The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

November 20, 2013

FEARLESS PREDICTIONS: Predicting the quarterfinal playoff games

— Last week: 2-0; Overall: 58-14

Friday, November 22

Both games at 7 p.m.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Athens (9-3) at Muscle Shoals (11-1),

J.F. Moore Stadium, Muscle Shoals

Preview: The only two teams from 5A Region 8 remaining in the postseason square off Friday in Muscle Shoals for a spot in the state semifinals. Athens is the lone remaining No. 4 seed in the 5A playoff bracket and one of two left among all classifications.

The Golden Eagles have thrived on the underdog role during the first two rounds, defeating two Birmingham-area schools with a combined record of 20-2. Those were unfamiliar opponents, which Athens dominated defensively.

Tomorrow night’s opponent is not so unfamiliar. Muscle Shoals and Athens have played every year since 1998. It’s been a streaky series, with few close games recently.

Muscle Shoals has won the last four, outscoring Athens 118 -10. AHS won six straight before that, dominating the Trojans in three consecutive shutouts from 2007-09.

Muscle Shoals had the last shutout in the series, back on Sept. 20 in a 35-0 demolition in Athens Stadium. Athens committed six turnovers in that game, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

As bad as the loss looked, the Golden Eagles’ defense surrendered just two touchdowns. If Athens is going to have a chance at upsetting No. 5 ranked Muscle Shoals, it will have to win the turnover battle.

Special teams also promise to be major factor. In their last meeting, these teams combined for 13 punts.

This game will feature two of the top defenses in North Alabama. Athens has four shutouts and gives up 12 points per game while Muscle Shoals has six shutouts and gives up five points per game.

The only time these teams have met in the playoffs was a first-round game in 1990, which Muscle Shoals won 12-10.

There is a good chance the Friday game winner will play the Spanish Fort/Jackson winner for the 5A state championship.

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