E.A. Sports Today

Going forward: Part I

EDITOR’S NOTE: In a departure from his weekly Takeaways segment looking at the week that was in Calhoun County football, Chad Barnett delves into the first-round playoff games involving county teams. Today’s installment features the Class 4A-6A games. Later this week he’ll examine the Class 1A-3A games.

Maximizing the touches it gives to Tre Gamble will be a key to Oxford's success. (All photos by Greg McWilliams)

Maximizing the touches it gives to Tre Gamble will be a key to Oxford’s success. (All photos by Greg McWilliams)

By Chad Barnett
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD (5-5) at DOTHAN (5-5)

In order to make the playoffs on the Class 6A level you have to have a workhorse, a playmaker that sets you apart from the competition. Oxford and Dothan both fit that bill.

Tre Gamble has been THE guy for Oxford. Time and time again head coach Ryan Herring has gone to the well with his transfer from Lincoln. For Dothan, senior running back Isiah Long has been the playmaker of note. He has been steady for the Tigers all season to include multiple 200-yard games.

The key for Oxford will be limiting Long in the run game and maximizing the touches for Gamble. When they are able to get Gamble the ball in space, he’ll have to contend with the Tigers’ best defender in Jamarkus Sims.

The 6-foot-1, 213-pound strong safety can bring the lumber. And he’ll do it again next year on the college gridiron. Sims committed to South Alabama after decommitting from Troy. He also had an offer from Kentucky.


Luke Tucker and the Alexandria Valley Cubs are riding a four-game winning streak.

Luke Tucker and the Alexandria Valley Cubs are riding a four-game winning streak.

The Valley Cubs will face a coach with Calhoun County ties. Former Wellborn head coach Scott Peavey is now in his sixth season as the boss of Madison County and this will be the third straight playoff berth for his Tigers (they went 12-2 and made the semifinal round in 2012).

Overall, the Tigers have been solid this season. They dropped two games by single digits and got handled by Class 6A Walker 52-6 in Week 5. Last week, they slugged out a 13-6 win in overtime over Scottsboro to close out the regular season on a five-game win streak.

“They’re real good skill wise and defensively they’re not big, but they’re fast and aggressive,” Alexandria coach Frank Tucker said.

The Valley Cubs, back in the playoffs after missing last year, is searching for its first playoff victory since 2011.

NORTH JACKSON (7-3) at SAKS (9-1)

Demetrius Powell (2) and Devin Harris are two-thirds of the three-headed monster that leads Saks' offense.

Demetrius Powell (2) and Devin Harris are two-thirds of the three-headed monster that leads Saks’ offense.

It’s time to see just how good Class 4A Region 6 is. The three best teams in the region are all ranked in the top 10 — Cleburne County (5), Saks (7) and Jacksonville (10).

Saks will entertain one of the proudest 4A programs in the northern half of the state in North Jackson. The Chiefs are perennially one of the best programs in the state and despite not being ranked, members of their coaching staff firmly believe they have a team that can make a run. They got the third seed out of their region due to a tough tie-breaker. They demolished then-ranked Oneonta 52-27 in Week 8.

The Chiefs attack is balanced with 1,873 yards passing from quarterback Logan Walters and more than 1,649 yards and 26 touchdowns on the ground from their top running back, Octavius Matthews. They received a scare last week when Matthews was taken from the game on a stretcher with a neck injury, but later reports indicated he was treated and released from a local hospital and was expected to be available.

“Without a doubt it’s a tough game, not exactly what you’re looking for in the first round,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “We’ve just got to understand that we’re going to have to bring our A Game Friday night or we’ll get beat. It’s as simple as that. We’ve got to play — and play well.”


Niko Richmond looks for running room against Saks.

Niko Richmond looks for running room against Saks.

Looking down the schedule, it’s hard not to see the loss to Hokes Bluff as an indicator of Locust Fork’s strength. Last week, the Eagles handed the Hornets only their second loss on the season. Word is the Hornets have lost as many as four starters recently and are limping into the playoff schedule.

Jacksonville is coming off a bye week following a Week 9 loss to Saks (36-7). It will be interesting to see how the Golden Eagles respond. They are seeking back-to-back seasons with a playoff win for the first time since 1999.

Chad Barnett covers high school football for “Pigskin Roundup.” Read his observations on the week that was every week at East Alabama Sports Today.

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