Thursday, November 12, 2009

The line forms right here

Woo Nelly, what a crowd! Don’t know who was more surprised at Madison city stadium last Friday, the crowd or the workers of the ticket booth. I have been told the workers at the ticket gate were not aware of the playoff price increase from $5 to $7 bucks to get in and did not have enough $1 bills to make change. Wow! Fortunately for us, we got there 40 minutes prior to kickoff and actually got inside the stadium with about 10 minutes to spare. Folks were still lined up trying to buy tickets at the end of the first quarter. Come on BJ, you have the largest school in the state, great team, great city, you draw a great home crowd for every game, you have first class facilities. Is it too much to ask for you to plan ahead for a large playoff crowd? Here is a hint, expect another large crowd (12K plus) this Friday. It ain’t rocket science and you can thank me later, lets move on.

Very few surprises during round one of the playoffs last week with the exception of Minor, a fourth seed, beating Vestavia Hills a one seed in the 6A region 5 and 6 matchup. Not only beat them but apparently soundly, 21-0.

Can you say déjà vu all over for 5A Region 8? Substitute Muscle Shoals for Johnson and it looks like 2006 all over again. In 2006 Russellville won the region with Hartselle second, Athens third, and Johnson fourth. By the time the 3rd round occurred, these were the only 4 teams left in the north for 5A. Johnson went to Russellville and Athens to Hartselle. Both road teams won and the Athens beat Johnson and ultimately won the State Championship beating Eufaula in the finals. Last Friday, Hartselle, Russellville, MS, and Athens all took care of business. This week, they all meet again with Athens going to Hartselle and MS going to Russellville. Not going to say the road teams will win but stranger things have happened.

Is there any doubt that Football is alive and well in N. Alabama in 6A? Three of the four teams from Region 8 won Friday night and Huntsville, the fourth seed, put up a good fight early before losing to Gadsden City. This week Bob Jones will host Decatur and Florence will travel to Gadsden City. Unless Bob Jones plays better than they did last Friday, at least the first half, it will be tough to beat Decatur again. On the road and beating a good Oxford team last week says a lot as to how good Decatur is playing. This is good news for N. Alabama football since R8 usually gets no respect in the state dominated by Hoover and Prattville last several years.

In the “teams I wouldn’t want to play right now” category:

Florence (6A) – Currently 9-2 with an early season loss to Bob Jones and a late season loss (7-6) to Minor. Yes the team that whipped Vestavia Hills last Friday in round 1. Florence beat Clay Chalkville last Friday handily. This is the same Clay Chalkville that smoked Athens (43-14) in week 1. I saw Florence against Huntsville earlier in the year and they have a good football team.

Muscle Shoals (5A) – 9-2 with loses to Athens and Russellville, this team has not lost since week 5. You remember earlier in the year I wrote they have the best defense in the best 5A Region only allowing 10.4 pts per game. A good defense will keep a team in any game so look for MS to compete with anyone. Russellville, you better be ready.

Deshler (4A) – With an exception of a season opening loss to Russellville, this team is playing lights out. They are averaging almost 40 pts per game and smoked Fairview last week, 56-23. They are good and could win the blue map in 4A!

Elkmont (3A) – Been on their bandwagon all year because I knew what they lost from last year R8 Championship team. Currently 8-3 and went into playoffs as second seed playing R7 third seed Vinemont last Friday and won 56-7. You have a team that plays together as a team, with confidence, and one of the best coaches around and you have a tiger by the tail when you play them. Don’t know if that is enough to beat Hamiliton on the road this Friday but if it is, I could see them playing Leeds in the semi’s.

Some intriguing match-ups this week will be Guntersville hosting North Jackson, Hartselle hosting Athens, Russellville hosting Muscle Shoals, Bob Jones hosting Decatur. These are all re-matches from regular season games. Other games that are not re-matches but are interesting will be Winfield at MA, Florence at Gadsden City, Tanner at Lamar County, and Elkmont at Hamilton. Don’t know where I will go but leaning to the Guntersville/North Jackson game. Not that anyone asked but turnip greens and cornbread from Top of the River may be a player in the decision. Just saying!

Anyone surprised by the release, last week, of new classification and alignments starting next school year. Some things I found interesting: I expected Butler to fall but thought they would end up in 3A instead of landing in 4A. Somewhat surprised that West Limestone was growing enough to go from 3A to 4A. Not surprised that Columbia moved to 5A since part of their growth is at the expense of Butler. West Point back to 5A doesn’t help them in regard to football. Interesting that Hartselle will go back to 5A Region 6 with Cullman, which will add excitement to that region. Also, congrats to Sparkman, now the 2nd largest school in the state behind Bob Jones. Now, work on your football program!

In the why me department, wonder what Austin High School did to make the AHSAA mad enough to get punished like they did on these new alignments. When you look at a map of the 6A regions, all teams are congregated in and around the bigger cities making it easier to group teams into regions. That is why for the last several years, R8 has had 9 teams all located in metro Huntsville/Decatur along with Florence High School. Someone at the AHSAA has a bad sense of humor or was punch drunk when they took Austin and moved them to Region 7, which is the Gadsden/Anniston and NE Birmingham region. Why Austin? Especially when you look at where R7 is located, they’re not even the closest team to R7. Why not leave that region alone instead of making Austin travel that far for half their region games next year. Talk about expensive traveling!

Private school enrollments numbers were not surprising. Westminster is now further below the top of the 2A line than the previous classification in 2007. Back then they were the largest 2A school in 2A. MA fell further down the 3A chain and closer to 2A for this classification. I guess you could argue that private school enrollments are down due to the economy but then why would Catholic-Huntsville grow enough to go to 4A? This school has a new campus currently beginning construction and right now resides in a office building in research park. No real school building and no sports facility yet grew to 4A, staying in 3A for only 2 years. Safe bet is once they get their new building done, they will go 5A if not 6A.

If you’re a 3A football fan you might be interested a couple of these nuggets that may go unnoticed. Oneonta is now the smallest 4A school and Deshler is around 20 kids above that. Can you imagine 3A football if Oneonta and Deshler fall to 3A the next classification in 2011? Talk about brutal. Same with Russellville, they are close to falling to 4A.

Let me close by reminding you the basketball season starts this week and if you’re a Bob Jones fan, their opening game scheduled against Grissom has been moved from Friday night to Thursday night at BJ due to the football playoffs. This will be watered down version of the Patriot Basketball team with 3 players still playing football. A lot going on and some fun high school athletic events to catch so get out there and support your team. Also, if you want to add, correct, comment, suggest, or ask a question email me at See you at the games.

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