PREP FOOTBALL: 7 local teams gearing up for state playoffs Friday night

L-R: Vinemont’s Colby Miller (1), Cullman’s Jaylen Hughey (6) and Good Hope’s Colton Bagwell (24). (Martha Needham & Bill Piper/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The regular season has come to an end for high school football in Alabama and there are seven local teams preparing for the opening round of the state playoffs Friday night. Cullman, Addison, Fairview and Good Hope will host first round matchups this week while West Point, Vinemont and Arab will be on the road.

Addison (6-4) vs. Colbert County (7-3)

The Addison Bulldogs are in the postseason for the 11th straight season after finishing second in Class 2A, Region 5 with a 5-1 region record. After getting off to a slow start this fall, the Bulldogs went 3-1 to finish the regular season, with all three of those wins coming in the region. Addison will host Colbert County in the first round of the playoffs Friday night. The Bulldogs averaged 31 points a game and allowed just 19 during the regular season, while the Indians averaged 28 points a game and allowed just 16 during the regular season. 

This will be the third meeting between both teams and Addison has split the first two games against the Indians, losing 35-8 in 2018 and taking last year’s contest, 44-12. Addison has leaned on a pretty strong running game, led by Weston Smith and Nelson Martin, throughout the season and are led by quarterback Christian Roberts. Their defense has been solid, but they’ll have to continue improving and avoid mistakes against Colbert County. If they can get their offense going early and often, and if their defense can shut down the Indian offense, the Bulldogs will have a great shot of advancing to the next round.

Arab (5-5) at Pinson Valley (7-2)

For the first time since 2016, the Arab Knights are in the postseason and they’ll be looking to make the most of it. A slow start to the season didn’t seem to faze Arab at all, as the Knights went 3-2 the rest of the way, including a huge region win over Southside-Gadsden at home, to secure a playoff spot. They finished with a 2-4 region record and finished fourth in Class 6A, Region 7.

The Knights will travel to take on no. 3 Pinson Valley Friday night. Arab averaged 18 points a game and allowed 20 a game, while the Indians averaged 27 and allowed 20 during the regular season. Both teams have split their four games against each other in the series, with their last meeting coming in 2001. Arab has leaned on their strong running game, led by senior Mathew Turnage and they are also led by quarterback Aidan Cox, who finished with a four-touchdown game in its 27-8 win over Boaz last week. The defense has been good so far as well, but against the no. 3-ranked Indians, they will need to avoid giving up big plays and will need a balanced attack on offense if they hope to pull off the upset.

Cullman (8-2) vs. Shades Valley (3-7)

Getting into the postseason has been nothing new if you’re the Cullman Bearcats. 2020 is no exception as they finished second in Class 6A, Region 8 with a 6-1 region record. Cullman picked up some huge region wins over Hartselle, Buckhorn, and Muscle Shoals. They rolled past Columbia, 40-6, to end the regular season and will host Shades Valley in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. The Bearcats finished a perfect 5-0 at home and scored 24 points a game while allowing just 12 during the regular season.

The Mounties finished third in Class 6A, Region 5 with a 3-3 region record despite finishing 3-7 on the season. They averaged 25 points a game and allowed 28 a game. This will be the first-ever meeting between both teams. Cullman has won with a balanced running attack made up of multiple backs this season and the strategy will be the same for the ‘Cats this week as they try to move on to the next round: Play tough defense and control the ball. 

Fairview (9-1) vs. Center Point (7-3)

2020 went according to plan for the Fairview Aggies as they clinched a playoff spot for the second straight season and enter the postseason with a 9-1 record. Fairview started this season 4-1 with that only loss coming to region foe Guntersville. The Aggies won their remaining five games, with three of them coming in Class 5A, Region 7, to finish with a 5-1 region record. The Aggies will host a first-round playoff game for the second straight season when Center Point arrives Friday night.

Fairview averaged 30 points a game and allowed just 15 in the regular season, while the Eagles scored 31 points a game while allowing 24 a game themselves. The Aggies are led by dual-threat quarterback Parker Martin and running back Tyler Simmons, along with JT White and Eli Speegle among others and they have a really tough defense. It was hard at times for teams to score on the Aggies, but they will definitely be tested against a tough Center Point team. If they hope to move on to the next round, the Aggies will have to play their best game defensively and keep doing what they’ve been doing all season on the offensive side.

Good Hope (9-1) vs. North Jackson (6-4)

For the third straight season, the Good Hope Raiders have clinched a spot in the postseason. Good Hope got off to yet another quick start, starting the season 6-0 before dropping its first and only game of the season to region opponent Etowah. The Raiders won their last three games, including a huge 34-7 win over Oneonta to give them the no. 2 seed in Class 4A, Region 6. They will host a first playoff game for the first time since 2008 when they take on North Jackson Friday.

This will be the third time that these two teams will face off against each other, with their last meeting coming in 2015. The Raiders are 0-2 overall against the Chiefs but will look to change that on Friday. Good Hope had little trouble lighting up the scoreboard, scoring 32 a game while allowing just 15 a game during the regular season, while North Jackson scored 29 a game and allowed 25. The Raiders are led by dual-threat quarterback Tanner Malin and running back Colton Bagwell offensively, while their defense has proven to be stingy, allowing just three teams to score over 20 points on them this season. 

Good Hope will have to continue to do what they’ve been doing all season, and that is get the running game going early and lean on their defense to get some huge stops against a tough North Jackson team in order to move on to the next round.

Vinemont (7-3) at Plainview (9-1)

For the first time since 2014, the Vinemont Eagles are in the playoffs and for the first time under head coach Stephen Robinson. The Eagles started out 1-2, falling to J.B. Pennington in its region opener in week three. After that, Vinemont quickly turned it around, losing just once the rest of the way as they picked up huge region wins over Susan Moore, Oakman, and Holly Pond to finish with the no. 3 seed in Class 3A, Region 6 with a 5-2 region record. The Eagles will travel to take on Plainview in the first round of the playoffs.

This will be just the second meeting between these two teams with the only contest coming in 1990. Vinemont averaged 21 points a game during the regular season and allowed 20, while the Bears scored 37 and allowed just 15 during the regular season. Plainview scored 40 or more points five times and scored 50 or more points in three of those games. So, the Eagles will have a really tough road test on Friday. Vinemont is led by quarterback Colby Miller and a balanced running attack featuring Brodie Curvin, Brodie Speer and Ayden Thomason. The Eagles will need one of their best games of the season on both sides of the ball if they hope to pull off the upset at Plainview and advance to the next round.

West Point (4-6) at Alexandria (9-1)

For the first time since 2017, the West Point Warriors will be playing in the postseason, but it definitely wasn’t an easy path to get there. West Point lost its first five games of the season by a combined 32 points, but things quickly started to turn around for the Warriors. They won four of their last five regular season games, including dominating region wins over Sardis and Douglas, in order to clinch a spot in the playoffs. West Point finished in fourth place in Class 5A, Region 7 with a 3-3 record, and will have a tough road test in the first round of the playoffs when they travel to take on Alexandria.

The only game between the two teams came in 2015 and West Point fell to Alexandria, 41-21, but the Warriors will look to write a different ending this time around against the no. 6-ranked Valley Cubs Friday night. West Point scored 29 points a game and allowed 25 in the regular season while Alexandria lit up the scoreboard for 43 points per game while allowing just 15. The Valley Cubs were hard to slow down offensively, scoring over 30 or more points in all but two games, so the Warriors will need to play one of their best games defensively. Offensively, West Point is led by dual-threat quarterback Will Cochran, running backs Kelton Washington and Carter Thornton, and wide receivers Kobe Bowers, Jacob Dye, and Branson Smith and they will have to play mistake-free ball on that side in order to get the huge win on the road this week.

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