West Alabama High School Football: Playoffs Round 3 Preview
With less than three weeks left of high school football left in the 2020 season, Tuscaloosa and the surrounding area have been left with only four schools still in the playoff race.
In a surprising turn of events, the high-powered Hillcrest offense was stifled last Friday in a 28-0 loss to Opelika. Almost as surprising, Northside defeated Madison Academy, a school in north Alabama that is a perennial powerhouse.
While the legendary “blue map” is still possible for any of these four teams- Gordo, ACA, Northside, and Pickens County- the three 4A schools are on a collision course that could happen in the semifinals or even the championship game.
No. 1 West Limestone Wildcats (11-1, 7-0) @ No. 1 Gordo Green Wave (11-1, 6-0) [Thursday]:
Of the four teams, remaining, only two are at home this week- Gordo and Pickens County. Since the two rivals have shared Pickens County’s stadium this year, the Green Wave will be playing this matchup on Thursday.
With starting quarterback Tanner Bailey back for the Green Wave, the team’s offense has looked dominant. Though Bailey only rejoined the team two weeks ago in the first round, Gordo has managed to score just around 40 points in four of the last five games played.
In addition, the Gordo defense has been impressive. In the same five games, the unit has only allowed 41 total points. That’s an average of around eight points a game. Included in this stat are two straight shutouts against region opponents in weeks 8 and 9.
Still, it seems that advancing to the semifinals is a little easier said than done for Gordo. This is the third straight year the team has made it this deep in the playoffs, and the previous two times have been losses.
To continue with the trend of high-scoring offense, the Wildcats of West Limestone have had a successful season so far. The only time the team scored fewer than 28 points in a game was their sole loss, a 31-17 week six matchup against East Limestone.
As for the 11 victories for West Limestone, only two have been decided by a touchdown or fewer. The team's average margin of victory is 21.5 points.
The winner of this matchup will take on the winner of the Etowah/Northside game, which could mean a potential rematch for Gordo.
No. 2 Northside Rams (10-2, 5-1) @ No. 1 Etowah Blue Devils (8-3, 6-0):
Speaking of Northside, the Rams are on cloud nine after taking down Madison Academy, a school that won three straight state titles from 2012-2014. That victory is already a cherry on top for the Rams’ 2020 campaign.
The Ram’s first two playoff victories so far have been tight. Both have been decided by a touchdown, which isn’t new to this Northside team. Four of their ten wins have been close.
Northside’s defense has been the shining star, though. By only allowing an average of 12.5 points a game, the Rams have shown championship-caliber defensive efforts.
For an Etowah team that has at least 21 points in every win this year, this might be a challenge for Northside. In fact, the Blue Devils have averaged 36.5 points of offense this postseason. Etowah’s defense is stout as well, only allowing around two touchdowns a game this season.
This game might just be a defensive showdown.
The winner of this game will face the winner of West Limestone/Gordo.
No. 1 American Christian Patriots (12-0, 7-0) @ No. 1 Alabama Christian Eagles (10-2, 7-0):
Continuing in 4A, the top-ranked ACA Patriots narrowly escaped a very physical Mobile Christian team last week. Their 27-21 victory was the first time since August that the team hasn’t scored at least 33 points. While this might be a testament to a weaker Region 3 that had four of eight teams fail to win four games, it’s more likely proof of Mobile Christian’s skill.
Continuing with trends that might hinder the Pats, ACA hasn’t had an away game since September 18th.
Regardless, the Patriots’ defense looked impressive once again. The unit hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in 11 of 12 games. The last time a team did this was Montevallo on September 4th.
It seems that the Patriots will be looking at yet another challenge. The Alabama Christian Eagles have been just as explosive on offense. They are averaging 37 points a game while only allowing around 20.
The statistic that doesn’t make sense for the Eagles is their “L” column. Both of their losses have been against 3A teams. In both defeats, Alabama Christian only put up a touchdown.
Every other game, the offense has scored at least 32 points. This is even more impressive when their opponents’ total record is 83-57.
While these teams have never met in a game before, this inaugural “Battle of the ACA’s” is bound to be an exciting game.
The winner of this game will face the winner of the Bibb County/Handley game, which could mean a rematch of the Week 5 game between Bibb County and American Christian.
No. 3 Hubbertville Lions (9-2, 5-2) @ No. 2 Pickens County Tornadoes (9-3, 6-1):
Transitioning to 1A, this is the only other home game for Tuscaloosa-area teams.
The Pickens County faithful were surely worried after a flat performance in the regular-season finale loss to Gordo. The Tornadoes lost 40-8 against their cross-town rivals, but since then, Pickens County has improved drastically.
In their two playoff games, the Pickens County offense has averaged 40.5 points a game. Simultaneously, the defense is only allowing around 18 points a game.
Hubbertville is up for a challenge, but they seem to be on a Cinderella-type season after taking down two-seeded Cedar Bluff in the first round and one-seeded Winterboro last week. Along with their legendary coach Lamar Harris, who is in his 43rd season, the Lions are bound to have a little magic this year.
This is the Lions’ furthest playoff run since 2016, and they are ready to light up the scoreboard. Hubbertville is averaging 35 points a game, while only allowing around 21.
This will be a hard-fought battle, which might benefit the Lions. Four of their nine wins have been decided by seven or fewer points. History might repeat itself, though. In a Week 3 matchup between these two region opponents, Pickens County walked away victorious 28-20. That was the 13th straight victory over the Lions for Pickens County.
The winner of this game will advance to a semifinal matchup against the winner of Berry/Brilliant.