How does Piedmont respond?

Piedmont rarely loses, and, if we’re getting technical, Saturday’s 14-8 loss in the Champions Challenge isn’t a loss because it’s not a real game.

Nonetheless, Piedmont is coming off it’s first two-loss season since 2010. Adding in the jamboree loss, the Bulldogs are facing something that hasn’t occurred since this year’s seniors were entering their freshman year.

At the same time, it wouldn’t be smart to sleep on Steve Smith’s team, especially after they’ve beaten Cherokee County by an average of 30.5 points per game over the last four years.

Does anyone truly have an edge between Saks and Wellborn?

From the buzz around Calhoun County, it’s figured that Saks holds a little more weight heading into Friday night’s game than Wellborn, but does it really? Both teams are coming off region championships — Wellborn tying and losing the tiebreaker — and both teams are ranked in their respective classes.

Wellborn, despite falling to Lincoln in a jamboree last weekend, is said to have its best defense in a long time. And, that talk is coming from the Panthers themselves.

Team Star columnist Joe Medley had nothing but positive things to say about Saks after its 38-17 wallop over St. Clair County in a jamboree last week.

Something has to give in this one. Someone has to win. But, as to who that is, that’s up for debate.

How is Horn’s homecoming?

There’s nothing but friendship amongst longtime Clay County and current Benjamin Russell coach Danny Horn and the folks in the Ashland/Lineville area. Horn won a lot — and I mean a lot — of games at Clay County, including six state championships, and is also a graduate of the high school.

Current Clay Central coach Kris Herron was an assistant under Horn for 19 years. Former Clay Central coach and current principal Steve Gidden was best friends with Horn growing up.

Friday night provides a great welcome home for Horn, who still has a house in Ashland, but it’ll also feature a big-time, non-region game.

Clay Central enters the game ranked fourth in Class 5A, defeating Munford 10-7 last week. Benjamin Russell is fresh off a 38-7 win over B.C Rain.

There will be a lot of hugs and laughter before and after the two meet Friday at Clay Central, but it’s no secret that neither coach wants to lose.

How will Oxford follow up its win against Southside?

The Yellow Jackets opened the season nicely with a 42-21 win over Southside last Thursday, but once Saturday came, Oxford was past that celebration and looking on to Gadsden City.

And — no offense to Southside — Oxford was smart to move on so quickly. A season-opening win is always important, but the Yellow Jackets face a much tougher opponent this week.

Gadsden City went to Auburn last week and went home with a double-overtime victory. It’s also currently ranked ninth in the Class 7A poll.

For Oxford, which won last year’s meeting 6-0, this is the game that you want. This is a chance to show that you’re for real. This is, basically, the Florence game from last year — the 26-20 win that turned the curve on the year.

Oxford will take the field Friday night knowing what’s at stake. A loss doesn’t hurt the playoff  picture, but a win turns things up a notch before Region 7 play begins next week.

How will Anniston look?

The Bulldogs are fresh off missing the postseason for the first time since 2007, and there are definitely some question marks entering Friday’s season opener.

Anniston had no problem taking down Handley last season, winning the game 41-13, but, this year, things aren’t as sure as a year ago.

The Bulldogs lost a lot of skill players, including do-it-all Demarcus Thomas.

Anniston does return third-year starting quarterback Quint Dobbins, who head coach Eddie Bullock is looking to take a large leadership role this year. The Bulldogs are also expecting a lot out of athlete Tae Miller.

With Handley as young as it is, Anniston has a chance to open the year with a win, but the question is more about how it will get things done.

Brandon's Prep Picks

Anniston 14, Handley 10

Donoho 35, Shoals Christian 7

Jacksonville 28, Weaver 14

Oxford 21, Gadsden City 17

Piedmont 35, Cherokee County 14

Ranburne 42, Pleasant Valley 21

Saks 28, Wellborn 21

White Plains 14, Ashville 7

Clay Central 14, Benjamin Russell 10

Munford 21, Cleburne County 17

Pell City 24, Lincoln 14

Mt. Zion (Ga.) 28, Randolph County 14

Spring Garden 21, Appalachain 14

Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.