With less than 60 days until high school football season begins in west Alabama, teams across Tuscaloosa County are gearing up for a season that will be a return to normalcy. There will be no more COVID-19 protocol, no more forfeitures and no more face coverings. Just over 20 miles north of the University of Alabama, head coach Chris Hilliker will be leading the Northside Rams for what might be his final season.

After announcing his retirement following the 2020 season, Hilliker changed his mind. An undefeated home record and a successful region slate for their first year in 4A Region 5 proved that there was work to be done in Samantha, Alabama.

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As previously mentioned, the Rams had their fourth straight nine-plus win season for their first year in a new area. Year 2 in Region 5 could be just as successful.

The Northside Rams’ schedule is as follows:

  • Thursday, Aug. 19 - vs. Berry Fayette Wildcats
  • Friday, Aug. 27 - @ Winfield Pirates
  • Friday, Sept. 3 - @ Haleyville Lions*
  • Friday, Sept. 10 - vs. Gordo Green Wave*
  • Friday, Sept. 17 - @ Hamilton Aggies*
  • Friday, Sept. 24 - BYE
  • Friday, Oct. 1 - vs. Fayette County Tigers*
  • Friday, Oct. 8 - vs. Curry Yellow Jackets*
  • Friday, Oct. 15 - vs. Oak Grove Tigers (Homecoming)*
  • Friday, Oct. 22 - vs. Hale County Wildcats (Senior Night)
  • Friday, Oct. 29 - @ Sipsey Valley Bears

* - Indicates Region game

While many predicted that an entrance into a region with 4A powerhouse Gordo unfruitful, the Rams flipped the narrative on its head. Barring a 14-point loss to the State Runner-Up Green Wave, Northside managed to beat their four region opponents by an average of almost 23 points (Northside also tallied a forfeiture win over Curry, who had COVID-19 issues for the final four weeks of the season.)

In non-region play, Northside went 3-1. A tough 42-21 loss to Hale County was their only blemish out of the region.

In the postseason, Northside made it to the third round of the playoffs before falling to Etowah. Still, this was the second straight year of making a deep playoff run.

Looking forward to 2021, there are plenty of opportunities to make an even deeper playoff run and to potentially secure Hilliker’s future as coach if he keeps seeing progress.

Bryant’s Prediction for Northside in 2021: The first two games of the season, which are the same as 2020, were good warm-up games for the Rams. Both non-region opponents, Berry and Winfield, made playoff runs and were both solid wins for the Rams. This year should be the same. Going into their first region matchup against Haleyville, Northside should be 2-0.

Haleyville will be tough, especially because it's an away game, but the Rams should be able to come away victorious. The next game, a home match-up with Gordo will be even tougher. The Rams might fall to the Green Wave for a second straight year, but this shouldn’t raise any red flags.

Northside should be able to take care of the rest of their region schedule. When the Rams host Hale County for their Senior Night game, they should be 7-1. Unlike last season, Northside will take down Hale County bringing them to 8-1. An easy regular season closer against a struggling Sipsey Valley team will bring the Rams to 9-1 (5-1 in region play), their fourth nine-win regular-season record in five years.

While the Rams might not win a state title in 2021, expect them to go even deeper in the playoffs where they might even see a rematch with Gordo.

Tuscaloosa's High School Football Programs

Here are some of the high school football programs located in or around the Druid City!