By Jonathan Deal
Friday, Oct. 4
all games at 7 p.m.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Athens (3-2, 1-2) at East Limestone (2-3, 1-2)
East Limestone Stadium, Capshaw
Why it’s important: These rivals meet for just the eighth time Friday in East Limestone for what could be an elimination game in 5A Region 8. A loss will drop one to 1-3 in region play with several big games still to come. The winner will remain in the playoff hunt and earn bragging rights for the next 365 days.
Preview: The teams enter Friday’s game riding high after each winning impressive out of region contests last week. Athens snapped a two-game losing streak with a 26-24 win over Austin. The Golden Eagles finished that game strong as they did in an opening week win over Decatur, scoring all their 20 points in the fourth quarter.
East Limestone scored the most it has in a single game in nearly two years with a 59-point scoring spree at Madison City Stadium. The Indians’ offense has improved week after week, finally clicking in last week’s win over James Clemens.
This will be a fascinating matchup between East Limestone’s explosive offense and Athens’ sound defense. East Limestone has won three in a row in the series.
Last year: East Limestone won 24-12.
Series history: East Limestone leads 4-3.
News Courier Prediction: Athens 30, East Limestone 21
J.O. Johnson (4-1, 3-0) at Ardmore (5-0, 3-0)
Cooper Field, Ardmore
Preview: The games just keep getting bigger for Ardmore under first-year head coach Clint Legg. After the school’s first-ever win over North Jackson two weeks ago, the Tigers host J.O. Johnson for first place in 4A Region 8.
Johnson’s defense has been rock-solid this season, allowing a paltry seven points per game at the halfway point. And the Johnson offense isn’t too shabby, either, with brothers Danny and DeVon Johnson. DeVon is a speedster and a threat to score every play, whether on a pass from Danny or by ground.
Ardmore can also score with junior quarterback Garrett Miller. Miller tossed five touchdowns passes last week, including three to favorite target, tight end Hayden Durrett.
Throw in a handful of talented backs and you have the recipe for a high-scoring affair in Ardmore Friday.
Last year: Johnson won 30-6.
Series history: Johnson leads 1-0.
News Courier Prediction: J.O. Johnson 20, Ardmore 16
Wilson (2-3, 2-1) at West Limestone (3-2, 1-2)
James Kennemer Stadium, Salem
Preview: Wilson visits West Limestone for homecoming for what could be an elimination game in the 4A Region 8 playoff puzzle. West will be eager to avenge last year’s 41-7 loss in Zip City.
The Wildcats have momentum on their side. After a convincing win over East Lawrence, West held on for a rivalry win against Elkmont last week. Wilson began the season with a pair of losses, giving up five touchdowns in each of its first two games, but rebounded with blowout victories over Rogers and Priceville.
Although the series is close over 12 games, these teams have had just one game decided by less than double digits dating back to 1979. The past three games in the series have been decided by an average of 26 points.
Last year: Wilson won 41-7.
Series history: Wilson leads 7-5.
News Courier Prediction: West Limestone 27, Wilson 19
Tanner (4-1, 3-0) at Colbert Heights (2-3, 1-2)
Amos Mitchell Stadium, Tuscumbia
Preview: Tanner begins the downhill portion of its region slate after winning convincingly in games against Lexington and Red Bay. The Rattlers have the state champion look again after suffering a rare blowout loss in the opening week to Madison Academy.
That loss doesn’t look so bad now that the Mustangs have steamrolled an extremely difficult early season slate.
Colbert Heights won a high-scoring affair at 1A Hackleburg last week after losing consecutive region games to Lexington and Sheffield.
Last year: Tanner won 69-13.
Series history: Tanner leads 5-2.
News Courier Prediction: Tanner 49, Colbert Heights 6
Elkmont (2-3, 2-1) at Madison Academy (5-0, 3-0)
Mustang Stadium, Madison
Preview: Elkmont has the unfortunate opportunity of playing the Madison Academy football machine Friday night. Fresh off a 28-10 win over 5A no. 10 ranked Cullman, Madison Academy welcomes the Red Devils to Mustang Stadium.
Elkmont showed fight in a two-point loss at West Limestone and will need to rebound quickly from that last-minute loss.
Last year: Madison Academy won 62-0.
Series history: Madison Academy leads 15-9.
News Courier Prediction: Madison Academy 49, Elkmont 10
Westminster (2-3, 0-3) at Clements (1-4, 1-2)
M.T. Newman Stadium, Clements
Preview: Over the past three weeks, Clements has played Ardmore, Lauderdale County and Madison Academy — teams that are a combined 14-1 overall. The Colts get a break this week when they welcome a Westminster team that has managed just a touchdown in three region games this season.
Clements finished strong last week, scoring four touchdowns in the second half against Ardmore.
Last year: Westminster won 45-7.
Series history: Clements leads 2-1.
News Courier Prediction: Clements 27, Westminster 20