The 2011 football season is officially here, and that means another year of weekly picks from your friendly neighborhood sports editor. I’ve always said the first week of picking is tough. You can watch practices and jamboree games so many times, but those never compare to the real thing.
Plus, I’m an easy sell with those. I come back to the office some days and nights following practices and jamborees thinking ‘Man, (insert team or player here) just played lights out. There’s no way anyone’s going to stop them this season.’
If I went with that feeling all the time, you’d see all seven of The Herald’s teams go deep in the playoffs.
But, I have to be a realist when it comes to the picks column. Our teams are going to win some weeks, and they’re going to lose in others. That’s just the nature of it, but I will say this. I think we’re all in store for a pretty great season here in Cherokee County and the surrounding areas.
Before we dive into Week 1, featuring two (count ‘em) two days of action on the gridiron, check out The Herald’s Pigskin Preview included with today’s paper. It’s chock full of the information you need to help you cram for the exam that is the 2011 football season.
Now, on with the picks ...
Coosa Christian at Collinsville: How about this for an intriguing storyline? Collinsville senior transfer Colby Helms will not only be facing his former team, he’ll also be playing against his father, Coosa Christian head coach Teddy Helms.
The younger Helms has been a welcome addition to the Panthers. He gives an already potent offense another weapon to utilize, and that’s bad news for the Conquerors ... Collinsville 42, Coosa Christian 21.
Piedmont at Hokes Bluff: While watching a Piedmont practice earlier this summer, I noticed a lot of new faces. But those new faces are fitting in pretty well with the Bulldog system.
Take last Thursday’s jamboree, for example. Freshmen Cody Daughtry and Dreke Thompson combined for over 180 yards on 23 carries in Piedmont’s 29-26 victory over Jacksonville. Daughtry even had an 11-yard touchdown catch from another Piedmont freshman, quarterback Tyler Lusk. That score proved to be the decisive touchdown.
I bring that up to make this point: Even after losing folks like Jamaal Johnson and Mickey Jackson, there’s no shortage of talent in Piedmont. This team also has plenty of returning veterans, including senior quarterback Chris Strott and junior strong safety/running back Jamie Major. That’s a good mix for a team that’s expected to be dangerous ... Piedmont 33, Hokes Bluff 16.
Cedar Bluff at Cherokee County: The Warriors have a new quarterback this season in Tanner Young. He possesses a strong arm, which should complement the speedy Warrior receivers very well.
You can also say the same about Cedar Bluff’s Levi Mintz, plus he’s got a little more experience.
I think big plays will be aplenty in this one, much like last year’s battle. Cedar Bluff may take the momentum early, but I think eventually the Warriors will pull away and claim victory ... Cherokee County 35, Cedar Bluff 14.
Ranburne at Spring Garden: John McKay begins his second year at the helm of the Panthers. The Bulldogs gave him a rough debut in 2010, a 48-7 thrashing.
McKay only has 25 players on this year’s roster, but the 25 he does have are mostly veterans. That should help offset any depth issues.
Look for Spring Garden to get back to the smash-mouth type of football they’re accustomed to in 2011, led by fullback Forrest Livingston.
While I think this one will be a little closer than last year’s game, I still think the end result will be the same ... Ranburne 27, Spring Garden 14.
Douglas at Gaylesville: The good news for the Trojans from last week’s jamboree is their defense didn’t yield a point to their opponents, Geraldine and Ohatchee. The bad news is the offense could only muster three points.
Gaylesville gave Douglas all it could handle in last year’s game, but the Eagles eventually soared to a 24-12 victory.
The Trojans get the advantage of home field this year, and that counts for something, but I’m still not quite sold on a victory ... Douglas 21, Gaylesville 16.
Sand Rock vs. Pleasant Valley at JSU: Like the Cherokee County Warriors, Sand Rock breaks in a new quarterback in sophomore Dylan Mackey.
Mackey had a lukewarm performance in the Gaylesville jamboree last week, but I think he’ll get those butterflies out of his stomach in time for Pleasant Valley on Friday.
Mackey has several veteran playmakers to get the ball to in the backfield, including seniors Chad Thompson and Austin Carver. I think that should be enough for the Wildcats to open 2011 with a ’W’ ... Sand Rock 24, Pleasant Valley 14.
In case you missed it last week on The Herald’s website (or in the picks column above), Sand Rock football coach Russell Jacoway announced last Tuesday afternoon that the Wildcats’ season-opening football game against Class 2A, Region 6 opponent Pleasant Valley has been moved to Jacksonville State University.
The change was due to storm damaged inflicted on the school campus by the storm system that ravaged the state of Alabama on April 27.
The game will be played at Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m. It was originally scheduled to be played at Pleasant Valley.
The Wildcats defeated the Raiders 17-6 in the 2010 season-opener.
Switching gears to baseball, Cedar Bluff is holding registration for a county-wide fall instructional league beginning Sept. 27 through Oct. 5. Sign ups are Sept. 4 from 2-4 p.m. at the Cedar Bluff baseball field.
The league is limited to the first 30 campers who sign up. The cost is $50 for non-Cedar Bluff students and $30 for Cedar Bluff students. Cost includes a camp T-shirt and 5 weeks of camp.
The non-Cedar Bluff camp begins Sept. 27 and is every Tuesday during the month of October for a total of five sessions. The Cedar Bluff camp begins Sept. 29 and is every Thursday during the month of October for a total of five sessions.
For more information, please call Cedar Bluff baseball coach Taylor Talbot at (256) 779-7280 or (256) 393-1753.