Round 2 of the AHSAA Playoffs delivered a death blow to last week's #1 Ohatchee Indians, a team that had been no lower than #3 in our POWER FIVE all season. The Indians season-ending loss to Collinsville this past Friday means we bid Ohatchee farewell until next fall. That’s what sudden death football is all about. Survive and advance. Two teams outside the POWER FIVE got our attention with huge wins. Was it enough to get them in? As the field of championship contenders thins, here’s this week’s FNN POWER FIVE.
1 – PIEDMONT BULLDOGS
The Bulldogs just keep winning and moving on in the 3A North bracket each week. They delivered a 42-20 Round 2 whipping to Lauderdale County to earn the 3A-Region 6 champs and top seed a road trip to face Geraldine, a team Piedmont beat 35-14 just three weeks ago. We know that game was at the Field of Champions, but look for Piedmont to take care of its business again this Friday and roll into the 3A North Semi-Finals to host the winner of Walter Wellborn at Randolph County with a trip to the 3A Championship game in Auburn on the line.
2 – OXFORD YELLOW JACKETS
The Jackets got off to a slow start early at Cullman this past Friday but put the pedal to the metal in the second half shutting out the Bearcats 35-0 to advance to the 6A Quarter-finals this week. As Region 6 champions, they’ll host their old nemesis from Clay-Chalkville this Friday. The Cougars are the only team to beat the Yellow Jackets this season, but they did it on a night when Oxford had several key players on the sidelines with injuries, including running back J B Carlisle. The Cougars definitely have Oxford’s number, winning the last six meetings between the two programs. The Jackets are 4-12 all-time against this team. It’s a mental thing at this point. Oxford has the talent to win, but will they? We’ll see this Friday when FNN makes our first-ever visit to Lamar Field for the Game of the Week.
3 – JACKSONVILLE GOLDEN EAGLES
Clint Smith has his team poised for more “first time” success as each win from this point is a school first for JHS football. Ron Wiggins has amassed numbers that have him in some pretty rare air when it comes to running backs from this area. If his team keeps winning, and Wiggins keeps piling up yards and touchdowns, he could surpass Anniston’s Troymaine Pope and even Alexandria’s Mac Campbell for single-season rushing totals. Jacksonville hosts 11-1 Northside for Round 3 this Friday at Golden Eagle Stadium. There are no push-overs from this point on. You can bet the Rams will key on #4, trying to limit the damage. It’s not a sure thing, but we like Jacksonville to advance to face the Deshler/Anniston winner in the 4A North Semi-Finals.
4 – CENTRAL-CLAY COUNTY
NEVER bet against Danny Horne. It’s amazing how the Volunteers season is mirroring last year’s run-up to the 5A state championship. With a huge 20-7 win over #1 Jasper last Friday, the runway is clear for a title defense, but first, the Vols must host Madison County, who barely escaped Alexandria to advance. Honestly, we don’t see the Tigers as much of a challenge to Horn’s team. A Central win sets up a rematch with either Mortimer-Jordan (Vols travel) or Center Point (Vols will host), both from Central’s region, 5A-Region 5.
5 – RANDOLPH COUNTY TIGERS
Many expected Randolph County to potentially slip up this past Friday in Huntsville against Mae Jemison. All the Tigers did was slip into town and lay a 54-6 country beat-down on the 3A-Region 8 champs. Randolph County brings an unbelievable stingy defense to this week’s rematch with Walter Wellborn. They haven’t allowed more than 14 points to be scored on them in a single game since Piedmont put 27 on them back in mid-September for their only loss. This Friday’s rematch of the 17-14 win at “The Hill” six weeks ago should be epic. The Panthers have to enter this game thinking they need to score at least 21 to have a chance to win. We’re not sure they can against this defense…they’re that good.
FIRST TWO TEAMS OUT
WALTER WELLBORN PANTHERS
We witnessed another great game on “The Hill” this past Friday as Susan Moore and the Panthers went at it for four quarters with Wellborn prevailing 21-14, but it sure wasn’t easy. The game was in doubt until Wellborn’s defense kept the Bulldogs out of the end zone for what would have been a game-tying touchdown. Jett Smith was a stud on both sides of the ball. When Wellborn needed yards to gain a first down, #9 delivered most of the time. Wellborn has had a fantastic season and they have a shot over the next two weeks to make some serious memories. The trip to Wedowee this Friday must come with some offense that generates points. We believe Wellborn needs the score to be in the 20s or even 30s to have a chance to win. If we were going to buy a ticket to any game in the area this week, this would be the one we’d drive to go see.
SPRING GARDEN PANTHERS
The only thing that’s gone wrong for the Panthers this season was a Week 1 loss to their long-time rivals from Cedar Bluff. Since then, Jason Howard’s team has rolled up wins and slowly moved up the state’s Top 10 ASWA rankings. In the playoffs they survived a Round 1 scare from Hubbertville, winning 28-20, then cruised through Round 2 shutting out Hackelberg 34-0 to advance to the 1A North Quarter-finals. That sets up the meeting this Friday at Panther Stadium against Pickens County, the team that has ended the Garden’s playoff runs the past two seasons. They hammered the Panthers 51-9 in the 2nd Round in 2017 and won again 13-0 last year in Round 3. Both those games were at Reform…this time, they’ll play at the Garden. We said it earlier, at this point, nothing is easy. The Panthers have a solid team on both sides of the ball and Coach Howard is one of the area’s best. We congratulate him on picking up his 100th career win this past Friday. GO GARDEN, GO!
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