Some huge match-ups this week with region title implications already and it’s only Week 3 (or 4 depending on who you are). This week features huge rivalries and top games such as Hoover at Spain Park, Wenonah at Briarwood, Pinson Valley at Clay-Chalkville and so much more.
In case you missed it, here is my top 10 for each classification after Week 2.
You can also catch the lines and picks along with Aaron Daniel’s over at joxpreps.com.
Hoover (-8) at Spain Park
There are a ton of huge games this week with region title implications, but of course none bigger than Hoover taking on Spain Park.
The Jags get to host this year as they look to rebound from falling last season 26-8. So far, Spain Park is unbeaten with double digit wins over Gadsden City, Muscle Shoals and Vestavia. They currently sit at #6 in the Alabama Sports Writers Association poll.
Hoover meanwhile is sitting at #2, but do have a loss on their schedule so far. Granted, that came to Grayson out of Georgia, but you know they will try and run the table from here on out. Hoover also wants to avoid what happened two years ago when they fell to Spain Park not once, but twice in the same season, getting shut out 17-0 in the regular season match-up and falling by a single point the last time they visited Spain Park.
Although Hoover has dominated this rivalry in it’s short life span, Spain Park is looking to return to having a chance to compete for a region title. Last season, the Jags finished third in the region and had to travel in week one. A loss here puts them in danger of having that happen again with just one more slip up in region against Mountain Brook, Thompson, Oak Mountain or any other region 3 team.
The key players to watch in this one are Auburn commits Shedrick Jackson and George Pickens at wide receiver along with Vonte Brackett and Larry McCammon at running back for Hoover and for Spain Park, Braxton Barker at quarterback and D’Arie Johnson at running back. The defense for both teams is great, so which ever of the play makers I mentioned can be a difference maker could end up leading their team to a win.
Jon’s Pick: Spain Park
Mountain Brook at Thompson (PK)
Another match-up between potential playoff teams is Thompson as they host Mountain Brook. The Spartans fell last week to Hoover in a close game, and now hit the middle of their tough stretch as they face Spain Park next week.
Thompson has looked extremely good on offense with Taulia Tagovailoa leading the charge at quarterback. Granted, their offensive explosion last week was against Tuscaloosa County, but Mark Freeman seems to have built up a really good team out in Alabaster.
We were able to see the offense in action plenty in the USA Football 7-on-7 National Championships where they finished in the top 4, falling to Hoover in a close game. They looked good there, but now is when the real fun begins as they dive into a tougher stretch in their region schedule.
For Mountain Brook, it’s all about their run game with 4-star running back Harold Joiner and junior AJ Gates. They combined for over 250 yards last week against the Hoover defense.
This will be a game of Thompson stopping the run with Joiner and Gates and Mountain Brook stopping Tagovailoa from finding open receivers. This game will be important in the playoff discussion too because although the Hoover/Spain Park winner will put themselves in good position, Thompson still has to play both and if Hoover loses tonight, that puts Mountain Brook back into the discussion as well to potentially challenge for the #1 spot again.
Of course we can’t forget Oak Mountain sitting right behind them all at 3-0, and even though they are looked at as the odd team out by some, they were a playoff team last season despite finishing 3-7 and are only a few years removed from being the #2 seed out of this region.
Jon’s Pick: Thompson
Jackson-Olin at Homewood (-6)
Homewood is currently at 3-0, after getting a revenge win on Parker last week. Homewood has also taken down Pelham and Vestavia this season. Meanwhile, JO is off to a 2-0 start with wins on the road at Woodlawn and Central-Tuscaloosa and will have to go on the road for the third time in a row tonight.
Jackson-Olin was so close to winning last season over Homewood, falling by just one point in a defensive struggle 13-12. This is a huge revenge game for them as Homewood and Ramsay were the two obstacles they just couldn’t get over last year in region play. Of course this games means something for Jackson-Olin head coach Tim Vakakes who is a Homewood alum and played on the 1995 state championship team.
Both of these teams have played well because of their defense the last couple of years, and there is arguably no better defensive player in the state in my mind than Coynis Miller, the 4-star defensive tackle from Jackson-Olin. This defense featured Auburn linebacker Tadarian Moultry last year and I think Miller has a chance to be even better this season than Moultry was last year.
Either way, it should be a good game and set the winner up to be in prime position to finish first in the region should they get past Ramsay, who has fallen off a little from last year. Ramsay gets JO and Homewood both back to back after they face Grayson out of Georgia later this season.
Jon’s Pick: Jackson-Olin
Pinson Valley (-8) at Clay-Chalkville
Pinson Valley looks to get the better of Clay-Chalkville again after grabbing their first win in the series last year in a multiple overtime game. Clay has dominated this rivalry for so long and Pinson looks like one of the top teams in the state right now.
Pinson is currently #3 in the ASWA rankings while Clay is unranked despite being 3-0 with wins over Florence, Bessemer City and Jasper. This will be their first real test as Pinson is assumed to be able to win this region without a loss this season.
Both teams have new head coaches, and we’ve talked plenty about Patrick Nix and son Bo Nix for Pinson, but this is a chance for new head coach Drew Gilmer to get a signature win to put him at 2-0 in the region before Center Point and then a win there would have Clay in great position to potentially win the region crown.
Still, Pinson Valley is looking outstanding and it will be hard for anyone on their schedule to win this year, they are playing on another level right now, averaging almost 44 points a game and holding opponents to under 12.
Jon’s Pick: Pinson Valley
Other top games (picks in bold):
Auburn (-11) at Prattville
James Clemens (-7) at Gadsden City
Oak Mountain at Vestavia Hills (-1)
Fairhope at Theodore (-13)
Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (-10) at Bessemer City
Cullman at Oxford (-24)
Helena (-1) at Pelham
Saraland at Blount (-12)
Wenonah at Briarwood (-2)
UMS-Wright (-5) at Andalusia
Hillcrest-Evergreen at TR Miller (-14)