It has been a high school football season unlike any other, with games being canceled and players having to miss due to either COVID-19 positive tests or quarantine protocols.
But, we are coming to the home stretch of an unforgettable season, and several teams have an opportunity to turn an unusual year into an unforgettable one.
With three weeks left in the regular season, six of Athens and Limestone County's seven high school teams have either already clinched a playoff spot or still have an opportunity to make the playoffs. Elkmont is the only local team mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
East Limestone, West Limestone and Athens have already clinched playoff spots, with East Limestone already having secured a first-round home playoff game. The Wildcats and Golden Eagles also could host first-round playoff games if they win out. The other three teams won't be hosting but have a chance to slip into the playoffs as either the No. 3 or 4 seed from their respective regions.
Class 6A, Region 8
Athens clinched a playoff spot with its 47-14 win over Buckhorn last week and now faces Cullman in what could be a game to decide the region championship.
Cullman sits 4-0 in region play, while Athens and Muscle Shoals are both 4-1. Muscle Shoals defeated Athens earlier this season but suffered a shocking 35-9 loss last Thursday to Hartselle, which opened the door for the Golden Eagles to win the region championship since Cullman and Muscle Shoals will play Oct. 23.
Should Athens defeat Cullman in Friday night's game and the Bearcats defeat Muscle Shoals the following week, Athens would win the region as long as the Golden Eagles can defeat Decatur Oct. 23. However, a loss to Cullman would see Athens slip to third place, which means they would hit the road for the first round of the playoffs.
Class 5A, Region 8
East Limestone clinched at least second place in the region with its 45-14 victory last Thursday over Ardmore. The Indians sit at 5-0 in region play and will travel Friday to play Russellville (4-0) in a winner-take-all game for the region championship.
The Indians have won six consecutive games, while Russellville's only loss was a non-region defeat to Class 6A Hartselle. The winner of the game will finish first in the region, while the loser will take second.
The scenario is not quite as simple for Ardmore. The Tigers currently sit at 1-3 in region play but have two winnable games coming up against Lee-Huntsville and Mae Jemison. Ardmore must win both games in order to have a chance to claim a playoff spot.
However, there is a scenario where Ardmore, Mae Jemison and Lawrence County all finish at 3-3, and a tiebreaker could come into effect. Ardmore fans will need to cheer Friday for Lawrence County to defeat Mae Jemison, meaning next week's game between the Tigers and Jaguars would be a winner-take-all game for the No. 4 playoff spot.
Class 4A, Region 8
West Limestone clinched a playoff spot last Thursday with its 37-6 win over Wilson, so now the Wildcats can clinch the region championship Friday night if they can defeat Rogers on the road.
The Wildcats currently sit 5-0 in region play and are the only undefeated team in the region. A win over the Pirates would ensure only the second region championship in the program's history.
The only region title the Wildcats have won was in 1998.
Class 3A, Region 8
Clements' overall record might just be 1-7, but the Colts have a potential path to the playoffs as long as they get some help.
Clements' region record is 1-3, but the Colts have winnable games against Danville and Elkmont remaining on the schedule. Should Clements win those two games, the Colts would finish 3-3 in the region, which might put them in the playoffs or might not depending on other results.
If Phil Campbell loses one of its final two region games and Colbert Heights loses both of its final two region games, all three of those teams would finish 3-3. A tiebreaker would be needed to determine who would get the No. 3 and No. 4 seed in the region. The tiebreaker would be the three team's records against its non-region opponents, which wouldn't be determined until the final game of the season on Oct. 30.
Class 2A, Region 7
Tanner has an open date this week, and by the time they hit the field again the Rattlers will know exactly what they need to do in order to make the playoffs.
Tanner fans should watch Friday night's game between Pisgah and Section closely. Should Section beat Pisgah, that sets up a game between Tanner and Pisgah on Oct. 23 with the winner claiming the fourth and final playoff spot from the region. However, if Pisgah defeats Section and Tanner then defeats Pisgah, each team would finish 3-3 in region play, and a tiebreaker would be needed to choose the playoff teams.