I’m not saying those first-round games were easy to pick, but this week’s second round is a much different story. It has a little more added drama, if you will.
Spring Garden is looking to add to an already historic season when it travels to Hubbertville.
Cedar Bluff seeks to buck a recent playoff trend when it hosts Pickens County.
Piedmont faces perhaps its toughest challenge to date when it travels to preseason No. 2 Deshler.
See what I mean? I wouldn’t be surprised if all three of this week’s battles were decided by a touchdown or less. I honestly can see all three going either way. They’re almost too close to call.
But, I’m paid to know these things, so here’s what I foresee …
Spring Garden (9-2) at Hubbertville (8-3): When I heard that Spring Garden won at Shoals Christian in overtime last week, I thought to myself ‘Man, there couldn’t have been a more thrilling game played Friday night.’
Well, shortly after I returned back to the office, I learned Hubbertville had shocked second-ranked Ragland, 42-35.
Lion senior quarterback Aaron Dillard turned in a Forrest Livingston-like performance. Dillard scored six touchdowns – his final one with 47 seconds left – to lift the Lions to victory. Dillard led the Lions with 269 yards on 40 carries. He also recorded 12 tackles, including two for lost yardage.
Livingston, meanwhile, finished with 247 rushing yards and scored four touchdowns, with his last coming on a 2-yarder in overtime. He also eclipsed Spring Garden’s single-season rushing record in the process.
Didn’t I mention a little something about drama earlier? I thought I did.
And the drama is going to get a little more dramatic for one of these teams. Neither has made it to the third round before.
So who am I going with in this one? Conventional wisdom may say go with the home team, but I think the Garden can come away with the win … Spring Garden 28, Hubbertville 27.
Pickens County (9-2) at Cedar Bluff (10-0): The Tornadoes are no strangers to ending the Tigers’ season. They’ve done so the past two years in basketball, and the football Tigers will also have their hands full Friday with many of those athletes.
In its 63-0 victory last week over Falkville, Pickens County didn’t yield a single rushing yard. The Tornadoes were almost as effective defending the pass, giving up just 25 yards through the air.
That was more than enough of a shutdown performance for Pickens County junior running back Jamarcus Brown to take advantage of. He tallied 186 total yards on 15 carries with a 69-yard touchdown run and a 15-yard touchdown catch.
Something else the Tigers will be contending with is their recent playoff history. Cedar Bluff hasn’t advanced to the quarterfinal round since 2006, when the Tigers finished as state runners-up to Sweet Water, so you know that’s in the backs of their minds.
I look for this one to be as entertaining and nail-biting as the two teams’ meetings on the hardwood, but I think this time the Tigers get some measure of revenge … Cedar Bluff 33, Pickens County 28.
Piedmont (11-0) at Deshler (8-3): I remember remarking during WEIS Radio’s Preseason Football Show that the top three teams in the Class 3A poll at the time (Leeds, Deshler and Piedmont) were all interchangeable.
Now, 12 weeks later, I still stand by that statement.
I know Deshler has lost three games this season and finished the final poll ranked at No. 10, but this is one dangerous team. The Tigers’ three losses were their season-opener at Class 5A Russellville, at No. 4 Lauderdale County and against No. 5 Madison Academy.
Since beginning the year at 1-3, Deshler has won its last seven games, including last week’s 42-21 victory at Hanceville.
In that game, senior quarterback Justin Cantrell threw for 161 yards and a touchdown. His top target was Brandon Creasey who caught six passes for 97 yards. Sophomore fullback Terrance Byrd led the Tiger rushing attack with 83 yards on 10 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Top-ranked Piedmont prides itself on its defense. The Bulldogs have posted three shutouts, and opponents have scored just 86 points against them all season. They yielded just six points to J.B. Pennington last week.
Surprisingly, Deshler and Piedmont have met only once, and that came in the third round of the state playoffs in 1993. The Bulldogs won that one 14-7, and I think there may be a little déjà vu of that score of this one … Piedmont 14, Deshler 7.