PIGSKIN PREVIEW: Huskies hit the road; Pinson Valley hosts Gardendale
By David Knox
The Hewitt-Trussville Huskies survived a slight scare from Sparkman, but the road to the region title continues on I-65 to Huntsville, where the Huskies will hook up with the Huntsville High Panthers at Milton Frank Stadium on Friday night.
Hewitt’s 34-27 win should remind the Huskies that 1) they can’t take anything for granted in Class 7A football and 2) a win is a win, by 7 or 57, which means that 3) another region win is another step closer to the Class 7A, Region 4 championship.
Ranked No. 4 in the state, the unbeaten Huskies (7-0, 5-0) will be expected to roll past the Panthers (4-3, 2-3). And while we believe Bob Jones and the just-vanquished Senators were the two toughest tests left on the road to region supremacy, Huntsville and James Clemens each will have a say these next two Fridays.
A disturbing trend for Josh Floyd to see is that the Huskies are leaving points on the field as of late.
The 34 points against Sparkman are the fewest the Huskies have scored so far this season. Penalties and a couple of miscues led to the Huskies converting points on “only” 6-of-10 possessions, including the final drive that earned a crucial first down but not a score.
(We do realize how ridiculous that sounds, but the Husky offensive MUSHine has set a high standard over the past two seasons).
On the other side of the ball, the defense, impressive all year, has been just a little less impressive in the past two games, giving up three TDs to Bob Jones and four TDs to Sparkman. After three weeks of throttling Grissom, Buckhorn and Center Point to 7 points among them, the 45 points allowed in the past two games are worth noting. BJ quarterback Caden Rose scored on a long run and the Patriots put up 344 yards of total offense. Sparkman QB Devin Kimbrough had three long runs for scores as he rushed for 184 yards.
When the playoffs arrive, missed opportunities and missed tackles will mean the difference between winning and losing a championship.
Huntsville, under new coach Mark Fleetwood, has brought the similar improvement we’ve seen to the rest of Region 4. The Panthers’ four wins this season already match the total from 2015 and 2016.
The Panthers lost to Sparkman 27-20 two weeks ago, then pulled away late from James Clemens 24-7. Jackson Glover is a capable quarterback, but tough little running back Stoney Patton rushed 25 times for 126 yards in Friday’s win after rushing for 95 against Sparkman. The defense held the Jets to five first downs and returned an interception for a score.
No doubt, the Panthers’ plan will to be play solid defense, control the tempo and stay close.
The Huskies will aim to finish off those drives, not allow the explosive plays on defense, and make everything else a moot point.
If they do, they’ll clinch the Class 7A, Region 4 championship.
Tribune prediction: Hewitt-Trussville 34, Huntsville 14
No Pinson Valley football team had ever started off 7-0, but the Indians managed that with a 49-7 win over Center Point. They can make it 8-0 and match the longest winning streak in school history as well. The 1998 team, coached by Lynn Elkins, dropped the opener to Midfield, then ripped off eight straight wins before losing to Fort Payne.
Those Indians won their region. Patrick Nix’s first Indians team has a chance to clinch a share of Class 6A, Region 6 with a win over Gardendale Friday night at Willie Adams Stadium.
A victory would make the Indians 5-0, and even if they fall at Carver on Oct. 26 and Clay-Chalkville beats Minor Friday to be 5-1, the Indians have the tiebreaker thanks to the 34-32 win over the Cougars back in September. A loss to the up-and-down Rockets (5-3, 3-1) would create the possibility of a three-way tie for first, and we could be heading toward a coin flip.
Pinson Valley (7-0, 4-0) had no trouble with Center Point. The Indians, ranked No. 3 in the state by the ASWA prep voters, haven’t been tested in a while, and really haven’t been impressive in a while. Wins over McAdory, Ramsay and Clay-Chalkville were, but they were early. The overtime win over Shades Valley, PV playing without Bo Nix, was very fortunate.
Would you be shocked if we told you that, as it now sits, the Indians have wins over just three teams with winning records? And two of those wins were by just three points?
You can only beat the teams on your schedule, though, and Pinson has done that to this point. But we’d like to see a little more of that early explosiveness offensively. Until and when Bo Nix is back, we may not see that.
Gardendale began the season with high hopes and a goal of winning the region. Two losses to Muscle Shoals and James Clemens out of the gate were painful, especially after opening with wins against those two schools last season, as was a 41-7 hammering by Clay. They took it out on Jasper last week, 63-34, as Will Crowder subbed well for his injured brother at quarterback.
The Rockets are a mystery right now, and the Indians need to be getting better every week to stay as the No. 3 team in the state.
This is the 25th meeting on the gridiron between the Rockets and Indians. Gardendale owns a 19-5 advantage and hasn’t lost to the Indians in the past four meetings.
Tribune prediction: Pinson Valley 28, Gardendale 27
Cougars bringing the ‘D’
Tenth-ranked Clay-Chalkville (7-1, 4-1) put the clamps on yet another opponent Saturday, blanking Carver 36-0. That’s the third shutout of the season for the Cougars. The only other Clay-Chalkville team to post three shutouts in one season was in 2003.
Two of the worst defensive performances last season were laid on the Cougars by the next two opponents on the 2017 schedule. Minor, which visits Cougar Stadium on Friday, put up 54. Park Crossing, the foe for the regular-season finale, piled up a CCHS school-record 56.
The first game is the more meaningful one right now, because the Cougars are still playing for a home-playoff opener. Drew Gilmer’s Cougars are locked into the 6A playoffs already. But a win means they’ll finish now worse than a tie for first. Now, that still doesn’t lock up a home game; Gardendale and Pinson Valley still have a region game to play after they meet Friday. A Gardendale win and a PV loss leave three teams tied with one loss.
Regardless, the Cougars have too much on their plate to worry about anyone else. They may have improved more since week zero than any other team in the region.
The running game has been punishing, thanks to a powerful offensive line and running backs Quentin Young and Curtis Blakley. Willie Miller has been very effective at taking what the defense is giving.
The defense has been aggressive and relentless over the past month.
Minor (3-4, 1-3) doesn’t have all the same weapons it had in 2016. The Tigers didn’t score fewer than 42 points in a contest until game 13 against Ramsay in the 6A semifinals. They scored exactly 42 in the past three games against Ben Russell, Carver and Gardendale.
The Cougars have a chance for a little payback against the 2016 region champs, who took a lot of delight in claiming their new crown in Adamsville last October.
Tribune prediction: Clay-Chalkville 31, Minor 7
Eagles welcome Parker for homecoming; Tigers trek to Corner
Center Point welcomes Parker to Eagle Stadium on Friday for its fourth and final home game of the year, homecoming 2017.
The Eagles (0-8) and the Thundering Herd (1-5) are pretty evenly matched. Parker won last year’s game by a TD. Shouldn’t it be the Eagles’ turn?
Tribune prediction: Parker 21, Center Point 20
Springville (1-6, 1-3) battled John Carroll Catholic to a seven-point loss last week when we thought the Tigers might be ready to break into a winning streak. Corner (4-4, 2-3) took a tough loss from Hayden.
Tribune prediction: Corner 14, Springville 7
Last week’s predictions: 3-1
Season’s record: 30-5 (85.7%)