PREP FOOTBALL: 6 local teams preparing for opening round of state playoffs

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Arab’s Hayden O’Reilly (7), Fairview’s Tyler Simmons (24) & Cullman’s Jamar Kay (21). (Martha Needham & Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. — The 2021 regular season has come to an end and now its playoff time. Six local teams are in this year’s postseason field and each team will need to be on point in order to move on to the next round. Arab, Fairview and Good Hope will all host their first-round playoff games while Cullman, Meek and Vinemont will travel for their opening round matchups.

Arab (8-2) v. Homewood (5-5)

The Arab Knights find themselves in the playoffs for the second straight season under third-year head coach Lee Ozmint after finishing the regular season with an impressive 8-2 mark. The Knights finished second in Class 6A, Region 7 with a 5-1 record and they’ll face off against the no. 3 seed from Region 5, Homewood Friday night. Arab averaged 30 points a game in the regular season and its defense has been excellent, allowing just 10 points per game. The Patriots averaged 25 points per game in the regular season and allowed 24 points to opponents. The Knights are 5-1 at home while Homewood is just 2-3 on the road. These two teams have met just once and that was in 1981 and the Patriots took that matchup 20-14. Arab comes into the playoffs with a two-game winning streak after rolling past Springville and Boaz to end the regular season, while the Patriots dropped their final four regular season games. The key for the Knights will be to get off to a fast start offensively behind Ed Johnson, Wes Johnson and Hayden O’Reilly and the defense just needs to keep doing what they’ve done all year long. If they can do that, the Knights will have a great chance to move on to the next round.

Cullman (7-3) at Jackson-Olin (8-2)

The Cullman Bearcats are in the playoffs for the third straight season under head coach Oscar Glasscock. Cullman finished third in Class 6A, Region 8 after posting a 7-3 regular season record and a 5-2 region record. The Bearcats will travel to take on the no. 2 seed from Region 6, Jackson-Olin, who will present Cullman with a very explosive offense. The Bearcats averaged 24 points per game during the regular season and allowed just 15 points per game, while the Mustangs come into this matchup averaging over 37 points a game and allowing just 22. Cullman is 3-2 on the road while Jackson-Olin is 5-1 at home, so the Bearcats will definitely have their hands full in this game. This will be the first time that these two teams have met. Cullman won six of its final seven regular season games, while the Mustangs finished 3-2 in their final five games. In order for the Bearcats to move on to round two, their defense will need one of its best performances of the year to give their offense a chance to keep pace with the Mustangs.

Fairview (9-1) v. Fairfield (7-3)

The Fairview Aggies are one of the hottest teams in Class 5A right now and they have clinched home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight season. Fairview finished second in Class 5A, Region 7 with a 9-1 regular season record and a 5-1 region record. They will host the no. 3 seed from Region 5, Fairfield. The Aggies averaged a whopping 46 points a game on offense in the regular season as they put up more than 40 points in all but two games. Their defense isn’t too shabby either. Fairview is allowing just 19 points per game. The Tigers averaged 32 points per game on offense and allowed 18 points per game on defense, so Fairview will need to continue to do what it has done on offense during the regular season. This will be the first-ever meeting between these two teams. The Aggies are 4-1 at home, while the Tigers are 4-1 on the road. The Aggies put up over 50 points in their final four games of the season and also picked up a very tough win over Boaz, while Fairfield won its final four regular season games as well. If Fairview’s offense can continue to light up the scoreboard and the Aggies defense can step up against an explosive Fairfield squad, they’ll have a chance to knock off the Tigers and advance to round two.

Good Hope (7-3) v. Central-Florence (7-3)

Another year and another trip to the state playoffs for the Good Hope Raiders. After an 0-2 start to the regular season, the Raiders really got things going, going 7-1 in their final eight games. Good Hope finished as the no. 2 seed in Class 4A, Region 6, and will host a first-round playoff playoff game for the second straight season against the no. 3 seed from Region 8, Central-Florence. Good Hope averaged 26 points per game on offense and allowed a very respectable 17 points per game on the defensive side of the ball. The Wildcats are scoring over 34 points a game offensively and are allowing just 21 points per game defensively, so the Raiders will have a very tough test ahead of them. These two teams have faced off just once and that was back in 1997. Good Hope is 5-1 at home, while Central-Florence finished the regular season 3-2 on the road. Good Hope went 7-1 in their final eight games, including huge wins over Addison, Etowah and Dora while the Wildcats dropped three out of their final four games. In order for the Raiders to move on to the second round, their offense has to play mistake-free and get a balance attack going, while defensively, they’ll have to put together another strong performance to keep the Wildcats’ offense at bay.

Meek (7-3) at R.A. Hubbard (6-4)

What a huge season it’s been for the Meek Tigers. After finishing the 2020 season 1-9, the Tigers have put together a 7-3 record in Head Coach Houston Powell’s second year and are headed back to the state playoffs for the first time since 2017. Meek finished third in Class 1A, Region 6 with a 5-2 record and will travel to take on the no. 2 seed from Region 8, R.A. Hubbard. The Tigers averaged 29 points per game offensively and allowed 21 per game on the defensive side while the Chiefs are scoring 32 points a game on offense and allowing 23 per game to their opponents. Meek is 2-0 all-time against R.A. Hubbard and their last meeting came in 2017 when the Tigers won the game 43-28. Meek is 2-3 on the road, while the Chiefs finished 3-2 at home in the regular season. The Tigers are coming into the playoffs on a roll, having won four of their last five games, including region wins over Marion County, Lynn and Berry while the Chiefs went 3-2 in their last five games. The running game for the Tigers has been key so far this season behind Matthew Clark, Ethan Grace and Cam Deaver and David Tidwell has done a great job at quarterback for the Tigers, completing some huge passes during the season. The Tigers need to have big games from Clark, Grace and Deaver, while defensively, Meek will need to shut down a pretty explosive R.A. Hubbard offense and if they can do that, the Tigers will have a chance to move on to the next round.

Vinemont (5-5) at Lauderdale County (9-1)

For the second straight season, Vinemont got off to a rough start, and for the second straight season, they turned things around and find themselves in the playoffs as the no. 4 seed. The Eagles finished with a 5-5 regular season record and a 4-3 region record in Class 3A, Region 6, and will have a very tall task ahead of them when they travel to take on the no. 1 seed from Region 8, Lauderdale County. The Eagles averaged over 26 points a game on offense and allowed 28 per game on defense, while the Tigers averaged 29 a game on offense and allowed just nine points per game on the defensive side. So, Vinemont will have one of its toughest tests to date on Friday. The Eagles are 0-2 all-time against Lauderdale County, but Vinemont will look to turn the tables on the Tigers and pull off a huge upset on the road. The Eagles are 2-3 on the road this season, while Lauderdale County finished a perfect 5-0 at home. Vinemont finished 5-2 in their final seven games, including region wins over Carbon Hill, Susan Moore, and Holly Pond, while the Tigers dropped their first game of the year in their regular season finale to Brooks. The Eagles will need to play mistake-free ball on offense and get the ground game going behind Colby Miller, Kayden Henderson and Brody Speer. Their passing game needs to be on point as well and the defense has to force turnovers and get off the field when it has a chance. If the Eagles can do all of that, Vinemont has a chance to pull off the upset and move on to the second round.

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