By Jonathan Deal
Friday, Oct. 11
All games at 7 p.m.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Russellville (3-3, 2-2) at Athens (4-2, 2-2)
Golden Eagle Stadium, Athens
Why it’s important: A loss could mean no playoffs for Russellville, which would snap a 13-year playoff streak dating back to 1999. The last time Russellville didn’t make the playoffs, the players suiting up Friday weren’t old enough for kindergarten.
Currently, Athens is in a three-way tie for third in the region with Russellville and Hartselle. With only four spots remaining, the winner would have the inside track to making the playoffs with two region games remaining.
Adding another dimension to this game is the fact that Russellville has won 14 straight in the series dating back to 2001, including two playoff victories. Could this be the year Athens snaps the streak?
Preview: Athens snapped a streak last week when they beat rival East Limestone 34-13. Outside its loss to Muscle Shoals, Athens’ defense has been lights-out all season, limiting teams to an average 11 points per game. That reliable defense along with the improved play of quarterback Stevie Farmer is the reason Athens is in playoffs contention.
Playing into Athens’ hands is that Russellville has struggled to score against good defenses this season. Outside a 35-0 win against West Point, Russellville has averaged 12 points per game.
Last year: Russellville won 23-7.
Series history: Russellville leads 19-7.
News Courier Prediction: Athens 17, Russellville 14
Ardmore (5-1, 3-1) at John Paul II (1-4, 1-3)
Discovery Middle School, Madison
Preview: Ardmore will try to rebound from its first loss of the season when it travels to Pope John Paul II for another region tilt Friday. The Tigers proved no match for region favorites J.O. Johnson, but should find it much easier to move the ball against a Falcons defense allowing 35 points per game this season.
Ardmore’s lopsided loss last week was the only blip on an otherwise stellar season on the state line. A win would all but seal a playoff spot for Ardmore with two region games to go.
Last year: Ardmore won 38-14.
Series history: Ardmore is 1-0.
News Courier Prediction: Ardmore 26, John Paul II 14
Clements (1-5, 1-3) at Elkmont (2-4, 2-2)
Boss Hill Stadium, Elkmont
Preview: Both teams enter this fixture limping after blowout losses a week ago. Elkmont’s 56-13 loss was just another stop on the Madison Academy victory tour. The Red Devils became just the second team to score more than one touchdown against the defending 3A champs.
In a game Clements had a real chance to win, the Colts fell flat, losing 41-12 on homecoming to Westminster. Elkmont beat that same Westminster squad by double digits earlier this season.
Last year: Elkmont won 24-8.
Series history: Clements leads 26-23.
News Courier Prediction: Elkmont 31, Clements 13
East Limestone (2-4, 1-3) at Muscle Shoals (6-0, 4-0)
J.F. Moore Stadium, Muscle Shoals
Preview: East Limestone hits the road for the fourth time in five weeks when it travels to 5A No. 3 Muscle Shoals. Muscle Shoals has not shown many weaknesses thus far, allowing the most points it has all season in a 24-9 win over Hartselle last week.
The Trojans have outscored opponents by an average score of 42-2 this season.
East Limestone simply fell into a hole it could not climb out of against Athens last week. The Indians will be eager to start fresh against what will be one of their toughest tests all season.
Last year: Muscle Shoals won 42-7.
Series history: Muscle Shoals leads 6-2.
News Courier Prediction: Muscle Shoals 35, East Limestone 7
Sheffield (2-4, 2-2) at Tanner (5-1, 4-0)
Rip Swanner Stadium, Tanner
Preview: Tanner can claim a home-field playoff game with a victory over Sheffield Friday. The Rattlers, of course, have their sights set higher than that, but another region title will have to wait another week to be clinched.
Sheffield has an outside chance of making the playoffs, which could be decided by its final region game against Hatton.
Last year: Tanner won 46-20.
Series history: Tanner leads 1-0.
News Courier Prediction: Tanner 41, Sheffield 13
West Limestone (4-2, 2-2) at Rogers (0-6, 0-4)
Pirate Field, Greenhill
Preview: Rogers is off to its worst start in 13 years under second-year head coach Randall Martin. It’s a bizarre season for a team that had a winning season last year and made the playoffs.
West Limestone lost a close game to the Pirates last season in a game that helped decide the final playoff spot in 4A Region 8. While this game doesn’t carry those stakes, a win would keep West Limestone in the hunt and set up a playoff-deciding game next week at Priceville.
Last year: Rogers won 21-19.
Series history: Rogers leads 17-5 with one tie.
News Courier Prediction: West Limestone 28, Rogers 7