Foley Wide Receiver Julio Jones
The first round of the playoffs looks like it might turn out pretty formful, but there are a couple of teams that may challenge some higher seeds. This is a look at the South bracket.
No.4 Baldwin County (4-5) will travel to No.1 Prattville (10-0)
It's hard to imagine any way this will go the way of the Tigers, but Coach David Wofford's bunch have made the playoffs for the first time in three years. They certainly won't take it lightly. Trouble is Coach Bill Clark's group probably won't either.
Baldwin County's senior quarterback Luther Sanders is at the helm, and if the Tigers can summon up a defensive performance like they exhibited against Satsuma where they sacked the quarterback nine times, they could stay close.
But, we are not in Satsuma anymore. This is a nationally ranked Lions' squad, although many graduated last year to take on roles at division one teams, and they seem to never run out of ammunition.
No.3 Auburn (7-3) at No.2 Theodore (6-4)
This is one of the matchups that might see a higher seed win. Theodore will rely on a young quarterback, Chris Nelson, against a stout Tiger defense headed by senior Scout.com five-star Dee Finley at safety. The University of Florida commitment has a nose for the ball and throwing in his vicinity is not advisable. He will also return kicks and play offense.
Auburn's running game with Richard Ross and Brandon Ross is key. If they can get these two going and control the pace of the game this is their game to lose.
No.4 Sidney Lanier (3-6) at No.1 Foley (10-1)
Coach L.C. Cole's teams are known for their defense, but after losing the bulk of his defensive players to graduation it has been a struggle. Foley's senior running back LaVance Mitchell is a bruising runner who has racked up 750 yards on 94 carries.
The favorite for Mr. Football in Alabama is the Lions' Julio Jones. Jones has caught 48 passes for 906 yards, but his presence is felt as defensive back and return man.
Devin Smith had big shoes to fill after the graduation of Roosevelt Byrd, but Smith had just the right attitude to take the bull by the horns and it has paid off for the Coach Todd Watson's squad. Smith has rushed for 215 yards and thrown for 1,792.
This might be too much of a task to even keep this game competitive for long, Foley should win this pretty easily.
No.3 Murphy (6-4) at No.2 Enterprise (7-3)
What a year it has been for Coach Kevin Collins' Wildcats. It would have been understandable and even excusable if this team had just laid down this season. With tumult in facilities and practice schedules, and the loss of their fellow students in a tornado early in the year that destroyed most of their school, but they have not done that.
They are not going into the post-season like they came into the regular season. They won their first four games and finished the season with a 3-3 record, losing to a stout Opelika team that they played close deep into the game.
The Smiths Station (5-5) overtime loss (29-26) was probably the toughest to swallow and probably shook their confidence. Coach Woodrow Lowe's quarterback Kyle Barr had an outstanding game, and the loss was nothing to hang their head over.
They eeked out a win over Sidney Lanier (27-26) in the meaningless last game of the season, but Coach Collins' team is strong as a unit. Kicker Parker Stinnett could be a difference maker for the Wildcats in this game.
Murphy is an enigmatic team that lost to some tough foes in Daphne, Foley, McGill-Toolen and the playoff bound Theodore. McGill-Toolen was the only team that handled them soundly with a 42-10 defeat, but the Panthers jumped right back the next week and the defense played great against one of the best teams in the state, Daphne. They lost the game 10-7.
Quarterback Matt Rowser tossed three interceptions, and he will have to be more consistent. You might see Coach Ronn Lee's Murphy team more successful running the ball against the Wildcats, but I wouldn't count on it. Enterprise's strength is their defense.
No.4 Central-Phenix City (6-4) at No.1 McGill-Toolen (10-0)
Coach Ron Nelson's squad has one of the toughest jobs of the first round in any classification. They must stop the Yellow Jackets' offense and move the ball on this defense that includes standouts like Glenn Harbin and Adrien Cole.
If Central can come up with the game they played against Opelika earlier this year they might can hang around with the Yellow Jackets. I think with the home field advantage and with the outstanding talent Coach Keith Powell puts on the field the task is too great.
No.3 Fairhope (7-3) at No.2 Wetumpka (9-1)
Coach Chad Anderson's Indians have only lost one game, but it wasn't a close one. They lost 39-0 to top-ranked Prattville. Quarterback Tevin Washington led the Indians to victory last week while the running game was virtually shut down by 5A Greenville.
The Fairhope Pirates, under Coach Mark Lasseter, lost to three of the toughest teams in the state Foley, Daphne and 5A St. Paul's (9-1). Pirate quarterback Daryl Norris put the ball up 38 times last week against Mary Montgomery and completed 24 for 289 yards.
This projects as one of the premier matchups in 6A first round.
No.4 Blount (6-4) at No.1 Opelika (8-2)
Opelika got their legs whipped out from underneath them last week when Tuscaloosa County came to call. The vaunted defense of Opelika gave up 323 passing yards to quarterback Brett Booth who seemed to step out of a phone booth with his superman cape in tact.
Opelika didn't have trouble moving the ball, but after missing an extra point after the opening score they continued to try two-point conversions after the next successive scores and failed. This seemed to take any momentum away from them, but make no mistake Tuscaloosa County is as good as advertised and may be the best team in the North region.
Coach Ben Harris' Blount team may come in with renewed thinking that Opelika can be beaten. Moving the ball might be thinkable after seeing what Booth and the Wildcats were able to do. This is the team that came the closest to upsetting highly ranked McGill-Toolen in a 10-7 defeat.
Kevin Chastang quarterbacks the Leopards, but it is the defense that catches your eye after the Yellow Jacket loss and the 13-6 loss to an offensively talented 5A Vigor last week.
This may be a good game with a struggle for yardage, but I think the 'Dawgs are just too tough.
No.3 Stanhope Elmore (7-3) at No.2 Daphne (9-1)
Coach Jeff Foshee's Mustangs come into this game on a three game skid. They went into the Prattville game with a 7-0 record and lost 24-0. Although they played a tough game, this probably took some wind out of their sails that has been difficult to get back.
Their competition certainly didn't get too much easier when they lost to Wetumpka and to undefeated 5A Charles Henderson 28-21.
Daphne pushed undefeated Foley in a 16-14 nationally televised game. I'm not sure any team can boast as much talent all over the place as Daphne. They have strong division one talent on the offensive side of the ball, but the defense might get a little overlooked when people are fawning over the offense.
The Trojans' quarterback, who the media seems to have changed his name from Coley White to Pat White's little brother, is a key playmaker and plays with a lot of heart and determination. Make no mistake Coley can stand on his own accomplishments.
Daphne will have to play better than they played against Murphy last week to close the door on Foshee's group, but I think the Mustangs will probably have to settle for a 7-4 record.
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