E.A. Sports Today

Setting the Pace

One man’s insights on the week’s Calhoun County football games – without the pomposity, provincialism and pithy platitudes of other pick-em pieces in town

By Jay Pace
For East Alabama Sports Today

Here’s the week that will be. The winner is in all caps.

Jacksonville (0-2) at SAKS (1-0)
This is one of three games in the area this week where one of the head coaches is facing a team he used to coach.


Jacksonville’s Clint Smith is 1-4 against his old team, with the lone win coming last year in a 63-24 shootout. It was the most points the Golden Eagles have ever scored under Smith – and the second year in a row the game’s winner scored 63.

Never short on emotion or storylines, you’ll be hard pressed to find a game that means more to either side anywhere in the state this week. Jacksonville needs the win to avoid starting 0-3 for the first time since 2002.

Plain and simple, these two just don’t like one another. Jacksonville isn’t nearly as bad as its 0-2 record would indicate. That said, the Eagles may be the best 0-3 team in the state coming out of their region opener. Expect Jack Stewart Field to be packed Friday night as the Wildcats pick up a big win in their home opener.

Neat fact: Saks’ margin of victory in its four wins against their former coach is 28.5 points.

No. 3 ALEXANDRIA (2-0) at Arab (0-2)
This is a case of two teams heading in opposite directions. Alexandria is rolling behind its powerful rushing game, winning its first two contests by a combined 82-17. Arab, on the other hand is reeling after a pair of blowout losses on the road to Grissom (35-12) and Albertville (41-14).

With it’s 45-17 dismantling of Jacksonville last week, the Valley Cubs have put themselves in position to buck a baffling trend of slow starts. Since replacing Larry Ginn in 2007, the Cubs have struggled early on, going a combined 27-23 in the months of August and September. Then, curiously, as the temperatures drop, the Cubs seem to hit their stride.

Under coach Frank Tucker, the Valley Cubs are 35-11 in October. Throw out the disastrous 2013 season in which they finished 3-7 overall (1-4 in October), the Cubs are 34-7 in the season’s final month.

Barring a complete collapse over the next four weeks, they should be in complete control of their destiny when the October portion of the schedule begins with defending 5A Region 7 champion Scottsboro invading Death Valley Oct. 6.

Alexandria by the numbers – Leading rushers (Carries-Yds-TDs): Keenan Woodruff 35-279-4, Grayson Chaffin 21-125-2, Sam Shaw 11-97-2; Leading passer (C-A-I-Yds-TDs): Jacob Wells 3-7-0-67-1; Leading receiver (Catches-Yds-TDs): Grayson Chaffin 2-53-1.

No. 9 RANDOLPH COUNTY (1-0) at No. 3 Ohatchee (2-0)
A marquee matchup early in the season, this one has huge postseason implications for both sides. Ohatchee was dominant in both meetings last year, winning by a combined score 65-6. The last meeting ended in a 31-0 shellacking in the quarterfinal round of the Class 3A playoffs in which Randolph County didn’t cross the 50 until late in the second half. This is a different year. These are different teams. The Indians, who fell behind in both of their wins this year, are still a force to be reckoned with in 3A Region 5 but the Tigers are better. The visitors will exact a measure of revenge and prepare for a first-place showdown in Region 5 with Piedmont next week.

No. 4 OXFORD (2-0) at Brewer (2-0)
To the untrained eye, this looks to be a good game as both teams enter region play undefeated. But as we all know looks can be deceiving. That’ll never be more evident than Friday night when Oxford travels to James Tucker Stadium. Somebody’s 0 has got to go and it will be Brewer’s as the Yellow Jackets continue to cruise.

Glencoe (2-0) at No. 2 PIEDMONT (1-1)
Just like everyone else he’s faced since arriving at Piedmont in 2006, Steve Smith has dominated this rivalry, winning eight of nine matchups between the two schools. Other than Glencoe’s memorable 31-28 decision during its magical 2014 season it’s been all Bulldogs. How long will it take for people to stop saying this may not be the same Piedmont team that’s been for the last two seasons; the offense doesn’t seem to have missed a beat and the defense may be even stronger. It may be close for a while but the Bulldogs pull away late.

Piedmont by the numbers – Leading rushers (Carries-Yds-TDs): Cardavion Myers 32-239-3, Lee Stanley 31-236-0; Leading passer (C-A-I-Yds-TDs): Cardavion Myers 10-15-1-344-5; Leading receivers: (Catches-Yds-TDs): Darien Bossie 4-146-2, T.J. Fairs 3-105-2, Kaedon Jenkins 2-57-1; Leading tacklers: Carl Myers 22, Logan Smith 16, Malachi Jackson 16.

Pleasant Valley (1-1) at WELLBORN (0-2)
Wellborn isn’t nearly as bad as its 0-2 record may reflect. The Panthers have faced two of better teams in North Alabama – North Jackson and Saks – in the first two weeks of the young season. The Panthers break through in Game 3, picking up a crucial win over a PV team that exploded for several big plays while scoring 37 points last week.

VICTORY CHRISTIAN (1-1) at Donoho (0-1)
Mark Sanders faces his old team at Lentz Field. In time, Donoho will thrive under Sanders in much the same way Victory Christian did in his three years there. These things don’t happen overnight, though. The Lions win an emotionally charged contest to open region play.

ANNISTON (0-1) at Ashville (1-0)
On paper, Ashville has no business playing on the same field as Anniston. It doesn’t have the talent to compete with a team as good as Anniston can be, but games aren’t won on paper. Ashville won last year’s meeting 15-6 in the only time the teams have ever met. Of course, Anniston was still reeling from the loss of their leader, QB Savion Bethune, who watched helplessly from the sidelines. Bethune will be under center this time around and will make the difference.


CHEROKEE COUNTY (0-2) at No. 7 Hokes Bluff (1-0)
The storylines are plentiful in this matchup of Class 4A Region 5 heavyweights. Last year the schools split two meetings with Cherokee Co. rolling to a 30-7 blowout win in the regular season and Eagles getting the last laugh when they upset the favored Warriors 28-21 in Round 3 of the playoffs. Of course, the Warriors were in control until junior QB Tyren Dupree went down with an injury. With revenge on their mind and a healthy Dupree, the Warriors pick up a crucial win to start region play.

Gadsden City (0-2) at No. 4 HEWITT-TRUSSVILLE (1-0)
For the third straight week, the Titans will travel to face another marquee opponent. It’s bad enough for Gadsden City that the Huskies are supremely talented, they’ll also have revenge on their minds after losing to the Titans 29-28 in the second round of the playoffs after beating them in the regular season. The Titans take another one on the chin and match the same start they had a year ago.

SYLACAUGA (2-0) at Lincoln (0-2)
This is another of the former coach vs. former team games as Lincoln coach Matt Zedaker faces a Sylacauga team he helped coach for 17 years for the first time. Sylacauga is 11-0 all-time in the series, outscoring the Golden Bears 290-87; the first two meetings were the only two shutouts. The 7-6 game in 1956 was the only one in the series decided by single digits. The Aggies make it 12 in a row Friday night at Keith Howard Stadium in Lincoln.

Last week: 6-4 (.600); bonus picks: 1-0 (1.000)
Overall: 12-8 (.600), bonus picks: 3-0 (1.000)

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