We are into region play for all regions across the state now and teams either have gotten off to a good start, or now have a hill to climb to get back to the top 4 to make the playoffs. There were some great match-ups last week like Spain Park narrowly edging out Thompson, and Clay-Chalkville winning by one in a non-region game against Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.
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Here are the top games to look forward to this week.
Central Alabama Games to Watch
Homewood (2-1, 1-0) at Briarwood (0-2, 0-1) – 6A Region 5
Although this game is near and dear to my heart, it has lost some of it’s luster in the last few years. Homewood is on a 22 game region winning streak, and that includes some lopsided victories over Briarwood as well. Even still, this is up there as one of Homewood’s two biggest rivalries (the other being with Vestavia). This game has a storied history, even if it’s short. Homewood leads the series 9-4, and they have split in the playoffs 1-1 in 2002 and 2003.
Briarwood has struggled this year so far, going 0-2 losing to Chelsea and Jackson-Olin. Both of these teams are much improved, but Briarwood should have been able to beat Jackson-Olin. If the Lions start 0-2 in region play, they could very well miss the playoffs with Minor and Walker still on the schedule.
Jon’s Pick: Homewood
Gardendale (1-1, 1-0) at Pinson Valley (3-0, 1-0) – 6A Region 6
These are the two best candidates to dethrone Clay-Chalkville in 6A Region 6 this season. Both have vastly improved over the last few years and are looking good to win a couple of playoff games as well. Gardendale made it to the third round last season and could easily do the same and better this year. This will be a good test for both teams and decide who will be the favorite in the #2 spot for this region behind Clay. There are some good things going at both programs, but I’m leaning Gardendale for this one. Pinson doesn’t get a rest though, they have Clay next week.
Jon’s Pick: Gardendale
Leeds (1-2, 0-1) at Central Clay County (2-1, 1-0) – 4A vs. 5A
No one ever thought Leeds would head into this game at 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the region. This is a big game for the Green Wave because they step out of region play and up to 5A to take on Central Clay County in a match-up that could further damage Leeds’ reputation as the big dog in 4A. Leeds went to overtime last week against Munford, a team they beat less than a year ago in the playoffs 62-0. Granted, they went for two when they didn’t need to and lost because of it, but the fact that it got to OT itself was a sign of worry. Losing to Madison Academy is one thing, but starting 1-2 is another.
The big thing to worry about here is – not only is Central Clay County a bigger school, but they beat Munford to start the season 21-7. Leeds is definitely my team on alert this week because although a loss here doesn’t affect the region standings or the playoff picture – it definitely could mess with Leeds and how they perceive the rest of the season. After the way the season has played out so far, it’s hard not to go with Central Clay County here.
Jon’s Pick: Central Clay County
Mountain Brook (1-1, 0-1) at Thompson (2-1, 0-1) – 7A Region 3
Both of these teams had heartbreaking losses to the city of Hoover last week, and this week they have the chance to right the ship. Thompson had been on fire to start the season, but ended up losing at the last second to Spain Park. Mountain Brook came into the Hoover game with only a small win over Huntsville on the season, but they gave Hoover everything they had and the game was tied 14-14 in the 4th quarter before Hoover won 21-14.
The Spartans missed the playoffs last season and are looking to try and jump in and take over a team like Oak Mountain that has gotten off to a slower start this season. It will be a tough battle for that second spot behind Hoover, and Thompson will be in the mix as well. With this game being at Thompson, I see the Warriors winning a close one.
Jon’s Pick: Thompson
Parker (1-1, 0-1) at Pleasant Grove (2-0, 1-0) – 5A Region 5
This will be a fairly intriguing game because Parker and Ramsay have both gotten off to an 0-1 start, leaving Pleasant Grove in the drivers seat for this region title. Parker lost a close game to Wenonah after beating Jackson-Olin to start the season off. Pleasant Grove made it to the title game last year after finishing third in this region, and they are hungry for a region title. No team has really emerged in this region, although Carver looked decent last week against Dora. If Pleasant Grove wins this game, I’m not sure they lose a region game at all. They can even challenge Hueytown and Helena in their non-region games and win those as well to go into the playoffs as a 10-0 team. I’m not trying to get too far ahead of myself, but the Spartans are looking good to start the season.
Jon’s Pick: Pleasant Grove
Hewitt-Trussville (2-1, 1-0) at Vestavia Hills (2-0, 1-0) – 7A Region 3
Both of these teams struggled at various points last season, but they have gotten off to a much better start this year. Despite Hewitt’s loss to Montgomery Bell out of Tennessee, these teams have looked like two of the better teams in the Birmingham area. This will be a big game to determine who is the front-runner for 2nd place in the region. It’s tough to pick who will win this one because it’s definitely one of those that you just have to wait and see, but I’m leaning towards Hewitt here.
Jon’s Pick: Hewitt-Trussville
Statewide Games to Watch
Muscle Shoals (3-0, 1-0) at Austin (2-1, 1-0) – 6A Region 8
Muscle Shoals has started off the season right with a win over a Tennessee school, and a win over Florence in region play. They are looking like the favorite right now for the Region 8 title, but Austin is looking much better this season. Their lone loss is to 7A Buckhorn, but they also have a win over Spain Park and Decatur now. This game being at Austin makes it interesting because they will have that advantage, but I’m not sure it will be enough.
Jon’s Pick: Muscle Shoals
St. Paul’s (3-0, 1-0) at Jackson (2-0, 1-0) – 5A Region 1
This will be the region championship for 5A Region 1. Jackson is one of the only teams that can really challenge St. Paul’s for the title from the south, and they meet up this week in region play. St. Paul’s went out of state last week and won big over St. Stanislaus (MS) who is one of the better teams in Mississippi. They are definitely one of the favorites alongside Clay-Chalkville and Hoover to repeat this season. It all starts here with a win over Jackson to be in the drivers seat to go undefeated in region play and potentially 15-0 en route to a title. It will be close, but I think St. Paul’s is too much for Jackson.
Jon’s Pick: St. Paul’s