The region football race is ending with a bang in Class 5A, Region 8.
The top four teams in the standings of one of the toughest regions in the state will square of in two games this week that will determine seeding heading into the playoffs.
Region-leading, top-ranked Muscle Shoals (8-0, 6-0) travels to Cullman (7-1, 5-1), while Russellville (6-2, 4-2) hosts defending state champion, No. 8 Hartselle (6-2, 5-1).
With a win, Muscle Shoals would clinch the region championship for the second straight year, which would mark the Trojans’ first back-to-back region titles in program history.
“It’s one of the goals we set,” Muscle Shoals coach Scott Basden said. “It’s what we talk about before the season. We want to win it outright. We play in a tough region, and if we want to be one of the best programs in north Alabama, winning it twice in a row would go a long ways toward that.”
If Muscle Shoals were to lose, it could mean a third-place finish and a playoff opener on the road, based on AHSAA tiebreakers
Basden expects his defense, which has allowed 4.6 points a game this season, to face its greatest challenge in terms of defending the pass against 6-foot senior quarterback Zach Crocker and 6-foot-5 senior receivers Houston Turner and Troy Forrest.
“He’s probably the most prolific passer we will face,” Basden said. “He’s done a great job putting the ball in his receivers hands, and they don’t miss a lot.
“He’s got some big targets. We have to make sure we are in our zones, play up on our man and bait them into some bad decisions. It’s hard to simulate that height in practice. We just have to make sure we are they when they do catch it or knock it away.”
Meanwhile, Russellville will not improve its No. 4 playoff seeding with a win unless Cullman also beats Muscle Shoals, leaving Hartselle fourth.
Either way, Golden Tigers coach Michael Jackson expects it to be important in terms of preparation for the postseason.
“This is one of the top regions in the state, no doubt,” he said. “We beat up on each other all season long, but its going to put us in a better situation heading into he playoffs. I expect all four teams to go far,”
Jackson’s team also must deal with a talented, if more mobile, quarterback in Deacon Aldridge, and a 3-3 stack defense that thrives on blitzing.
“We’ve Seen that defense on many occasions,” Jackson said. “Walker and Cullman both use it, and I hope that carries over and we have some success.
“The main thing is to make sure you take care of your responsibility. They thrive off of confusion.”
Colbert Heights deals
Colbert Heights’ football players went into last Friday’s 46-20 win against Phil Campbell with heavy hearts.
The Wildcats learned that morning that they had lost one of their teammates, sophomore offensive lineman Jesse Rainey, who had been shot Oct. 12 and remained in critical condition at UAB hospital all week.
The team learned of Rainey’s death as word got out Friday morning after he had been taken off life support.
“The kids responded well but it was a tough week emotionally,” Wildcats coach Ivan Denton said. “It had been wearing on them all week. We had a team meeting Thursday once the family knew what they were going to have to do. There were a lot of emotions there.
“It’s really tough. It serves as reminder of how fragile life really is.”
Denton said his program has received an outpouring of support, including flowers from Phil Campbell and Red Bay and phone calls from many others.
The teams signed a game ball and gave it to Rainey’s family, and Rainey’s name was painted at midfield with his number on each 25-yard line.
Stickers on the Wildcats’ helmets included his jersey number, “69,” and initials. His number also was memorialized on the scoreboard before the game.
Rainey, a sophomore, was on the varsity roster and was a starter on the B-team. His brother, Austin, was a two-year starter for the Wildcats through last year.
Jesse had taken over Austin’s jersey number this season, and the older brother wore it again, serving as an honorary team captain Friday.
Fourteen advance to volleyball super regional
Fourteen area high school volleyball team will begin play in the North Super Regional on Friday at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center. The top four finishers in each of the classifications, along with their counterparts from the South Super Regional, will advance to the state tournament.
In Class 1A, Tharptown (5-14) opens against Addison (50-4) at 10:15 a.m., while Covenant Christian plays Coosa Christian at the same time.
At 12:45 p.m., Phillips (9-14) plays Meek (17-22), and Waterloo (11-13) faces Ragland (17-16).
In Class 2A, Hatton plays Cold Springs (25-13), and Colbert Heights plays Ohatchee (18-16) at 4:15 p.m, while Lexington (39-9) has Oakman (16-18) and Cherokee faces Pleasant Valley (14-33) at 6:45 p.m.
In Class 3A, Deshler (40-9) faces New Hope at 10:15 a.m., while Mars Hill Bible (26-13) has Holly Pond at 12:45 p.m.
In Class 4A, Wilson (41-8) is looking to get back to state, starting against Crossville at 4:15 p.m.
Haleyville (21-24) has Alexandria
at 6:45 p.m., and Central (24-20)
plays Guntersville (59-12) at the same time.
In Class 5A, Muscle Shoals opens against Curry (45-11) at 12:45 p.m.
Bryan App can be reached at
256-740-5730 or email@example.com. Follow @bappster on Twitter.