FNN POWER FIVE - Week Ending 9/23/22

Rivalry Week (Week 5) of the 2022 high school football play brought some memorable moments, starting with the thriller at The Field of Champions. The results brought something that has never happened since we started the FNN POWER FIVE – Piedmont as a result of the 30-28 loss to Anniston is now on the outside looking in. There is no doubt that won’t last long, but there’s a real log-jam involving teams from 4A-Region 4 (Handley and Anniston) and 5A-Region 6 (Moody, Leeds, and Southside-Gadsden) that’s dominating the POWER FIVE at this point in the season. Now, before you, Piedmont fans rain eternal hell down on us over not being in the POWER FIVE – understand that all of the teams ranked there at the moment are unbeaten except Southside, and they’re 5-1 with their only loss to Guntersville (another unbeaten 5A team from the ASWAA Top 5). Piedmont is 3-2. The Bulldogs are definitely POWER FIVE material and it’ll play itself out in the weeks ahead, probably starting this Friday when Anniston hosts Handley and Southside travels to Leeds.

Be reminded the POWER FIVE is not a head-to-head comparison of these teams. For us, the POWER FIVE is about “Championship Potential” first and foremost. To come to each week’s POWER FIVE ranking, we review each team’s “potential” as we view it at that point in the season and compare it to “wins-losses”, ASWA rankings throughout the season, performance in big games, the FNN “eye test” and ultimately post-season playoff performance.


The Tigers rained the pain down on rival Lanett in a brutal 37-0 shutout at Wright Field this past Friday. Tigers QB Cannon Kyles passed for 177 yards and a touchdown, and Elijah Goss added 84 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the non-region win. Absent from the line-up was Handley’s star running back Jay Haynes, who sustained an injury in the Tigers’ victory over Central-Clay County a week earlier. Handley Coach Larry Strain has said that they hope to have Haynes back for the game at Anniston this Friday. We expect to see him in action.


The Blue Devils just continue to impress. They pitched their first shutout of the season this past Friday, winning 47-0 on the road at Shelby County. The Blue Devils will host 0-6 Springville this Friday in their return to 5A-Region 6 play. Coach Jake Ganus’ defense was dominant, only giving up 68 yards of total offense. The Blue Devil scoring machine continued putting up big numbers. Moody’s Davion Dozier had 3 catches for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns. Everything points towards a showdown at the end of October between Leeds, Moody, Alexandria, and Southside-Gadsden to determine the region’s playoff order.


Anniston rolled into Piedmont this past Thursday for a state-wide TV telecast of what has been this season’s most anticipated regular season game to date. The matchup didn’t disappoint. Piedmont scored first, then Anniston got on track and put up 30 unanswered points – until the 4th quarter when Piedmont got rolling behind their all-state QB Jack Hayes. The game was also about Hayes making some history. The 2021 FNN Player of the Year threw four touchdown passes to reach 137 total for his career, breaking the mark of 134 set by American Christian’s Chris Smelley. This places Hayes atop the AHSAA’s all-time list. Piedmont had their chances to win it late in the game. Anniston’s Jaden Dobbins snagged a Hayes deep ball for an interception to end Piedmont’s next to last possession. Their last opportunity would end at the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line with consecutive incompletions. Anniston’s South Carolina commit QB Kamron Sandlin accounted for three touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ huge win. Sandlin was quoted in the Anniston Star, “It was seven versus seven. He’s a real good quarterback … and I feel like I showed I was a real quarterback today. I feel like I gave my team my all.” Anniston now must get ready for their third big game in a row-this one the biggest of them all when they host unbeaten and #2 ranked Handley in what is essentially the 4A-Region 4 championship game at Lott-Mosby Memorial Stadium this Friday. FNN will be there for all the action with THE GAME OF THE WEEK.


On the strength of their unbeaten 5-0 record, #2 ASWA ranking in the 5A poll and a 51-7 thrashing of winless Sylacauga this past Friday, Coach Jerry Hood’s Green Wave rolls into the FNN POWER FIVE just ahead of their region counterparts from Southside, who they’ll host this Friday for homecoming at Homer Smiles in Leeds. In the win at Legion Stadium this past Friday, Leeds, with senior QB Jarod Latta healthy after an ankle injury sidelined him in Week 1, directed rushing touchdowns from five different players in the win. Latta accounted for the other score through the air, on a 60-yard bomb to Conner Nelson. Leeds brought a defense that clamped down on Sylacauga most of the night. The Aggies totaled 130 yards of offense, most of it in the fourth quarter when they scored their only touchdown. The question still remains just how good is Leeds. They are unbeaten at 6-0, but the wins have come against teams that are a combined 1-27!! We’ll definitely know more after Friday’s region showdown against Southside.


The dynamic duo of Southside's Gauge Nesmith and Mason Teague went off Friday in the Panthers' 41-20 win over Boaz. Nesmith went 15-for-24 passing for 204 yards and three touchdowns while Teague ran wild for 258 yards and three end zone trips in the victory over the Pirates. For Southside, it all comes down to their final four games, starting this Friday at Leeds. Like Moody and the Green Wave, the Panthers still control their destiny and remain in the hunt for the 5A-Region 6 title. They could just as quickly fall to fourth if they can’t find a win over Leeds, Moody, or Alexandria. With the log-jam atop their region, the season-ending game with Etowah could be a huge tie-breaker opportunity if needed.


PIEDMONT – There’s nothing weak (or wrong) about this year’s Bulldogs team. They’ve played an incredibly tough schedule that resulted in two losses to two very strong 4A teams in Cherokee County and Anniston. In both games, they had the opportunity to win. When you look at what Piedmont’s done against 3A competition, there’s little doubt Steve Smith’s defending state championship team will once again be in the mix come November. If there’s any doubt, just read Coach Smith’s newspaper quote following the Anniston loss. “There are no moral victories, and I want that printed. There are no moral victories at Piedmont.”

CHEROKEE COUNTY – The Warriors pushed their 2022 record to 5-1 after distancing a scrappy Munford team in the second half and winning 56-26. Jacob Cornejo tallied 243 rushing yards and four touchdowns for the Warriors while Tae Diamond added 166 yards on the ground and a touchdown. QB Cade Hopper also got in on the scoring with a 2-yard TD sneak late in the first quarter. The Warriors are off this week.


Randolph County sits atop our list of teams we’re watching closely. The Tigers remain unbeaten after a 34-28 OT win at Wadley this past Friday. Pat Prestridge’s bunch will see a solid test this Friday when the 4-2 Saks Wildcats team rolls into Wedowee for a very important region matchup that will have playoff implications. With Dadeville and Wellborn still ahead on the schedule, Randolph County controls their destiny as it relates to winning the region title or slotting into a top-two region spot, giving them a home game in round one of the AHSAA playoffs in November.

Spring Garden definitely passed the FNN eye test this past Friday in the GAME OF THE WEEK at Cedar Bluff. The Panthers cruised to an impressive 41-12 win, pushing their 2022 record to 5-1. The loss to Wadley looms large in the region race, but Spring Garden will certainly control their destiny for the #2 spot in 1A-Region 6 with games still ahead with Donoho and Ragland that will likely set the #2 spot – and who knows – with a little help, the Panthers could still win the region title.

That’s it for this week’s FNN POWER FIVE. Remember, we create the poll for fun and conversation…so please don’t take it too seriously. There’s nothing scientific about it. You’re welcome to disagree with us in the comments, but please keep them civil and give legitimate reasons why you see things differently. Big games this week that will likely shake things up – we’ll see you next week!!