John Hughes offers his insights and opinions on this week’s local high school football games. For more on this week’s games.
Last week’s results
Victory Christian 21 Ragland 19
Oneonta 34 Ashville 8
Central Clay 34 Moody 0
Huffman 34 Pell City 13
Munford 45 Springville 13
Center Point 54 St. Clair Co. 13
Leeds Green Wave at Ohatchee Indians
The Green Wave is not afforded a rest with their upcoming non-region matchup at Ohatchee. A first glance at Leeds’ opponent may lead one to think that there should be no problem winning against a Class 2A adversary; that lower classification belies the fact that Ohatchee will be a big challenge this week. Ohatchee has been dominant this season with its unblemished record (4-0) and a prolific scoring offense that has outscored opponents 208-52 in only four games. This success on the field has the Indians positioned at No. 3 in Class 2A by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.
This game is expected to be an exciting matchup of power-running offenses. Leeds has a dynamic and powerful running attack with a collection of runners centered around star tailback Jakobi Hunter. The Green Wave’s running game gets better as the game goes on; they have the tendency to wear down defenses and crack them open late in the game. Ohatchee plays with the same philosophy and has enjoyed a lot of success with that approach. The Indians have an abundance of riches in their backfield; led by senior running back Domonique Thomas. When Thomas needs a break, Ohatchee rolls in junior running back Noah Fuller and junior fullback Aiden Simpson during drives to put a lot of pressure on defenses throughout the game. Senior quarterback Cam Foushee will mix in a few passes to keep the Green Wave’s defense honest, but they don’t need to.
Leeds comes off a bye week healed up and ready to go. This matchup should be more of the same that Leeds has seen all season – a clash of elite running games that will be decided on fourth-quarter drives and opportune turnovers.
Moody Blue Devils vs. Shelby County Wildcats
Moody welcomes Shelby County to Bill Morris Stadium this Friday as the Blue Devils celebrate homecoming. Moody’s most exciting and dramatic game last season came against Shelby County in a well-fought, close matchup that resulted in a 28-20 Wildcat victory. This year Moody hosts the matchup as Shelby County comes in this week struggling with a 0-5 start. The Blue Devils should not underestimate the Wildcats and their winless record mainly because Shelby County has had to run a gauntlet of ranked opponents for the first half of the season and has still managed to average 30 points per game so far this year.
Moody’s offense has the ability to run all over an opponent like Shelby County. Quarterback Connor Rush has been spectacular running out of the backfield against suspect defenses – and the Wildcats have been porous against opponents this season, surrendering 43 points per contest. Rush and featured tailback Terrance Moore need standout performances to take advantage of the struggling Shelby County defense and get Moody on the scoreboard quickly and often.
Fans who want to focus on the most intriguing matchup should check out Shelby County tackle J.T. Pennington versus Moody defensive end Joel McCormick. McCormick has emerged as the Blue Devils’ most dangerous defensive player; his violent hands, footwork and pursuit speed has opposing coaches completely changing their play-calling to limit the damage McCormick rains down on offenses.
The Blue Devils would be clever to move McCormick around and not to line up against Pennington on every play. The 275-pound offensive tackle is Shelby County’s most muscular protector of their backfield; this face-off will determine whether or not Shelby County quarterback Chase Holliman can execute his run-heavy offense.
Ragland Purple Devils vs. West End Walnut Grove Patriots
After Ragland’s football team put out an exhilarating and dramatic showing against Victory Christian last week, the Purple Devils have evolved into the team their fans had hoped for this season. This week presents an opportunity to knock off a Class 2A opponent in a non-region matchup at home against West End Walnut Grove.
The Patriots come limping into Ragland with one of the least effective defenses in high school football. Standout offensive players for Ragland like Nathaniel Kelly, Kentrell Tucker and Josh Phillips must be rubbing their hands together in anticipation of getting after a Patriots defense that is surrendering over 60 points per game this year. Winless W.E.W.G.’s leaky defense has an additional headache facing off against the vastly improved Ragland quarterback Owen Schall, who has matured under the coaching of Ragland head coach Derrick Sewell and has become a truly dangerous multidimensional threat.
The Patriots are not toothless. They do have an effective play-caller in quarterback Jacob Jones who has shown flashes of good play in his read-option attack. The Purple Devils’ defense will also need to keep tabs on the Patriots’ best running back in senior Levi Armstrong. West End has been able to jump out to early leads against two opponents this year before fading in the second half. Ragland has the weapons to drive down the field and score early, which would lead to West End’s almost certain downfall. The Purple Devils cannot be complacent and rest their hopes on a repeat of West End’s late-game collapses. A slow start would give the Patriots hope to snatch up their first win, and Ragland must dash that hope early on.
Springville Tigers at Crossville Lions
After frustrating back-to-back losses against region rivals Central Clay and Munford, the Springville Tigers are in need of a turnaround performance to get back on track and get their third win of the season. This Friday’s matchup on the road against Crossville may be just what the doctor ordered to get the Tigers back to their winning ways.
Springville coach Michael Graben has been trying to find ways to keep his offense on the field and rest his defense, which has been stretched to its limit against the elite teams on their schedule. Crossville’s struggles on offense (the Lions have only been able to score 54 points in five games) gives Graben the type of opponent that can give his defense opportunities to recharge throughout Friday’s game. When rested, the Tigers’ D is formidable. Defensive tackle DJ Salas and defensive end Bryce Storie have been very effective at clogging the running lanes of opposing offenses, supported by a great duo of linebackers in Braden Hughes and John Raby. The Lions (1-4) have a reputation of being very slow out of the gate, illustrated by their lack of performance in their 54-0 loss against Alexandria last week.
Springville quarterback Pearson Baldwin and his platoon of running backs that rotate in and out of the game can carry the bulk of the Tigers’ responsibility to control Crossville’s defense while controlling the clock by hammering out long, time-sapping drives. If Springville can consistently put itself in third-down-and-short situations and limit self-defeating penalties, it would be enough to control the outcome of this week’s game. As for Springville’s defense, a Crossville team with only a few playmakers (Alex Chacon and Ethan Tully are two of its better players) allows the Tigers’ defense to put seven or even eight guys in the box and smother the Lions’ offense.
Victory Christian Lions at Coosa Christian Conquerors
After a thrilling region victory against rival Ragland last week, the Victory Christian Lions are primed to extend their winning ways on their road game in Gadsden on Friday against winless Coosa Christian.
As the Lions have become more competitive and shown steady improvement under head coach Bruce Breland, the Conquerors’ season appeared to stall out in Week 1, and they have yet to find their footing. Coosa Christian’s defense features a pair of hulking defensive linemen in Elijah Cole and Hunter Hendrix, but their lack of edge support and shaky secondary are the main reasons why the Conquerors have surrendered an average of more than 45 points per game this season. The Lions featured offensive threat is senior Lee Yeager, who has the kind of speed and physicality to run wide and exploit the smaller and less effective parts of Coosa
Christian’s defense. Yeager is in a position to run for more than 200 yards this week and generate touchdowns to pad his impressive offensive stats.
The Lions’ defense is a very pleasant surprise this year – they are just flat-out good with their physicality and aggressive demeanor. Unless the Conquerors have added a new wrinkle to their offense no one knows about, they will rely on multi-purpose back Evan Delp for their production. Delp is a sophomore with great tools and has displayed bursts of athleticism in recent games, but most teams have adjusted to bottling him up, leaving the Conquerors with few options.
Chances are very good that Victory Christian fans will enjoy a display of offensive fireworks, stifling defensive play, and an important road victory this Friday followed by a satisfying drive home after the game.
Pell City Panthers, St. Clair County Saints and Ashville Bulldogs have byes this week.