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Hartselle Enquirer

Now it gets serious

By Staff
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
We're six games into the regular season, and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. Unlike last year, there really isn't a single team that at this point can say they're a lock for the postseason.
There's a few who are still alive (Hartselle, Falkville and Priceville) but will need to play extremely well in their last three region games. With so much on the line, you can be certain that every week these teams will come ready to play and put everything on the field in pursuit of that postseason berth.
And the games will only be even more exciting when their opponent has that same desperation, as is the case in Friday night's game between Hartselle and Athens. Always a tough rivalry, this contest will take on additional meaning as both teams come in with 2-2 region records and the same goal of making it to the playoffs.
Here are my picks for that game and other games of interest:
Athens Golden Eagles (2-4, 2-2) at Hartselle Tigers (2-4, 2-2): It's a rematch of last year's Class 5A quarterfinal as Athens and Hartselle clash Friday evening. The last time these teams met at J.P. Cain Stadium, the Golden Eagles walked away with a 23-13 playoff victory en route to the Class 5A state championship. Both teams lost a lot of players to graduation and have been feeling their way through the season but you can be sure they'll be ready for this one. The stakes are high as the winner of this game has an excellent shot to slip into one of Region 8's four playoff spots. I like Hartselle in a close game as home field advantage makes a difference for the Tigers…Tigers 17, Golden Eagles 14.
J.O. Johnson Jaguars (4-2, 2-2) at Brewer Patriots (3-3, 1-3): The Jaguars, who made it to the Class 5A semifinals in 2006, are a desperate team now as they need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Patriots are coming off a waxing at Hartselle, but if Brewer can avoid confidence issues, they can compete with the Jaguars who have a tendency of playing down to their opponents. Still, Johnson's skill and athleticism will be too much…Jaguars 35, Patriots 14.
Priceville Bulldogs (3-3, 2-2) at Madison County Tigers (6-0, 4-0): Class 4A, Region 7 was a tough enough region when it was just North Jackson and East Limestone as the powerhouse teams. But the Tigers have been just as good, and perhaps even better, outscoring their opponents 262-46. The Bulldogs will want a win to keep from dropping below .500, but it will be a tough task, especially on the road…Tigers 45, Bulldogs 10.
New Hope Indians (2-4, 1-3) at Danville Hawks (0-6, 0-4): It's been another tough season for the Hawks, but Danville has a good shot of picking up its first win of the season Friday. The Indians are probably out of playoff contention and don't have a lot to play for, while the Hawks will be focused on trying to pick up their first win. Danville's strong rushing attack and home crowd makes the difference…Hawks 13, Indians 10.
Falkville Blue Devils (3-3, 2-2) at Victory Christian Lions (1-5, 0-4): Victory Christian's name is a bit of a misnomer, as the Lions' only victory this season is a 26-20 win over Class 1A Coosa Christian. In region play, Victory Christian has been outscored by its opponents 157-60. Falkville's two-game losing streak comes to an end Friday in Pell City…Blue Devils 27, Lions 7.
Alabama Crimson Tide (4-2, 2-1 in SEC) at Ole Miss Rebels (2-4, 0-3): This is a game that has Crimson Tide fans very nervous. It's an early-morning game on the road, it's against a team still searching for its first conference win, and Alabama hasn't looked very impressive in its last three games. But really, the Tide should be all right as long as the team doesn't make mistakes. The Rebels have allowed an average of 26.5 points in their SEC losses, while scoring just 14.5 points in those same games…Crimson Tide 27, Rebels 14.
Auburn Tigers (4-2, 2-1) at Arkansas Razorbacks (3-2, 0-2): This matchup has the potential to be your classic "trap game" as Auburn faces LSU next weekend in Baton Rouge. I doubt the Tigers will be unfocused, however, as they still remember that 27-10 loss to Arkansas in Auburn last season. Auburn's on a tear lately, especially on defense, and the Tigers should have enough to shut down Arkansas' Darren McFadden and turn up the heat on coach Houston Nutt even more…Tigers 27, Razorbacks 21.
Boston College Eagles (6-0) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-5): I do not believe the Boston College Eagles are the No. 4 team in the country. Here's a list of the Eagles' wins so far – Wake Forest, N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Army, Massachusetts, Bowling Green. None of those opponents are currently ranked and the combined record of the Division I opponents is 13-14 (4-1 Massachusetts is Division I-AA). Notre Dame will be riding high after picking up its first win of the season and with a stadium full of rocking Irish fans that want to ruin the Eagles' perfect season. But as tempted as I am to pick the upset based on intangibles alone, I can't see Notre Dame's defense making enough stops on Boston College's Heisman hopeful quarterback Matt Ryan. Somebody will eventually beat the overrated Eagles; it just won't be the Irish…Eagles 31, Fighting Irish 20.

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