Its region schedule has concluded, a playoff berth has been clinched, yet Russellville’s football team has plenty to play for in this week’s regular-season finale at Class 3A Fayette County.
The Golden Tigers entered a three-way tie for second place in Class 5A, Region 8 with their upset of Hartselle last week.
If Russellville (7-2) can get some help and beat Fayette County (8-1) — one of nine regular-season matchups of playoff-bound teams this week involving area schools — there is a way the Golden Tigers still could clinch their region’s No. 2 seed and get home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Coach Michael Jackson said he really isn’t focusing on that, though.
“Right now, we’re just worried about playing Fayette and getting better for playoffs,” he said. “We’ll let the rest take care of itself, and we’ll take care of what we can. Fayette has a lot of speed and some excellent skill kids. I expect it to be a four-quarter game.”
Even with a win, Russellville would need a lot of help.
First, to have a shot, the Golden Tigers need Cullman and Hartselle to both win or both lose their finales.
Cullman (7-2) plays Center Point (4-5), while Hartselle (6-3) plays Austin (7-2).
If they both lose, all Russellville would need is a win at Fayette County in order to clinch the No. 2 seed, according to AHSAA tiebreaker “M” (defeated opponent victories regardless of classification).
If Cullman and Hartselle both win, Russellville also would need Walker (7-2) to beat Hueytown (5-4) and for Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (5-4) to lose to Demopolis (8-1).
That also would trigger tiebreaker “M,” and Russellville again would clinch the No. 2 seed with a win at Fayette County.
If Russellville, Hartselle and Cullman all lose, then Cullman would finish second, Russellville third and Hartselle fourth.
If Cullman wins and Hartselle loses, Cullman is second, Russellville third and Hartselle fourth.
If Hartselle wins and Cullman loses, Hartselle takes second, Cullman third and Russellville fourth.
If all three win but Walker loses to Hueytown or Hillcrest beats Demopolis, then Hartselle would take the No. 2 seed, leaving Cullman second and Russellville fourth.
“I have looked at some of the scenarios but we aren’t worried about it,” Jackson said. “It seems pretty unlikely for all those things to happen.”
Other games matching up playoff teams that include area schools are:
n Bob Jones (7-2) at Muscle Shoals (9-0)
n Rogers (5-4) at Sheffield (5-4)
n Brooks (8-1) at Colbert County (6-3)
n Hamilton (9-0) at Haleyville (7-2)
n Lexington (5-4) at Lauderdale County (8-1)
n North Jackson (6-3) at Deshler (6-3)
n Red Bay (6-3) at Marion County (9-0)
n Vestavia Hills (8-1) at Florence (6-3)
Muscle Shoals and Florence, in particular, have matchups that should draw widespread interest.
In what might be considered a de facto northwest Alabama championship game Thursday night, Class 5A No. 1 Muscle Shoals (9-0) faces a 7-2 Bob Jones team that held on the beat Florence, 48-42, in Week 3 and wrapped up its fourth straight Class 6A, Region 8 title with a win against Austin last week.
“They’ve got a good football team,” Trojans coach Scott Basden said. “We look at it like if they were in 5A, they would be a favorite to win it.
“They’re probably the biggest team we’ll have played and they’re one of the most balanced, along with Spanish Fort and Hartselle. Their strength and size will be something we will see in the playoffs. It’s better to see that now than in the semifinals or finals.”
Florence (6-3) faces a unique situation hosting Vestavia Hills (8-1) on Friday. If Florence and Vestavia both win their playoff openers next week, the two will meet again at Vestavia in a rematch in the second round Nov. 16.
Florence coach Jamey DuBose said that won’t affect the way the Falcons approach this game.
“We will worry about the second round when we get there,” he said. “There’s no second-round guarantee. We’re going to try to get a win in this game and come up with a different game plan if we need to if we are fortunate enough to advance in the playoffs.
“Everybody wants to know if this game is important. It’s high school football; every game is important. This isn’t the NFL; we aren’t going to rest people. We have won four in a row, and we’ve got to keep the momentum going.”
Bryan App can be reached at 256-740-5730 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @bappster on Twitter.