(November 16, 2017)
The first round of the AHSAA playoffs always provides great matchups - intriguing ones - sneaky good.
That’s what we have again this year as we open the second season.
Start in Class 6A where Wetumpka is riding high. So is Park Crossing and Sidney Lanier, which expect to make a long appearance.
Class 4A is loaded with teams looking to make waves in the post season. Tallassee, Montgomery Catholic and St. James all have a shot to make it a long way and Alabama Christian expects to surprise a few folks.
In AISA, Macon East can pull an upset and (probably) face Autauga Academy in the Class AA championship.
AHSAA Playoffs Round 1/AISA Semifinals
(All games begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted)
Paul Bryant at Sidney Lanier
What: AHSAA Class 6A 1st round
When: Thursday at Cramton Bowl
2017 Records: Bryant 6-4 (3rd); Lanier 9-1 (2nd)
Last week: Bryant def. Homewood, 13-7; Lanier def. Prattville, 34-3
Last meeting: First meeting
Keys: Lanier hasn’t won a playoff game since 2006 under L.C. Cole, defeating Theodore in the 1st round.
Outlook: With all the talk of the final go-around of this class of seniors, it will be interesting to see just how the Poets handle this first round. The opponent is pretty salty, giving Hillcrest (the region champs) a run for its money. They also handed Homewood it’s only loss of the season last week although there may have been injuries involved with the Patriots. But Lanier has faced pretty good opponents, too and probably has as much speed as anyone the Stampede has faced. As with any other game at this time of year, if Lanier protects the football, it should win. It found that out in its only loss of the year to Park Crossing. The pain of last year’s loss to Daphne in the first round still has a spot in the memory banks too. Here’s guessing that’s enough to get Lanier over the hump in what should be a solid game.
Preddiction: Lanier 32, Paul Bryant 24
Bessemer City at Park Crossing
What: AHSAA Class 6A 1st round
When: Friday at Cramton Bowl
2017 Records: Bessemer 4-6 (4th); Park Crossing 9-1 (1st)
Last week: Huffman def. Bessemer, 16-3; PCHS did not play
Last meeting: 2016 - PCHS, 52-26 (2nd Round)
Series record: Tied, 1-1 (both playoff games)
Keys: PCHS QB Cam Taylor needs just 28 yards to eclipse 1,000 yards in rushing to go along with 1,361 yards passing this season.
Outlook: If this feels like deja’ vu, it’s OK since this is the third straight year the Thunderbirds have faced Bessemer in the playoffs. Two years ago, the Purple Tigers knocked PCHS out in the first round with a backup quarterback. Last year, the T-Birds were too much and handled Bessemer handily. And it probably should do the same this year but expect a closer game than you might think, at least for a half. PCHS wins going away…
Preddiction: PCHS 31, Bessemer 10
Jeff Davis at McGill-Toolen
What: AHSAA Class 7A 1st round
When: Friday at Lipscomb Field, Mobile
2017 Records: JD 5-5 (4th); McGill 10-0 (1st)
Last week: McGill def. Fairhope, 31-14; JD did not play
Last meeting: 2016 - McGill, 46-14
Series record: Tied, 1-1
Keys: The combined record of the teams that defeated JD this year is 41-6. Central-Phenix City finished undefeated while Auburn, Park Crossing and Sidney Lanier each had just one loss.
Outlook: Is it possible for a 5-5 team to beat a team that hasn’t lost a regular season game in three years? Yes, but let’s not get to hasty. We don’t’ do much schedule comparisons in high school football - the data is not available. But keep in mind that the Vols have faced a very difficult schedule. The only problem is tey haven’t fared well against the better teams. The average margin of loss in those games was 25 points. But this isn’t the same McGill team that won the state two years ago and lost in the finals last season. The Yellowjackets had to replace almost the entire starting lineup with just one starter returning on defense and a couple on offense. They have a new coach in Earnest Hill, who was the McGill defensive coordinator and he has this team playing solid on that side of the ball. JD will need some breaks to win but don’t be surprised if they have a lead in the second half, like last year, only to see if dissolve late.
Preddiction: McGill 27, Jeff Davis 21
R.E. Lee at Fairhope
What: AHSAA Class 7A 1st round
When: Friday at Fairhope Municiple Stadium
2017 Records: Lee 6-3 (3rd); Fairhope 8-2 (2nd)
Last week: McGill-Toolen def. Fairhope, 31-14; Lee did not play
Last meeting: Never met
Keys:This is Lee’s second appearance in the playoffs in three years. Prior to 2015, the last time the Generals made the playoffs was 2009.
Outlook: You can call this a redemption for the Lee Generals since they were basically kicked out of the playoffs last year for an unusual situation with a transfer player that was eventually ruled ineligible but long after the season had began. While Tyrone Rogers has preached that his team forget the past, it has to be sitting in their minds this week as they prepare for Fairhope. Last year’s team was pretty good, maybe better than this one. But motivation has a way of helping a team play better. Lee should have it and may have better athletes than their first-round opponent. Quarterback Kanaius Johnson is the key. If he has a big game, the Generals should win a close one.
Preddiction: Lee 28, Fairhope 24
Thomasville at Tallassee
What: AHSAA Class 4A 1st round
When: Friday at J.E. "Hot" O’Brian Stadium
2017 Records: Thomasville 7-3 (3rd); Tallassee 9-1 (2nd)
Last week: Clarke Co def. Thomasville, 30-15; Tallassee did not play
Last meeting: Never met
Keys: Thomasville has won 20 first round games while Tallassee has just nine victories in the first round.
Outlook: Nothing is easy in the Class 4A playoffs and this matchup is proof. Thomasville finished third in a very difficult region, losing to three playoff teams that could climb a long way in the post season. Tallassee has been solid all year on both sides of the ball. The question lies in the opponents the two teams have faced. It’s the norm to say the region Thomasville plays in is perennially the best in the south portion of the state, 4A-wise. But Tallassee’s region has produced the last three state champions. Undervalued? Maybe but the assumption is Thomasville is better because of its tradition. Not this year. While Tallassee hasn’t been perfect, it has been good enough to advance past the first round. While more trouble awaits, the Tigers do just enough to advance.
Preddiction: THS 21, Thomasville 20
Bayside Academy at Montgomery Academy
What: AHSAA Class 3A 1st round
When: Friday at McLemore Field
2017 Records: Bayside 5-5 (4th); MA 8-2 (1st)
Last week: Carroll def. Bayside, 20-17; Alabama Christian def. MA, 35-18
Last meeting: 2011 - Bayside, 53-10
Series record: Bayside leads, 2-0
Keys: Montgomery Academy averaged close to 35 points per game offensively but finished the season with 26 and 18 points in the final two games.
Outlook: The Eagles have enjoyed their best season since 2014. While they have been dominant in nearly every game, the last one may have provided a glimpse of what chances they have in the playoffs. The MA defense struggled against a pretty solid offense of ACA while MA’s passing game was inconsistent. That may not matter in the first round. Bayside struggled at times but does have a win over St. James in the season opener and a rare win over T.R. Miller. But MA’s running attack should be enough to get this team into the second round.
Preddiction: MA 24, Bayside Aca 20
Escambia Academy at Macon East Academy
What: AISA Class AA semi-final round
When: Friday at Knights Field
2017 Records: Escambia 10-1; Macon East 10-1
Last week: (Qtr Finals) Escambia def. Cornerstone, 55-0; Macon East def. Clarke Prep, 38-34
Last meeting: 2016 - Escambia Aca, 55-6
Series record: Escambia leads, 4-0
Key stat: First trip to the semis for Macon East since 2007.
Outlook: The Knights have enjoyed a great season to this point and last week’s come-from-behind win made it even more special. If only they can have that same magic this week. They are going to need it. The Cougars are loaded and may be the only team that can challenge Autauga Academy (although the previous meeting this season may say otherwise). It will be a lot to ask but quarterback Tucker Nevin will need the game of his life. He along with the Knight’s offense will need to score often to keep up with a vaunted attack that averages 44 points per game. While the Macon East has proven to be solid over the course of 11 games, this is a much different animal than any team it has faced. Look for a tight game early but the speed and precision of the Cougars will be too much for the Knights.
Preddiction: Escambia 41, M E 21
Also in the playoffs…
AISA Class AA Semis: Lakeside at Autauga Academy: It’s hard to stay off cruise control but the Generals are good enough to overcome it. They blast into the finals… AA, 42-12.
Class 6A: Blount at Wetumpka: No time for a postseason letdown… Indians should win but this may be closer than expected… Wetumpka, 38-28.
Class 6A: G.W. Carver at McAdory: Based on scores alone, this could be a defensive struggle. Carver has shown some improvement but needs more for a shot to advance. Haven’t seen enough to think it can happen… McAdory, 23-16.
Class 4A: Sipsey Valley at Montgomery Catholic: Knights get a quick substitue of an opponent thanks to the Hale County forfeits. Doesn’t matter execpt a lot of notes were tossed aside. Catholic, 38-14
Class 4A: Alabama Christian at Northside: Ditto for this one… ACA gets a new opponent and one they should handle on the road. ACA, 28-12.
Class 4A: West Blocton at St. James: Here’s to a clean sweep of Region 4. STJ, 40-7.
Other games: 7A - Auburn over Davidson, 29-14; 6A - Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa over Stanhope Elmore, 29-20; 6A - Opelika over Daphne, 21-20; 5A - St. Paul’s over Marbury, 45-12; 5A - Beauregard over Greenville, 35-19; 3A - Hillcrest-Evergreen over PCA, 38-10; 2A - Falkville over Reeltown, 23-19; 1A - Maplesville over Linden, 40-10; AISA A - Crenshaw Christian over Patrician, 28-21.
Last week: 8-2 Season: 180-29 (.861)