First round of playoffs
Mountain Brook (8-2) at Florence (6-4)
The skinny: Florence is hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2014, when it reached the 6A semifinals, and first time as a 7A team. … Florence has won four straight games, its longest win streak since 2014, with the latest a 26-9 win over Sparkman in the rain two weeks ago. … Mountain Brook, meanwhile, was 7-0 before losses to state title contenders Thompson (33-21) and Hoover (34-10). … Last week, the Spartans escaped 6A Gardendale 13-10 in overtime as QB Strother Gibbs scored on 4th and goal. … He ran 25 times for 114 yards and two scores, according to AL.com. … Chris Yeager is in his 14th year as Mountain Brook coach. … The Spartans won first-round games the last two years but haven’t been past the second round since moving to 7A. … Led by second-year coach Will Hester, Florence seeks its first playoff win since 2014. … Florence’s scoring average is slightly higher (26.6 to 25.7) and Mountain Brook allows fewer points (19.0 to 25.1). … Florence beat Mountain Brook in the 2013 first round. … Dee Beckwith might be the best athlete on the field, and if Florence’s defense stays hot the Falcons can win. Expect a close game.
TD pick: Mountain Brook
Albertville (5-5) at Muscle Shoals (10-0)
The skinny: First meeting between the Trojans and Aggies. Albertville hasn’t been bad of late, winning four of its last six games after a 1-3 start, but the Aggies haven’t done much to suggest they can run with the Muscle Shoals machine. … The Aggies just lost 24-21 to Guntersville, which is not a bad team but isn’t on the Trojans’ level. … Albertville averages 28 points per game and allows 20. … Muscle Shoals, meanwhile, leads Class 6A in scoring (42.4 ppg) and scoring defense (9.2). … QB Logan Smothers has had a tremendous season, throwing for over 1,800 yards and rushing for more than 600. … Mikey McIntosh and Ty Smith each have over 500 receiving yards, and Markel Ricks and Nick Griffith aren’t far behind. … Muscle Shoals won its first-round game last year against Minor on a late Trey Stoddard field goal. … The Trojans will probably have some close games eventually, but this game shouldn’t be one of them.
TD pick: Muscle Shoals
Guntersville (7-2) at Hamilton (8-2)
The skinny: Hamilton has rarely been dominant during the 2019 season, but the Aggies have often been good and that’s translated into a No. 2 seed and their first playoff game since 2015. … This was Hamilton’s best regular season since 2013 and featured numerous dramatic wins. The only losses were a surprising loss to Hayden and a thumping by 5A state title favorite Jasper. … Jathan Jackson makes the Aggie offense go. … The Aggie defense allowed 141 (!) fewer points than it did last year and is allowing only 19 points per game. … Hamilton beat Haleyville 28-14 last week. … Rodney Stidham has won 11 playoff games at Hamilton. … Guntersville enters off a 24-21 win over its rival, Albertville. … This is Guntersville’s seventh playoff appearance in a row, but Lance Reese’s team has lost three straight first round games. … The Wildcats have four wins in a row since an Oct. 4 loss to Madison Academy. Guntersville offense vs. Hamilton defense should be strength vs. strength.
TD pick: Hamilton
Russellville (8-2) at Scottsboro (8-2)
The skinny: Russellville completed a second consecutive strong regular season under coach John Ritter. … Last year’s team was upset at home by Center Point. Now the Golden Tigers must travel to extend their season. … Russellville couldn’t muster any offense against the top two teams in the region – Jasper and Hamilton – but the defense largely carried Russellville in recent wins over Dora (16-6) and Central (27-8). … Russellville’s scoring average is down from 40 ppg to 26 this year, but the scoring defense average has improved from 26 to 13 ppg. … Scottsboro was blown out to start the year by a 6A region champ – Fort Payne – and later lost 20-7 to a good Madison County squad. … This is Don Jacobs’ third season at Scottsboro, and this is his first team to make the playoffs. … If Russellville’s Austin Ashley or Boots McCulloch can break a couple big runs, that would make a big difference.
TD pick: Scottsboro
Danville (5-5) at Deshler (7-3)
The skinny: Deshler is trying to get back to the Class 4A State Championship for the second year in a row and welcomes Danville to town for the first step in getting there. … The Tigers ended the regular season with 35-17 loss to Jasper, one of the top teams in Class 5A. Danville’s last game was a 55-14 loss to Fairview. … Deshler has playmakers offensively, with running backs Bryan Hogan and Colton Patton leading the way and Will Pilgrim under center. Defensively, the Tigers are sound, as defensive lineman Teondre Goodloe has had a good season, leading the way for a unit that’s allowed over 20 points only twice this season, to undefeated teams Jasper and Muscle Shoals. … These two teams have met twice and Deshler has won both times, with the last one being a 42-7 win for the Tigers in 2017. … Look for Deshler to win at home on Friday.
TD pick: Deshler
St. John Paul II (8-2) at Brooks (6-4)
The skinny: Brooks looked to be in rough shape two weeks ago, coming off a 28-24 loss to West Limestone for its third defeat in a row. … Since then, the Lions have rebounded with an easy win over Elkmont and a solid ten-point win over Madison Academy, which suggests the Lions have made some improvements. … QB Carson Daniel and WR Kobe Warden are first-year starters at their positions but form one of the best pass-and-catch combinations in the Shoals. … Camryn Beckwith had a big game running the ball last week, too. … Brooks averages 43 points per game. … St. John Paul II was lousy in its first six years but has since won eight games each of the last two seasons. … David Lloyd has overseen that growth. … St. John Paul II lost its first round game last year, so the Falcons seek their first playoff win. … Both teams have nearly identical scoring averages of around 43 points scored and 29 points allowed per game. … Brooks was upset in last year’s first round and looks to write a new story this year. … St. John Paul II has won six games in a row.
TD pick: St. John Paul II
Rogers (3-7) at Priceville (7-3)
The skinny: After starting 0-6, Rogers reeled off three consecutive wins to earn a spot in the playoffs, quite a turnaround for Jerry Fulks’ team. The Pirates have a tough test Friday on the road at Priceville, a team that finished second in Class 4A, Region 7. … Rogers is a team that relies heavily on the run game and a tough defense. … Austin Burgess and Jake Wallace are among the Pirates’ ball carriers and they’ll have to rely on that run game to work on Friday. … Rogers is coming off a 41-20 loss to Lawrence County (Ala.) and Priceville is heading into this match up on a two-game winning streak to close out the regular season. … Rogers leads the series 3-1 and the Rogers won the last meeting in 2017, 55-0. … Look for Priceville to win this Friday at home.
TD pick: Priceville
Central (3-7) at Fairview (8-2)
The skinny: Teams’ first meeting. … First playoff game for any of the Fairview kids, while Central qualified last year and in 2016. … Central’s 42-37 win Sept. 20 over West Limestone is the main reason the Wildcats are here. … Central’s last two games were losses to playoff teams Rogers and Russellville, though Rogers won on a last-second field goal and Russellville is a 5A team with an improved defense. … Dalton Hanback is the star of the Central offense, having rushed for over 1,700 yards, but the Wildcat defense has a big responsibility, too. … Fairview is a region champ for the first time since 1998. Tyvn Ellis has had numerous 100-yard games, according to the Cullman Times, and Tyler Simmons complements him in the backfield. Parker Martin is a solid dual-threat QB. … Central has been slightly outscored overall this year, while Fairview averages 37 points per game and gives up 18. … Central seeks its first playoff win since 2013; Fairview wants its first since 2010.
TD pick: Fairview
Sylvania (7-3) at Lauderdale County (8-2)
The skinny: Lauderdale County got back to its winning ways last week a 55-7 thumping of Colbert County, ending the regular season with a win. … The Tigers welcome Sylvania, a team that finished third in the Class 3A, Region 7 standings, two spots behind unbeaten Susan Moore. … Sylvania comes into this matchup having lost two in a row. … The Tigers will look to lean on running back Kameron Jones and quarterback Slade Brown offensively. Brown finished the regular season 106 for 194 for 1,966 yards and 28 touchdowns with nine interceptions, while Jones rushed for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns. … Syvlania and Lauderdale County have only met once before in 1995 and Lauderdale County won 16-12. … This is the Tigers’ tenth straight year in the playoffs, surpassing their previous best streak of nine years (1988-96).
TD pick: Lauderdale County
Colbert Heights (6-4) at Susan Moore (10-0)
The skinny: Each of the last two years, Colbert Heights was eliminated by a team with just one loss (Piedmont in the ’17 quarterfinals and Saks in last year’s first round). … This year Taylor Leathers’ team looks to upset Susan Moore, which just completed its first unbeaten regular season since 2000. … Colbert Heights has split its last four games, all of which were close, including a double-overtime loss to Clements and overtime win over Phil Campbell. … Gage Pugh and Carson Shaw have each run for over 900 yards, and Andrew Tedford has made plenty of big plays. The Wildcats have collectively rushed for over 2,500 yards. … Susan Moore averages 36 points per game and 11 points allowed per game, eighth and fifth in Class 3A, respectively. … Heath Lauderdale is in his third year as coach. … Susan Moore is in Blountsville, southeast of Cullman.
TD pick: Susan Moore
Cedar Bluff (7-3) at Red Bay (10-0)
The skinny: There’s no questioning the recent history of Cedar Bluff, which since Jonathan McWhorter took over in 2006 has won 18 playoff games. … But Cedar Bluff was blasted by the three teams ahead of it in Region 8 and is a clear underdog against Red Bay. … The Tigers are on a roll. Eight of their ten wins this year were by double digits, with the only exceptions Addison and Colbert County. … Red Bay enters off a 39-14 win over Wilson that capped its first unbeaten regular season since 2015. … Jalen Vinson is a versatile QB, while Hunter King and Colyn Humphres are effective backs. Arden Hamilton is one of the area’s top receivers. … But Red Bay’s bigger strength is defense. Cam McKinney and Gavin Edgmon lead the way for a defense allowing 10.9 points per game – fourth-best in Class 2A. … Red Bay is in the playoffs for the 20th time in 21 years.
TD pick: Red Bay
Colbert County (6-4) at Collinsville (9-1)
The skinny: Colbert County limps into the playoffs after a 55-7 loss to Lauderdale County, Colbert County’s most lopsided defeat in any game since November 1958. … The Indians started the year 5-0 but have gone 1-4 since then. Part of the reason is their schedule was back-loaded, but they need to find answers now because this opponent is a strong team. … Collinsville’s only loss this year was to Fyffe, one of the state’s most dominant programs, and though Collinsville lost 24-3 it was Fyffe’s closest game of the season. … Coach Brett Mask hopes his “Boom Squad” defense – excellent early in the year – can slow down a Collinsville team averaging 42 points per game (and allowing less than 10).
TD pick: Collinsville
Sheffield (6-4) at Fyffe (10-0)
The skinny: There might not be a worse draw in the state. … Sheffield has put together its second six-win season in a row, highlighted by a terrific year for senior quarterback Khori Bowling and friends. Bowling surpassed 2,000 passing yards for the year last week. AJ Cherry, Devin Doss and Martez Smith are the top receivers, and Jaylen Jones has been the top rusher. … But the Bulldogs finished fourth in Region 7 and the reward/punishment is a trip to Fyffe, which has won 25 games in a row and 52 of its last 53. That’s one loss in four years. … Fyffe has allowed 23 points this year. That’s a total, not an average. … The Red Devils shut out seven opponents. … If that’s not enough, Fyffe averages 43 points per game. … Paul Benefield took over in 1997 and has guided Fyffe to 15 region titles. They’ve hit double-digit wins nine years in a row.
TD pick: Fyffe
Woodville (4-6) at Mars Hill (10-0)
The skinny: The quest for a second straight 1A State Championship begins on Friday for Mars Hill. This time, the Panthers are going into the playoffs undefeated and they hope to keep it going against Woodville. …. Woodville finished fourth in Class 1A, Region 7 and will square off against the Panthers for the first time in program history. … The Panthers are led offensively by running backs Peyton Higgins and Justus McDaniel and have a tough defense, with lineman Mack Mcluskey a stand out up front. … The Panthers won their first playoff game last season against Marion County 55-0 en route to the championship … Look for Mars Hill to advance to the second round this week.
TD pick: Mars Hill
Falkville (6-4) at Waterloo (8-2)
The skinny: After another eight-win season and second-place finish in Region 8, Waterloo again opens the playoffs at home. … This time the opponent is Falkville, which alternated wins and losses this year until closing the regular season on a two-game win streak. … Tyler Mitchell is in his first year at Falkville and took over for Joel Schrenk, who led the Blue Devils to 11 wins last year and then took the head coaching job at Hazel Green. … Falkville got an impressive win at 4A Danville to open the year and also beat R.A. Hubbard 21-0. … Waterloo’s Junior Summerhill continued a massive season last week, rushing for 200 yards as he closes in on 2,000 for the year. … Campbell Parker has returned from the injury he suffered against Mars Hill, and Hayden Hester is a strong target for him. … Colton Vaden and Gavin Scott are defensive leaders. ... Look for Waterloo to advance past the first round for the second year in a row.
TD pick: Waterloo
Hackleburg (4-6) at Valley Head (6-4)
The skinny: Hackleburg’s seven wins over the last two seasons are its fewest since 2006-07, but the difference this time is the Panthers won four region games and have qualified for the playoffs. … Region 8 had a fairly clear hierarchy, with Mars Hill the strongest team, Waterloo a clear runner-up and Hackleburg finishing highest out of the middle pack. … Hackleburg’s last game was a 42-8 loss to 3A Phil Campbell, but before that the Panthers had won three in a row. … Caden Jones and Ethan Heggy are two of the top playmakers. … Valley Head has lost three of its last four games, the most recent against Collinsville – coincidentally by the same 42-8 score. … Valley Head last won a playoff game in 2007 and last qualified in 2015, but Hackleburg might be better positioned to advance when its youngest players are a little older.
TD pick: Valley Head
Vina (3-7) at Decatur Heritage (10-0)
The skinny: Of all the local playoff qualifiers, Vina is probably the biggest surprise. … This program was in rough shape the last couple years, but new coach Ben Guin seems to have helped this team find a sense of optimism that had been missing. … Jackson Landers and Braden Moomaw have been at the center of many of Vina’s biggest plays this year. … But Vina still has a ways to go, as evidenced by a blowout loss to Hackleburg and shutout loss to Tharptown in the last two weeks. … Decatur Heritage just completed its first unbeaten regular season in its 10th year of varsity football. … Steve Meek’s team averages 39 points scored and 11 allowed per game. … Decatur Heritage is on a different level, but Vina getting to this point is cause for celebration and a building block for the future.
TD pick: Decatur Heritage
Collinwood (5-5) at Cornersville (7-3)
The skinny: Collinwood has had an unusual week of preparation for this game. Fayetteville’s back-and-forth appeals process had a domino effect on the seeding for other teams. Once Fayetteville was ruled ineligible for the TSSAA playoffs, Cornersville moved up to the No. 2 spot and became Collinwood’s opponent. … Collinwood enters off a pair of key region wins that put the Trojans in the playoffs, 13-6 over Bruceton two weeks ago and 26-20 over Wayne County last week. … In the latter win, Dayton Scott threw three TD passes – two to Noah Sanderson and one to Dalton Chastain – and Alex Haddock ran for a score. … Cornersville has won seven of its last eight games (including a Fayetteville forfeit). … These teams have two common opponents. Cornersville beat both Zion Christian and Richland. Collinwood beat Zion Christian but lost to Richland. … This is Collinwood’s fourth straight year in the playoffs, but the Trojans’ last playoff win was over Jo Byrns in 2012.
TD pick: Cornersville
Last week: 14-4
Season record: 178-44