For The News Courier
— Friday, September 13
GAME OF THE WEEK
Athens (2-0) at Hartselle (2-0)
7 p.m. J.P. Cain Stadium
Why it’s important: The shuffle for playoff positioning in 5A Region 8 begins tonight in Hartselle as a pair of undefeated teams mix it up in this heated rivalry. Although still early in the season, the winner of this game will effectively stake a major claim to one of the four playoff spots in the region. For Athens, the Golden Eagles will find out if they are for real against a team that has won seven straight in the series. The teams are dead even through 60 games in the series dating back to 1929.
Preview: These teams have faced similar schedules so far this season with each team beating a capable 6A opponent while burying region cellar-dwellers last week. Despite putting up big numbers last week, both teams could rely on their defenses in this early-season tilt.
Series history: The series is tied 29-29 with two ties.
Last year: Hartselle won 23-7
News Courier prediction: Athens 8, Hartselle 7
North Jackson (0-2) at Ardmore (2-0)
7 p.m., Cooper Field
Preview: This one will be interesting. Normally a perennial power in Class 4A, North Jackson visits Ardmore tonight off the heels of two heavy defeats. The Chiefs were blasted in the opening week 46-0 by Fort Payne followed by a 28-7 region defeat against Madison County last week. Ardmore has gone about its business in two wins this season, quietly jumping out to a 2-0 start. Could this be the year Ardmore beats North Jackson? A win would be one of the biggest in program history.
Series history: North Jackson leads 5-0
Last Year: North Jackson won 42-14
News Courier Prediction: North Jackson 28, Ardmore 24
Madison Academy (2-0) at Clements (1-1)
7 p.m., M.T. Newman Stadium
Preview: What a win for Clements last week. The Colts snapped the program’s longest losing streak in a dramatic 34-32 win over West Morgan. That win will do so much for the Colts’ confidence, but it might not matter this week against what is probably the top team in the state outside of 5A-6A. The Mustangs beat the defending 2A champions, Tanner, and 3A semifinalist Lauderdale County by an average of 41 points their opening two wins.
Series history: Clements leads 12-10
Last Year: Madison Academy won 55-0
News Courier Prediction: Madison Academy 56, Clements 7
Russellville (0-2) at East Limestone (0-2)
7 p.m., East Limestone Stadium
Preview: Russellville travels or limps into Capshaw tonight looking for its first win of the season. The Tigers are 0-2 for the first time since 1997 while East Limestone is 0-2 for the second consecutive year. Offense has been the Tigers problem this season after losing offensive coordinator Shane Smothers and his two sons to Muscle Shoals in the offseason.
East hasn’t had a problem scoring, averaging 24 points per game in two losses this season. The problem is defense. The Indians, gave up 45 points to Cullman last week.
Series history: Russellville leads 4-1
Last Year: Russellville won 37-14
News Courier Prediction: East Limestone 24, Russellville 20
Westminster (1-1) at Elkmont (0-2)
7 p.m., Boss Hill Stadium
Preview: Elkmont hosts Westminster tonight and is looking for its first win of the season. The Red Devils have found ways to score this season, but can’t slow teams down enough to enter the fourth quarter with a chance to win. Westminster narrowly missed the playoffs last season in one of the toughest regions in 3A. The Wildcats were shut out 35-0 by Deshler last week.
Series history: Westminster leads 1-0
Last Year: Westminster won 40-14
News Courier Prediction: Westminster 21, Elkmont 17
Cherokee (0-2) at Tanner (1-1)
7 p.m., Rip Swanner Stadium
Preview: Tanner proved last week that its opening-season loss to Madison Academy is not an indication of how their year will go. Last week’s 35-14 win was against one of the best teams in 2A Region 8, meaning Tanner should have little trouble with the rest of its regular season schedule.
Series history: Tanner leads 11-4
Last Year: Tanner won 67-7
News Courier Prediction: Tanner 55, Cherokee 6
Central (2-0) at West Limestone (1-1)
7 p.m., James Kennemer Stadium
Preview: West Limestone plays its second tough opponent in as many weeks when the Wildcats hosts Central in a 4A Region 8 contest. West held its own against 2012 region champs Brooks in a 27-12 defeat last week. Region runner-up and possible front-runner this season, Central, brings an undefeated team to Salem looking to go 3-0. Dropping another region game wouldn’t be the end of the world, but a win would dramatically increase West Limestone’s chances of making the playoffs. Central has won eight consecutive games in the series.
Series history: Central leads 8-5
Last Year: Central won 62-12
News Courier Prediction: Central 27, West Limestone 22