The high school football regular season is reaching midfield, and the end zone ahead sure looks promising.
With most teams having played four games, including two region games, four coverage-area teams hold top-five rankings: Oxford, Alexandria, Piedmont and Weaver. Randolph County and Ohatchee hold top-10 rankings.
What makes it look so promising is the dispersal of those teams across three classifications. Oxford (4-0) is No. 3 in 6A, Alexandria (4-0) No. 3 in 5A, Piedmont (3-1) No. 2 in 3A and Weaver (3-0) No. 5 in 3A.
Randolph County (2-1) and Ohatchee (3-1) are Nos. 7 and 8 in 3A, respectively.
What does it all mean? It means the coverage area has a legit shot to have a handful of deep-run playoff teams.
Class 3A, Region 5 produced four quarterfinalists, two semifinalists and a state champion a year ago. Such perfect storms come along only so often, but it’s not far-fetched to think that two region teams could be playing each other for a state-final berth.
As it was a year ago, expect to see regular-season rematches in the 3A North playoff bracket. Everybody is chasing two-time defending champion Piedmont, which gained footing quickly after an early stumble against Rockmart (Ga.) and just came through a challenge from Randolph County on the road.
In 6A, Oxford looks unstoppable. The Yellow Jackets’ defense, overall, looks improved over 2016 despite losing a great player in K.J. Britt, now a collegian at Auburn. Quarterback Abe Peoples has struggled with nagging injuries, but his backup, freshman Trey Higgins, already has a Jacksonville State offer.
In 5A, Alexandria has shown the look that awakens memories of the 2015 semifinal team. The Valley Cubs have averaged 42.5 points a game while giving up 11.5. In 2015, those averages were 35.8 and 8.8 through four games.
What’s more, Alexandria’s 37-0 victory over Talladega in the opener keeps looking better, now that Talladega has rebounded for a 3-1 start.
There’s not the fullback presence Alexandria had with Jacob Heathcock in 2015. This year’s offensive line might give up a few pounds, but the Valley Cubs have played dominant football.
Big matchups loom for all of the area’s contenders. Alexandria faces key region games against Etowah, unbeaten Crossville and Guntersville.
The 3A, Region 5 slate includes Piedmont-Weaver, Weaver-Randolph County, Ohatchee-Weaver and Ohatchee-Piedmont, and don’t forget a Wellborn team that came into this season with a young line but expects to play its best football late.
Oxford’s interesting matchups include Albertville this week. The Aggies lost 31-9 to the Cullman team that Oxford just beat soundly but are 3-1. A non-region game at Benjamin Russell looms.
Don’t expect Oxford’s biggest opponent to be Oxford down the stretch. Last year’s injury-impacted, first-round playoff exit after an unbeaten regular season will keep the Yellow Jackets plenty motivated.
SPEAKING OF: Oxford’s remaining schedule includes games against a couple of familiar head coaches.
The Yellow Jackets will go on the road to face Benjamin Russell, coached by Alabama High School Sports Hall of Famer Danny Horn. Horn led Clay County to six state titles before heading to Alexander City after the 2008 season.
Oxford’s regular-season finale at Sumter Central means the Yellow Jackets will see Shannon Felder. Felder went 67-54 in 11 seasons at Donoho, notching past Robert Green’s 65-54 run for best in school history, then spent two seasons as Anniston’s offensive coordinator. Felder is in his first year as Sumter Central’s head coach.
RUNNIN’ RAIDERS: Pleasant Valley’s cross country teams added another impressive result this past weekend, with boys’ and girls’ teams winning the Scottsboro Invitational in the 1A-4A division. Matisse Miller led the boys, finishing first in the 1A-4A division in 16:42.09. Trinity Roberts paced the girls in second, crossing the finish line in 19:56.
Other high finishers for Pleasant Valley’s boys included Jacob Gladen (seventh, 17:52.36), Skler McLeod (ninth, 18:22.10) and Dekota Roberts (10th, 18:22.34). The Raiders beat St. James 48-98, with 197 finishers in the 1A-4A field.
For the girls, Rachel Faucett was ninth in 21:45.17, Emma Hood 12th in 22:11.35, Gracie Hood 14th in 22:31.49 and Juliana Ballew 16th in 22:50.39. Pleasant Valley beat St. James 49-75, with 144 finishers in the Raiders’ division.
Pleasant Valley’s girls are two-time defending state champions. The boys finished second to 3A beast American Christian last year.
RECRUITING TRAIL: Sacred Heart basketball standout Diante Wood has set his official visits: South Florida, Sept. 29-Oct. 1; Alabama, Oct. 13-15; Colorado State, Oct. 27-29; and Auburn, Nov. 10-12.
The 6-5 senior, projected as a guard on the college level, has helped Sacred Heart win three consecutive Class 1A state titles. He was twice most valuable player of the state final. He lists as a three-star prospect, according to 247sports, and the No. 56 shooting guard nationally.