes. The biggest question is whether their most valuable player will be available. Senior quarterback QuonDarius Lyons has been playing lights out football until he got knocked out of the game last week against Lincoln. His prognosis at this time is unknown. Handley’s offense was also supposed to feature a lot of junior running back (#34) Devontae Houston, who began the year expecting a 1000+ yard season, but little has been heard about the dynamic back since the end of August.
Leeds may be catching a banged up Handley team at the right moment. If Handley’s offense struggles as expected, Leeds can steal a road win and register its third win of the year.
Moody Blue Devils (1-6) @ Center Point Eagles (4-3)
After a promising start to the season, Moody has been heading in the wrong direction of late, capped by a loss against county rival Springville last Friday.
Meanwhile the Eagles of Center Point have been soaring of late, winning the last two and positioning itself into playoff contention. To see the difference between the two programs, look no farther than common opponents this season:
Center Point 32 Munford 0
Munford 21 Moody 7
Center Point 40 Sylacauga 14
Sylacauga 21 Moody 14
Center Point 54 Springville 14
Springville 23 Moody 14
Center Point’s defense plays with fire and anger. It is led by two talented safeties in senior (#1) Leboise Deru and junior (#9) Leon Silmon. Augmenting these veteran defenders are the young guys on the Eagles defense who are also very effective. Two sophomores currently being recruited by FBS college programs are linebacker/running back (#8) Noah Steen along with cornerback (#10) Robert Blanco. Like any other program looking to become consistently successful Moody has suffered a temporary setback in personnel as the coaching staff restructures the program. Unfortunately this leaves the Blue Devils vulnerable to an Eagles defense presents a number of challenges going into this week.
Much will fall on Moody’s secondary this week because the Eagles have really balanced out their attack over the past month. Senior quarterback (#5) Kendall Calloway has improved throughout the season, collecting his third 100+ yard rushing game this week. The Blue Devils will be need to disrupt the pocket and contain Calloway without allowing him to hit his downfield threats like junior wideout (#2) RJ Orr.
Pell City Panthers (2-5) @ Pinson Valley Indians (6-1)
Pell City continues its torturous journey through the fire of the best Class 6A region in the state, going up against top ranked Pinson Valley. The Indians only loss came against Hoover in Week One, followed by the Indians’ methodical dismemberment of every team they have faced since the end of August.
Unless one lives under a rock, Pinson Valley’s quarterback is the four star Auburn commitment (#10) Bo Nix, the son of former Auburn quarterback and current Pinson Valley head coach Patrick Nix. The Indians quarterback threw for 409 yards on Clay-Chalkville in a win earlier this year – the same Clay-Chalkville team that shut out Pell City 61-0 last week. The weapons surrounding Nix are just scary – wide receiver (#15) Keyonteze Johnson just had a 175 yard, two touchdown performance last week against Huffman. Sophomore (#1) Ga’Quincy McKinstry, who is rated by some recruiting services as the best cornerback in the country for the class of 2021, also plays wide receiver along with (#4) Demarion Holloman. They have all been scorching secondaries all season. The Indians spread defenses thin at will, and then chop through the exposed center with running backs Kenji Christian and (#2) Jay Sharp.
Pell City goes up against its fourth opponent this season with the talent to win a state championship this year. It is what the Panthers must endure playing in the most competitive region in Class 6A.
Ragland Purple Devils (4-4) @ Winterboro Bulldogs (5-3)
Only Appalachian has been eliminated from playoff contention in Class 1A Region 5 – that means that Ragland will be in a mad scramble for one of the playoff spots and needs a win on the road to avoid being stuck at home in November.
Ragland is enjoying a four game winning streak while Winterboro has won its last two games in dominant fashion. Hot streak vs. hot streak face off in a game that feels like a playoff matchup.
It will be interesting to see how the Bulldogs defense deals with Ragland tailback LaDarious Spikes, who has been ravaging all comers this season.
As for the Purple Devils’ opponent, it appears on film that Winterboro has a disjointed offense with some talented players who make up for their shortcomings in team cohesion. Their offensive line is one of those inconsistencies – they have a real horse in the interior with (#55) Jay Garrett and (#58) Brandon Dandridge, but the other linemen get pushed around and leave gaps for the Purple Devils’ defense to exploit. The Bulldogs offense is led by quarterback Shaun Vincent who depends on his favored go-to guy in the backfield - running back Cordarrius Swain. Because Winterboro doesn’t have much of a passing attack, stopping Swain may mean victory.
This is a showdown between two very special running backs in a game of high-stakes playoff positioning.
Springville Tigers (2-5) @ Mortimer Jordan Blue Devils (7-1)
Springville’s celebrations in its win over county rival Moody now will be tempered by what awaits them this week.
The Tigers travel to Mortimer Jordan this week – a ranked 5A opponent who have been dismantling opponents after a slow start to the season. Despite losing a lot of players to graduation last year MJ Coach Dusty Goode has rebuilt his team into the best of its region, with hopes of a state championship run becoming more and more a reality.
The Blue Devils quarterback is junior Kourlan Marsh, who is very elusive when he breaks out of the backfield. The Blue Devils spread-option attack features effective running backs in Senior (#34) Daniel Franklin and Junior (#22) Garrett Helm, who have each had multiple 100+ yard rushing performances this season. Marsh is also blessed with a variety of great targets from the passing game, including the outstanding senior wide receiver (#81) Luke Parks - a 6’4” playmaker who can get to the high ball downfield.
Springville’s offense will be sorely tested. Mortimer Jordan has a smothering defense that has held four of its eight opponents to one score or less. The Tigers are playing an elite team, and the measure of Friday’s performance should be how deep into the game Springville can hang in there with the Blue Devils.
St. Clair County Saints (1-6) vs. Munford Lions (2-5)
The Fighting Saints are way overdue for some good news – and an opponent this week may give the team an opportunity for some optimism.
The Munford Lions are a very mysterious team to break down. Defensively they have some excellent personnel; senior linebacker/running back (#7) Pernell Mitchell is an outstanding football player who has captured the attention of several FCS and lower-tier FBS programs. Junior outside linebacker (#6) Rodney Groce Jr. and cornerback (#4) Dreke Dorman have also generated buzz about how their on-field play can translate to a future in college football. One would think that a team with this kind of defensive talent would shut people down – but scores and stats do not lie. Having been outscored 209-123 so far this season, the Lions have been, at times, doing themselves in with flat, ineffective offensive production. Two weeks ago they looked sharp against Moody. Last week? Mortimer Jordan beat the Lions by 39 points.
The Saints need something positive to point to at the end of the season. St. Clair Co. needs a good day from their offense, but it will be their defense that determines the outcome. The Saints cannot allow Munford’s anemic offense to get going. If Coach Matt Glover gets his defense up for this game, they can get a much needed regional win.
Victory Christian Lions (3-4) @ Donoho Falcons (5-2)
Victory Christian’s season comes down to the next two games – they must find a way to knock off both Donoho and Spring Garden to get three regional wins and the tiebreakers needed to secure a playoff spot.
The Lions face a Falcons squad led defensively by the fast and powerful defensive end (#55) Tyler Rigsby. Victory can exploit Donoho’s defense and run their plays away from Rigsby, but he has lightning in his legs and a closing speed that can run down any opponent virtually anywhere on the field.
Victory Christian’s rush defense is going to have to play their best game of the season. The Falcons most potent element of their team is their running game featuring sophomore running back and linebacker (#6) Rod Elston along with running back Dekari Garrett, who at 5’7” and 215 pounds is a forceful, low-to-ground runner who must be gang tackled. Elston and Garrett run behind what passes in 1A football as a huge offensive line anchored by senior tackle Grayson Marlowe, a 300 pounder that towers over most defenses he faces.
Ragland’s outside linebackers will also need to contend with senior Tight end (#25) Will Nelson, who is a very effective blocker who also has great hands on short and intermediate passing plays.
This game is Victory Christian’s most important of the season. It truly is win or go home time.