BY HARRISON TARR
FOR THE OBSERVER
November has officially arrived, meaning the people of Lee County, Alabama, have turned their full attention toward the 2021 installment of the ASHAA and AISA football playoffs. In the first round of the playoff, the hometown Opelika Bulldogs survived, Auburn willed itself into another round of competition and Lee-Scott Academy found a way to keep dancing.
There were — however — other squads in the Lee County area who handled their business and now find themselves one step closer to fulfilling state championship dreams.
CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL (11-0)
It comes as little surprise to most fans of high school football that Central posted a demoralizing 38-7 victory over Daphne in the first round of the AHSAA 7A playoffs. The five-win Trojans entered the contest as heavy underdogs and went down seemingly without a fight. While junior quarterback Caleb Nix did not have his best game of the season when it came to the Red Devil passing attack, his 13-for-23 effort did manufacture 98 yards and one touchdown, opening up a world of possibilities for his squad’s rushing attack; when it came to the run game, senior running back Jaimel Johnson did not disappoint. The 6-foot-1-inch tailback posted 105 yards on just 10 carries in route to posting yet another touchdown for the Red Devil running back room which accounted for 332 total yards on the day.
Nix, Johnson and the rest of the dominant Central squad have punched their ticket to the second round of the playoffs where the Red Devils will play host to the 11-1 Bobcats of Theodore (11-1). The two teams have not met this season, but have a common opponent — the Prattville Lions. The Red Devils defeated the Lions, 42-21, on Oct. 8; Theodore downed Prattville last week, 30-26, in the first round of the playoffs. The Bobcats come into the matchup as underdogs (as pretty much everyone is against Central), averaging 35.6 points per game while allowing 13; Central is averaging 41.7 points per game while allowing just 10.6.
The Blue Devils rode into the first round of the playoffs behind the No. 10-ranked defense in the state, leaving the squad with lofty postseason expectations. Notasulga did not disappoint when it soundly defeated first round playoff opponent Marengo (5-5) by a score of 45-16 on Friday night. As has been common with Anthony Jones’ defensive unit throughout the duration of 2021, the unit kept its opponent at bay, making room for an offensive showcase over the worn-down Panthers.
Notasulga now turns its attention to one of the second rounds premier matchups: an away duel with the 10-1 Keith Bears, set to take place this Friday. It’s hard to gauge the matchup as the two teams have not played a common opponent; however, Notasulga appears to have the offensive advantage, averaging 36.1 points per game compared to Keith’s 29.8, and the Bears have a statically better defense, allowing just 6.3 points per contest compared to the Blue Devil’s 8.8.
GLENWOOD SCHOOL (6-4)
Glenwood nearly sent its fanbase home in cardiac arrest on Friday night when the Gators pulled off a come-from-behind 21-14 victory over Morgan Academy. Despite trailing for the duration of the game, the Gator defense stepped up in the final 12 minutes of the contest, forcing their opponents to punt and providing junior wide out (and 5-star recruit) A.J. Harris with the opportunity to return the kick for a 93-yard touchdown, effectively tying the contest and placing the orange and green in position to compete. After yet another impressive stop by the Gator defense, Harris seized yet another opportunity to show off his highly regarding skillset by breaking away a 46-yard touchdown on the ground, sealing his team’s destiny to advance to the next round.
The Gators will likely need another standout performance from Harris should they hope to take down the 10-1 Patriots of Pike Liberal Arts School on the road this Friday night. The two teams already met once this season with Pike getting the better of Glenwood on Oct. 22, defeating the Gators 49-13. The Patriots are arguably the hottest team in AISA, having registered four shutouts on the season and winning 10 straight contest by an average margin of 40 points.