FNN POWER FIVE Following Round 3 Of The AHSAA Playoffs
As we suit up for the 2020 AHSAA semi-finals, the FNN POWER FIVE went through a major overhaul for the next to last POWER FIVE of the season.
We say goodbye to Ohatchee as they fell to Fyffe 26-7. We see Oxford drop from #1 to #5 as they were dismantled by a determined Pinson Valley.
Piedmont slides back into #1 with their showdown at Fyffe looming large this Friday. Spring Garden remains at #4 and they also face stiff opposition on the road in Florence at Mars Hill Bible. Handley rockets up to #2 while Etowah returns to the POWER FIVE for the second time this season, in at #3.
Here it is – the updated FNN POWER FIVE following Round 3 playoff action. Remember, the poll is about “championship potential”, not head-to-head comparison. We could see more major movement following key games this Friday in the semi-finals.
We’ll release the final FNN POWER FIVE over the weekend following all of the Super 7 games in Tuscaloosa.
1 – PIEDMONT BULLDOGS
The Bulldogs return to where they’ve spent most of the 2020 season – at #1 in the FNN POWER FIVE. There’s no question Piedmont faces their stiffest challenge of the season this Friday when they travel to Fyffe. The Red Devils are “for real” with plenty of size, deceptive speed, and unforgiving discipline in their game. Piedmont will have to play their best game of the season to end the Fyffe winning streak at 43 games. Getting to this game for Piedmont wasn’t easy – at least not during the first half of their quarterfinal matchup against 3A-Region 5 foe Saks. The Wildcats actually led 14-10 at intermission, but the #2 ranked Bulldogs woke up and put the game away in the second half, winning 38-20. Of note, Piedmont’s defense limited Saks to just 34 net rushing yards in the game. Turnovers are going to be key in the game at Fyffe, and Piedmont has likely done more of that than Coach Steve Smith wants to see. Against Saks, Wildcats defender Jalen McCants jumped a short hitch route for a pick-six. Then Saks recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that led to another Saks touchdown. These types of mistakes will doom Piedmont against Fyffe. There’s a good chance (60%) of thunderstorms and showers Friday at the time of this writing. That will hamper Piedmont’s ability to throw the ball, which we see as key to them winning the game. With all that said, NEVER count out Piedmont!! Steve Smith is possibly the best big-game coach in our area. The Bulldogs will have a solid plan and they’ll arrive expecting to win. It should be one heck of a football game.
2 – HANDLEY TIGERS
To earn a spot in this week’s AHSAA Spotlight, Tae Meadows rushed for 258 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns in Handley's 35-21 win over Bibb County at Wright Field in the 4A south quarterfinals. The win earns Larry Strain’s Tigers a road trip over to Tuscaloosa to face the #1 American Christian Patriots this Friday. They hope to be making a return trip for the 4A State Championship game next week. Handley QB Evan Cofield played sharp! He dialed it in, completed 6 of 10 passes for 176 yards. He also rushed for 40 yards on seven carries. Handley never trailed in the game. We like Handley’s chances to advance this week. American Christian hasn’t faced a defense the likes of Strain’s Tigers. Dylan Brooks and company will hit you – hard! They’re only allowing 10.1 PPG. The Patriots will test that with their 37.1 PPG scoring average. The American Christian schedule is questionable – their opposition is a combined 84-73, barely over .500. However, with Bibb County as their only common opponent, American Christian whipped the Choctaws at Centreville 56-13 midway through the regular season. Handley only beat them at home by two touchdowns. Game On-let’s see what happens.
3 – ETOWAH BLUE DEVILS
Ryan Locke’s team has somewhat soared under the radar into the 4A North championship round. At 9-3, most didn’t see the Blue Devils as a team that would be around this late in November. But when you do a deep dive into their season, the picture becomes much clearer. Their losses were to 7A Gadsden City (34-0) in Week 0, then two close losses to 6A Fort Payne (35-21) and 6A Southside (24-17), both games they could have won. Etowah has cruised through its 4A games with relative ease. Their playoff run has been very solid with wins of 31-7 over Randolph in Round 1, 42-24 over Haleyville in Round 2, and they blew out Northside 49-14. With standout talents like Nyny Davis, Ollie Finch, Toby Camp, and speedster Trent Davis, Etowah has plenty of firepower to play with anybody. They’ll be tested this Friday when #3 Gordo visits Jim Glover Field in Attalla. The Green Wave is a storied program that won’t be intimidated by Etowah’s past successes. They’ve got their own and they’re playing for a chance to put their 5th Blue Map in the Gordo trophy case. The two teams are very similar in both offensive and defensive production. FNN is pleased to be there to bring what should be a great contest to everyone in our final GAME OF THE WEEK for the 2020 season. Watch us Friday night on the NFHS Network (subscription required) starting at 6:30 PM.
4 – SPRING GARDEN PANTHERS
The Panthers continue to rough up their opposition and play on in the 2A playoffs. It was a historic night at Panther Stadium this past Friday as Jason Howard’s team earned the school its first-ever trip into the state semi-finals. Howard pointed out that this group has been to the third round the last two years in 1A. Getting over the hump in 2A makes the accomplishment even more special. The trio of Weston Kirk ran for 90 yards, Ryley Kirk rushed for 70 and Chaz Pope picked up 50 rushing yards in the game. When your starting defense has only allowed 7 points in three playoff games, that’s winning football. The Panthers will face a steep hill in the 2A North Championship round this week when they travel to face the 1A runners-up from 2019, Mars Hill Bible. The Panthers in blue also won the 2018 1A state championship. Like Spring Garden, Mars Hill Bible rose up into 2A for the 2020-2021 seasons. They’re averaging 42.2 PPG scoring offense. If Spring Garden’s defense can slow down that Mars Hill offense, the cries of “Go Garden Go” will be heard all the way back into south Cherokee County from west Alabama!
5 – OXFORD YELLOW JACKETS
It was an uncharacteristically off night for the #1 team in 6A. Things went bad from the start. It was a disastrous 1st quarter for the gold and black. For the game, Oxford offered up four interceptions, a fumble, and 13 penalties for 113, eliminating any chance of advancing into the 6A semi-finals to defend their state championship. Pinson led 24-2 at the half and never looked back. Oxford’s QB Trey Higgins completed just 6 of 27 passes for 125 yards. The Yellow Jackets were held to a season-low 182 total yards on offense. Before Friday’s game at Pinson, Higgins had been intercepted only four times all season, but he equaled that in his final Oxford football appearance. Oxford ends the season with an 11-2 record. The Yellow Jackets lost their opener at Thompson, then reeled off 11 straight until Friday night’s 34-2 loss. With plenty of talent on the horizon and several returning starters, you can expect the Jackets to be in contention in 6A once again come next Fall.
FIRST TEAM OUT
It’s hard to put into words what Scott Martin has accomplished with the football program at Ohatchee. Before Martin’s arrival in 2014, Ohatchee had won a total of 12 games over the six previous seasons. It took Martin a couple of years to turn things around. The Indians went 1-9 in 2014, then improved to 4-6 the next year…and then came 2016. The Indians go 12-2 - all the way to the 3A North championship game. An 8-3 mark in 2017, then three 10+ win seasons in a row. The Indians are now a highly regarded winning program. No, they didn’t beat Fyffe, but who has? We felt Ohatchee played the best 3A team in the state toe-to-toe before falling 26-7. It was a great season for the “Creekbank Crazies” out at Ohatchee, highlighted by their 20-15 win over then #1 Piedmont at The Field of Champions. Depending on how the playoff semi-finals and championship games end up, Ohatchee just might find themselves in our season-ending FNN POWER FIVE rankings.
That’s it for this week’s FNN POWER FIVE. Look for the final season-ending POWER FIVE to come out on following the state championship games. Remember, we create the poll for fun and conversation…please don’t take it too seriously. You’re welcome to disagree with us in the comments, but please keep them kind and give legitimate reasons why you see things differently. Again, at this point in the season, the poll remains about championship POTENTIAL, not team vs team!
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