By Jonathan Deal
Friday, Oct. 18
All games at 7 p.m.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Athens (5-2, 3-2) at Cullman (6-1, 5-0)
Woodard Stadium, Cullman
Why it’s important: Athens controls its own destiny in the 5A Region 8 playoff picture. The Golden Eagles know they’re in the playoffs, but where they finish is yet to be determined. A loss to Muscle Shoals (7-0, 5-0) in week 4 means Athens can’t finish first, but a home-field first-round playoff game is still possible if AHS wins Friday at Cullman.
A win would force a three-way tie for second place with Hartselle. Athens would have an above-average chance of winning that tiebreaker based on its non-region wins so far this season.
Preview: All those theories aren’t worth talking about unless Athens can beat Cullman Friday. Only one team — 3A No. 1 Madison Academy — has been able to do that this season. Cullman has impressive wins over Walker (5-2) and Hartselle (5-2), but have the Bearcats faced a defense like Athens? The Golden Eagles’ D is at its best playing against spread offenses like Cullman’s. Expect a low scoring game. The team with the fewest mistakes will leave with a “W.” Athens has not played in Cullman since 2004.
Series history: Cullman lead 30-17 with one tie.
Last year: Cullman won 41-14.
News Courier prediction: Cullman 14, Athens 13
Madison County (5-2, 4-1) at Ardmore (6-1, 4-1)
Cooper Field, Ardmore
Preview: Ardmore is another team that can improve its playoff positioning Friday with a win. But a victory won’t come easy against a Madison County team that beat D.A.R. (4-3, 3-2) 49-0 last week. With Johnson already beating both teams, the winner of this game can lock up second place in the region and a first-round playoff game.
Series history: Madison County leads 8-5.
Last year: Madison County won 75-14.
News Courier prediction: Madison County 27, Ardmore 14
West Limestone (5-2, 3-2) at Priceville (4-3, 2-3)
Priceville High School Stadium, Priceville
Preview: This game carries massive implications with the winner claiming the fourth and final spot in 4A Region 8. A loss would not eliminate West Limestone, but the Wildcats would have to beat Haleyville in their final region game. Priceville is eliminated from the playoffs with a loss.
The Bulldogs are much improved from last season’s 2-8 record. In his third year at the helm, Dirk Strunk’s team is averaging 31 points per game. The problem is the Bulldogs also give up 29 points per game, and West should take advantage.
West Limestone is having its best season since 2010 behind an efficient offense and stingy defense. The Wildcats are allowing 18 points per game , nearly half of what they gave up last year. West Limestone has averaged 60 points per game in its last three games against Priceville.
Series history: West Limestone leads 3-2.
Last year: West Limestone won 49-41.
News Courier prediction: West Limestone 41, Priceville 33
Tanner (6-1, 5-0) at Hatton (3-4, 2-3)
Hatton Field, Hatton
Preview: Tanner’s region games have become predictable over the past few seasons. Like Alabama in college football, the Rattlers almost seem “boring” to watch because of their ruthless efficiency. Tanner is going about its business once again, going undefeated in region play while outscoring region foes 45-14. Tanner has not had a region opponent come within two touchdowns of victory in nearly three years, a 14-6 win at Oakman in October 2010.
Hatton does not appear to be a team to break Tanner’s 33-game region winning streak after last week’s 44-15 defeat at Colbert Heights. The Hornets had a chance to make the playoffs before the loss, but will be playing for pride only when they host Tanner Friday. Tanner has won the last eight in the series.
Series history: Tanner leads 10-7.
Last year: Tanner won 60-6.
News Courier prediction: Tanner 48, Hatton 13
Deshler (4-3, 2-3) at Elkmont (3-4, 3-2)
Boss Hill Stadium, Elkmont
Preview: Elkmont controls its own destiny when it welcomes Deshler to town Friday. The Red Devils are currently tied for third in 3A Region 8 with games against Lauderdale County (5-2, 3-2) and fourth-place Deshler remaining.
A loss Friday would eliminate Deshler from playoff contention. The Tigers have made the playoffs for 29 consecutive seasons.
Series history: Deshler leads 2-0.
Last year: Deshler won 56-6.
News Courier prediction: Deshler 34, Elkmont 14
Hartselle (5-2, 3-2) at East Limestone (2-5, 1-4)
East Limestone Stadium, Capshaw
Preview: East Limestone was eliminated from playoff contention last week with a loss to Muscle Shoals but can still make some noise in 5A Region 8 by upsetting Hartselle Friday. Hartselle has outscored East Limestone 43-7 in their only three meetings dating back to 2008.
Series history: Hartselle leads 3-0.
Last year: Hartselle won 47-7.
News Courier prediction: Hartselle 31, East Limestone 14
Colbert County (7-0, 5-0) at Clements (1-6, 1-4)
M.T. Newman Stadium, Clements
Preview: Clements hosts another top-ranked opponent this weekend when the Colts welcome No. 8 Colbert County. Clements is reeling after suffering more injuries in a 35-6 loss to Elkmont last week. Colbert County looks to remain undefeated heading into its matchup with No. 1 ranked Madison Academy next week.
Series history: Colbert County leads 4-1.
Last year: Colbert County won 56-30.
News Courier prediction: Colbert County 41, Clements 0