It’s time for the meat of the season to begin as mostly all of the teams around the state will dive into region play for the first time (although the few 9-team regions started last week). Region play is what decides who goes to the playoffs and who stays home after the regular season ends. There are some great match-ups and some teams that need to be on high alert this week after losing their opening games.
Here is the week two preview…or week three, whichever you prefer.
Central Alabama Games to Watch
Oak Mountain (0-1) at Vestavia (1-0) – 7A Region 3
This should be an interesting match-up because after one game this season, these teams look like polar opposites of last year. Vestavia struggled with only a few wins last year and didn’t make the playoffs while Oak Mountain had a superb year and finished second in the dreaded 7A Region 3. In week one, Vestavia beat rival 6A Homewood 41-7 and Oak Mountain lost to 6A Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa 31-0.
Homewood isn’t what they once were, so the jury is still out on Vestavia, but Oak Mountain losing 31-0 to Hillcrest? That’s a major surprise. I think this game will tell us a lot about these two schools, and if Vestavia can have a great performance again, they could be poised for a nice run through the region. Oak Mountain needs to get a win here to stop from starting off 0-2 and 0-1 in the region.
Jon’s Pick: Vestavia
Spain Park (1-1) at Thompson (2-0) – 7A Region 3
This is an important one because Thompson is coming into region play with a 2-0 record and a feeling in the air like something special is about to happen in Alabaster. Thompson is playing with an energy under new head coach Mark Freeman I don’t think I have ever seen. Spain Park had a big win over a struggling Hueytown last week, but lost their first game of the season in a triple overtime thriller against Austin. Both of these teams missed the playoffs last year, but Thompson did so with an 0-10 season. This game can set the pace for both of these teams, and it should be a great one to watch.
Jon’s Pick: Thompson
Pelham (0-1) at Homewood (1-1) – 6A Region 5
These two teams suffered embarrassing losses against their 7A rivals last week with Pelham dropping to Thompson and Homewood losing to Vestavia as mentioned above. This was a close, high scoring game last season that really sent Pelham down a dark path. This is not only their chance for redemption, but their chance to make a dent in the Region 5 standings too and take out the former champ. Homewood is on a 21-game region winning streak and their last loss came to Pelham back in 2011 when they were both in the old 6A.
This should be a decent game, but Homewood should come away with the W and extend that streak to 22.
Jon’s Pick: Homewood
Clay-Chalkville (2-0) at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (1-1)
In one of the few games that isn’t a region game (because Region 4 and 6 only have 7 teams so they are the odd men out), Clay takes on Hillcrest. This game wouldn’t be worth looking at if Hillcrest hadn’t looked as impressive as they did this past Friday. This very well could be Clay’s biggest test so far this season. While it doesn’t have any major effect on Clay’s shot at repeating as region champs, it could affect the national standing that Clay has worked so hard to obtain.
I’m not saying Hillcrest will win this one, but look at this game to be a good one.
Jon’s Pick: Clay-Chalkville
Center Point (0-1) at Shades Valley (0-2) – 6A Region 6
The main team people have looked to in 6A Region 6 to take down Clay-Chalkville has been Shades Valley. However, this is my team on alert this week because they started off with two pretty big games (which they lost both) and will face John Curtis out of Louisiana next week – so this is a must win. Center Point hasn’t started off any better with a 35-0 loss to Pleasant Grove, but Shades Valley needs to regroup and figure some things out before they face the remainder of a tough schedule that includes Clay, Gardendale, Pinson Valley, McAdory, Parker, and more.
Jon’s Pick: Shades Valley
Ramsay (1-0) at Pleasant Grove (1-0) – 5A Region 5
Ramsay was one of the biggest surprises last season, finishing second in 5A Region 5 after losing a close game to Parker. I expect both of those teams to be near the top again, but Pleasant Grove could challenge for that spot as well. Despite finishing third in the region last year, Pleasant Grove ended up making it all the way to the title game where they lost to St. Paul’s. This is an important match-up early on that will determine which one of these teams is playing from behind. This is essentially a three team region, and all three are fighting for that #1 spot.
Both of these teams stepped up to 6A last week and had big wins over average 6A opponents. These are two strong teams in Birmingham and it’s hard to make a pick, but I think Pleasant Grove is still riding the momentum of getting to the title game last year, and they edge out Ramsay in a close one.
Jon’s Pick: Pleasant Grove
Statewide Games to Watch
Benjamin Russell (2-0) at Opelika (2-0) – 6A Region 3
It’s rare that you see the best two teams in a region play so soon, but it’s happening here. Benjamin Russell started off with two big wins, but against average 5A opponents. Opelika meanwhile has started off with two huge wins over two outstanding opponents in Hillcrest and Auburn. Benjamin Russell will have to work hard to win this one, but it’s not impossible. Opelika is looking like the top team in region 3 and it all starts with a big win here.
Jon’s Pick: Opelika
Central-Phenix City (1-1) at Auburn (1-1) – 7A Region 2
Auburn started with such an impressive win over Gadsden City before falling in a close game to Opelika last week. Central starts off 1-1 as well after splitting games with a pair of Georgia teams. This could very well be the top teams from this region along with Prattville. Mark this game down because your 7A south champion will be one of these two teams in my opinion, and it all starts here. I look for Central to win a close one down the stretch. Auburn has played in two close games and they have to be tired of keeping it close. I picked Central to win it all, and I’m not changing my mind now.
Jon’s Pick: Central-Phenix City