PREP FOOTBALL: 3rd annual Brandin’ Iron Bowl headlines Thursday slate of opening games

The Fairview Aggies will host the West Point Warriors Thursday night in the third annual Brandin’ Iron Bowl. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

Several teams will open the 2019 football season on Thursday night, including a pair of matchups between local squads. The West Point Warriors will travel to Fairview for the third annual Brandin Iron Bowl, Meek will host the Cold Springs Eagles and the Cullman Bearcats will be headed to Jasper for a highly anticipated showdown with the Vikings.

Cullman (6A, Region 7) at Jasper (5A, Region 7)

The Bearcats will kick things off with Jasper once again but this year, they’ll be travelling Ki-Ro Gambrell Field to play on the Vikings’ new artificial turf. Cullman took last year’s matchup 28-27 after Max Dueland found Dylon Wallace in the corner of the end zone in the final seconds and Luke Andrews booted through the extra point. The dramatic win evened the all-time series between Jasper and the Bearcats at 34-34-2.

After their loss at Cullman to open the season, the Vikings went on to win their next 11 games before being put out of the state playoffs in the third round by Mortimer Jordan, finishing the season 11-2. Jasper buttoned up defensively throughout the season and allowed just under 18 points per game the rest of the way after losing in Oliver Woodard Stadium. The Vikings were also a perfect 7-0 a season ago and with the new playing surface making its debut this week, the Bearcats will definitely be walking into an electric atmosphere.

Meek (1A, Region 6) vs. Cold Springs (2A, Region 5)

Both the Eagles and Tigers are coming off disappointing 2018 campaigns and both plan to bounce back and take a run at the playoffs this season, making this season opener critical for each of them. Cold Springs took last year’s season-opening matchup at home 34-20 but this year the Eagles will travel to Arley to face the Tigers.

The Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead by the start of the second quarter last year and stretch their lead to 28-0 by the halftime break. Those early points were thanks in large part to running back Ayden Alexander, quarterback Brodi Williams and wide receiver Roberto Ayala, all of whom will be back on the field this season. The Tigers responded in the second half and got some points on the board, but they couldn’t overcome the early burst of offense from Cold Springs. The pressure will be on Meek’s defense to keep the Eagles’ offense contained early so the offense can give them a chance at a 1-0 start to 2019.

Fairview (4A, Region 7) vs. West Point (5A Region 7)

The year was 2010 the last time the Fairview Aggies knocked off the West Point Warriors. The Aggies defeated West Point 35-28 in Dafford Smith Stadium in George Redding’s fourth year at Fairview High School and he, along with his team and fans, will be looking for a similar result Thursday night. At Cullman County Schools Media Day, Redding touched on the recent one-sided trend in the rivalry and knows his guys are anxious for another shot at the Warriors.

“We’ve kind of been on the other end of that and we’ve hard some hard-fought battles, last year not so much. I feel like our guys did a lot growing from that game throughout the season that kind of showed later in the year,” Redding said. “They bring such big size; they’re always going to be bigger than us and it’s just kind of gotten to that point that we as a team just have to draw a line in the sand and say we’re not interested in getting pushed around anymore.”

Last year’s matchup was a 55-27 win for West Point that saw the Warriors build a 34-6 lead going into the half. The early lead was too much for Fairview to overcome and West Point pulled away to secure the season-opening win. The Aggie defense will have to hold up better on Thursday if Fairview wants to turn the tables in this rivalry and start this season with a big win.

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