BY WIL CREWS
High school football playoffs in Alabama are around the corner and local teams are wrapping up their regular seasons. Here’s a look where some of the most notable area teams stand going into the last weekend of October.
In head coach Keith Etheredge’s first year at the helm, the Tigers of Auburn High currently sit at 8-1 (5-1 in region), good enough for second place in the Class 7A Region 2 rankings.
The only team to beat the Tigers this year was Central Phenix City (9-0), with a 21-7 victory at Auburn on Oct. 1. Since then, the Tigers have ripped off two regional wins over Smiths and Enterprise. Only Central and Enterprise have scored more points this season in the region, while only Central and Prattville have allowed fewer. As of this week, the Alabama Sports Writers Association ranks Auburn as the No. 9 team in the state and the No. 6 team in Alabama Division 7A. The Tigers have a non-region shape-up game against Florida’s IMG Academy (7-0) this Friday. Although it will not affect postseason standings, the matchup should be another good indicator of where Etheredge’s team stands going into the playoffs, as IMG has allowed just 53 (7.57 per game) points all season, while scoring 352 (50.3 per game). With their win over the region’s current No. 4 team, Enterprise, last weekend, the Tigers have clinched a home playoff game against the Class 7A Region 1 Baker Hornets (6-3 / 5-2) on Nov 5. On paper, Auburn looks to be the favorite, scoring 210 points (34.8 per game) and allowing 104 (15.4 per game), both metrics ranking No. 3 in the region. Baker’s offense is just as deadly on paper, scoring 32.3 points per game; however, the Hornet’s defense may be susceptible as they are allowing 19.4 points per contest.
SMITHS STATION (7A)
Mike Glisson’s fourth year leading the Smiths Station Panthers has resulted in a 2-7 (1-5 in region) record. The problems in a down year for Smiths began in week one with a 29-22 loss to rival Russel County (a team that the Panthers had a 89% historical win rate against before this season). The Panthers bounced back in a big way with a 50-0 win the next week but momentum plummeted with six straight loses ensuing from there. The biggest downfall of the Panthers this season has been the defense, as Smiths is surrendering 32.7 points per game to its opponents to date. Smiths Station defeated Dothan High, 43-17, last week to get its second win of the season. Smiths Station’s playoff drought is now up to eight seasons. The Panthers will look for one more win to close out the season this Friday against Stanhope Elmore (4-5). Smiths has an 8-3 all-time record against the Mustangs.
In his fourth season as head coach of the Bulldogs, Erik Speakman’s team has finished its regular season with a 7-3 (7-0 in region) and sit atop the Class 6A Region 2 standings. Opelika lost its first two regular season non-region matchups to Callaway and Auburn. The only other loss was also non-region, to 7A powerhouse Central on Sept. 24. Since then, Opelika has ripped off four straight wins by a margin of 90 points. Opelika has scored the most points in the region (218) and allowed the fewest (63) this season. The Bulldog’s plaudits on the field have earned them a first round home playoff matchup against Class 6A Region 4 Northridge (6-3, 3-3 in the region) on Nov. 5. On paper, Opelika is the clear favorite, averaging 26 points per game and allowing 15.2 compared to 30 points per game scored and 26.5 points per game allowed for the Jaguars.
In head coach Justin Jones’ first season in charge at Beauregard, the Hornets are 3-6 (2-4 in the region). Eliminated from playoff contention for the third year running, the Hornets looks to cap off their season with a victory against Holt High School (2-7). Beauregard’s 2021 season began 2-1 as the team showed real promise; however, five straight loses followed and effectively ended any hopes of postseason play. Thus far, the Hornets are averaging 18.8 points scored per game, while allowing 27.7. Beauregard’s biggest issue this season has been inconsistency, as the offense has worked through multiple quarterbacks and the defense has been hit or miss, holding opponents under 22 points five times, but allowing over 34 four times.
Head coach Matthew Johnson has his Beulah Bobcats at 2-7 (2-5 in region) with one remaining game in the 2021 season. Wins have been hard to come by as the Bobcat’s only two wins were over Pike County, 14-12, on Sept. 3 and Goshen, 42-6, on Oct. 15. In what has been a tough season, the Bobcats have been shut out three times on their way to averaging just 13.9 points per game. Defensively, Beulah is giving up 38 per contest. The Bobcats have been eliminated from postseason play for the third season in a row and have a final game against 2A Lafayette (6-3) — a team they have 40%-win rate against all time — on Thursday, Oct. 28.
LEE-SCOTT (CLASS 3A AISA)
After finishing 2-7 in 2020, the Lee-Scott Academy Warriors have improved significantly in year two under head coach Buster Daniel. The Warriors now sit at 6-2, having beaten rival Glenwood in a mammoth of an upset earlier this year and have clinched a home playoff game against Bessemer (3-5) on Nov. 5. Lee-Scott, making back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 2016-17, is the clear favorite against the Rebels. Daniel’s team is averaging 24.1 points per game and allowing just 14.6, compared to 19.1 points scored per game and allowing 26.6.
GLENWOOD (CLASS 3A AISA)
A down year for the Gators still equates to a playoff berth. Losing 2020 all-state players BJ Snellgrove, Jackson Griner and Kye Robichaux — and the absence of 5-star defensive back AJ Harris for multiple games this season — have contributed to Glenwood (5-3) dropping games to Escambia (59-47), Lee-Scott (23-22) and Pike Liberal Arts (49-13). The Gators are averaging 33.9 points per game and allowing 19.6 to their opponents in 2021. They will begin their 2021 playoff journey by visiting Morgan Academy (5-4) on Nov. 5. Despite being the lower seed, Glenwood appear the favorite on paper with the Senators averaging fewer points per game (27.2) and allowing more points per game to their opponents (20.9).