By Jonathan Deal
Athens (7-3) at Center Point (9-1)
Bowman Field, Center Point
Why it’s important: All postseason games are important, but this 5A matchup has the makings of a classic high school football playoff game. Athens, the No. 4 seed in 5A travels to the top team in Region 6 and No. 6 team in Class 5A. There are more than a few reasons why Athens has the opportunity to advance including the fact that all four teams from Region 8 won their first-round playoff games last year.
Athens won five of its last six games, losing to Cullman on a last-second trick play on Oct. 18. The Golden Eagles have the defense to play with anyone and if they can keep it close going into the fourth quarter, anything is possible.
It won’t be easy, however, to get past this Center Point team, which knocked off then 5A No. 1 McAdory in overtime Sept. 27 and beat Cullman 26-7 last week.
Athens returns to the playoffs after missing the postseason for the first time since 2007. AHS head coach Allen Creasy has advanced past the first round in eight of his 10 trips to the playoffs.
Preview: Center Point shouldn’t even be in this game. Had Walker not been slapped with restrictive probation due to a post-game fight with Athens in the opening week, AHS would be traveling to Walker. Walker technically won 5A Region 6 with a 28-6 win over Center Point Oct. 11.
No matter the opponent, Athens will bring the same stingy defense that is giving up less than two touchdowns per game this year. Center is averaging 33 points per game while giving up just 15.
Series history: Athens leads 1-0.
Last meeting: Athens won 20-14 in a first-round playoff game in 1994.
News Courier Prediction: Athens 24, Center Point 22
Woodland (6-4) at Tanner (8-1)
Rip Swanner Field, Tanner
Preview: Tanner returns to action after taking a week off to prepare for its postseason run, which is set up to be a challenging journey to the Super Six. The Rattlers breezed through the first two rounds last year, beating Sand Rock 55-0 and Walter Wellborn 48-0. This postseason run could be much more challenging with a possible trip to Reeltown in the second round on the horizon. But Tanner head coach Laron White will have his team focused on their first-round opponent Woodland, which averaged 33 points per game this season. Tanner allows just a touchdown per game, so something has to give.
Even if Woodland can score, it will be hard for the Bobcats to keep up with a Tanner offense that puts up 45 a game.
Series history: Tanner leads 2-0.
Last meeting: Tanner won 38-0 in the third round of the playoffs in 2011.
News Courier Prediction: Tanner 35, Woodland 13
West Limestone (7-3) at Oneonta (9-1)
Gilbreath Stadium, Oneonta
Preview: West Limestone gets a tough draw in the first round of the 4A state playoffs, traveling to No. 2 Oneonta. Under head coach Don Jacobs, the Redskins have won 43 games over the past five years, including nine playoff victories. Oneonta is used to winning playoff games, going 8-2 over the past two seasons while making it to back-to-back state championship games.
West Limestone’s last playoff appearance was in 2011 when the Wildcats lost 35-0 in a home contest to Oneonta. West enters Friday’s game on a roll, winning six of its last seven games that included putting a season-high 54 points on Ardmore last week.
West Limestone can run the football and has a much-improved defense, but this will be its toughest opponent by far in 2013.
Oneonta has won its last nine games after losing the season opener to Pinson Valley.
Series history: Oneonta leads 1-0.
Last meeting: Oneonta won 35-0 in 2011.
News Courier Prediction: Oneonta 34, West Limestone 14
Ardmore (6-4) at Munford (9-1)
Holcombe Stadium, Munford
Preview: Ardmore returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2006 when the Tigers went 8-2 and lost to Guntersville in the first round. It’s Munford that Ardmore will travel to this time.
The No. 9 ranked Lions are enjoying their best season since 1992 when they made it to the 4A state championship game. Munford was ranked as high as No. 7 this season before losing to No. 8 Central on Sept. 27.
Ardmore is enjoying its best season in seven years under first-year head coach Clint Legg. The Tigers started 5-0 this season, but lost their final three games to three playoff-bound teams.
Series history: These teams have never met.
News Courier Prediction: Munford 36, Ardmore 22