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Six prep storylines: Air game at Alexandria, Oxford, Piedmont, Wellborn's rise, that rare Ohatchee loss

Wellborn Anniston sights

The Wellborn band before the Anniston at Wellborn AHSAA football game. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

Alexandria went primetime in the state’s biggest market.

Wellborn scored a dramatic victory at Ohatchee.

Handley handled its Class 4A, Region 5 showdown with Munford but lost a player to a serious injury.

Omarion “Peanut” Adams showed chops at quarterback as Jacksonville handled Anniston in a rematch of one of 2019’s semifinal games in Calhoun County.

Blue Map Bookends Piedmont and Oxford took care of business.

So went last week’s storylines in area high school football. Lots of intriguing storylines await this week. Let’s get right to them:

1. Something in the air

Alexandria, Oxford and Piedmont put up a collective air raid last week, combining for 12 touchdown passes.

It’s nothing new for Piedmont, which got four touchdown passes from Jack Hayes in a 35-6 victory over Saks. Hayes and the Bulldogs’ deep receiving corps did it last year, and they’re doing it again this year.

Oxford’s Trey Higgins threw 29 touchdown passes in 2019, and he’s put up 11 this season. In a 42-14 cruise against Scottsboro last week, he went deep, throwing scoring bombs of 80, 47, 58 and 68 yards to three different receivers.

Alexandria joined the passing party in a 52-28 romp at Center Point. Not that the Valley Cubs passed often, but they passed effectively. Wesley Wright and Javais McGhee were a combined 6-for-7, but they combined for four touchdown passes.

It’s just one more reason to think the Valley Cubs have big things ahead. It’s hard enough to stop the “Three-Headed Monster” running game with McGhee, Ronnie Royal and Antonio Ross. Now, Alexandria has shown it can punish defenses that overplay the run.

2. Panther pride

What a resume Wellborn’s upperclassmen are building.

In their last nine games, dating back to last season, the Panthers are 7-2 against a bunch of teams Wellborn followers most want to beat. They’re 1-1 each against Piedmont and Randolph County, with all four games occurring in the final seven of 2019. They’ve beaten Anniston and Ohatchee this season.

That nine-game span also includes four playoff games in 2019, with victories over Locust Fork, Susan Moore and Randolph County.

Those three classes that made up last season’s seniors and this season’s seniors and juniors helped to put Wellborn football back in a place like it enjoyed in the heydays of Mike Battles. They did it under 12-year head coach Jeff Smith, who played for Battles at Wellborn.

The Panthers hope to keep the good times rolling when Saks comes to The Hill this week.

3. Tribe and tribulation

Ohatchee faces a dangerous game this week, and not just because Hokes Bluff is the Indians’ 3A, Region 5 opponent.

The Indians are coming off of a regular-season loss, their first since 2017. They fell to Wellborn 20-14 in overtime last week.

Ohatchee’s enrollment dipped enough to drop the Indians to 2A in 2018 and 2019, and they dominated their 2A region. They won quite a few blowouts in those two seasons.

What happened last Friday on the Creekbank came as quite a shock, especially after Ohatchee dominated 4A opponents Cleburne County and Anniston to open the season.

Ohatchee coach Scott Martin acknowledged dealing with the shock during his postgame talk with his team.

“It’s not something we’re used to around here,” he said. “We probably handled it like a playoff loss. I had to let the guys know, first of all, that it’s one game. It’s a region game, but it’s one game.

“We’re 2-1, not 2-8. It doesn’t count seven losses. It doesn’t count all region losses, or whatever. Our guys have to learn how to get up off the mat and answer the next bell.”

4. Anniston’s urgency

Coming off of a semifinal run in 2019, Anniston is 0-3, 0-1 in 4A, Region 4.

It’s a combination of several new skill players taking their lumps against three good teams --- Wellborn, Ohatchee and Jacksonville --- but it’s not where the Bulldogs or their backers expected to be.

There’s every reason to believe Anniston will improve, but Cherokee County coming to Lott-Mosby Stadium this week makes things more urgent. The Warriors entered this season seen as one of the five teams most likely to battle for the region’s four playoff spots. Anniston lost to Jacksonville last week and still has Handley and Munford ahead. White Plains and Cleburne County could also impact the race.

Friday’s game won’t eliminate anyone, but it has the potential to set one team on a course to be the first team out of the playoff picture.

5. Who’s a winner?

Weaver threatened to pull off its first victory under second-year head coach Justin Taylor last week, but a 20-0 lead turned into a 28-20 loss at Glencoe.

On the upside, that’s progress. Weaver lost to Glencoe by 21 points a year ago, and that was the Bearcats’ closest game in an 0-10 season.

Everyone knows the Weaver storyline. So many of the program’s top producers graduated after the 2018 season, Daryl Hamby’s last as head coach. Injuries and defections saddled Taylor with a 20-something-man roster in 2019, and lots of young players played enough to earn letters.

Odds say the first victory will come sooner than later, and struggling Pleasant Valley goes to Weaver this week. The Raiders are 0-2 after most top producers from back-to-back 5-5 teams graduated.

Chances are Pleasant Valley would have a win by now, had the Raiders’ opener against 1A Donoho not been postponed, but they need a win. Bet that they don’t want to lose to a team they beat 59-13 a year ago.

Then again, bet that Weaver wants to end a 13-game losing streak, dating back to the 2018 playoffs.

Something must give.

6. Heavy hearts

Salute to Piedmont’s Jakari and Omarion Foster, who soldiered on while playing against Saks on Friday. The game kicked off at 7 p.m., five hours after a graveside service for their father started.

Mayeis Nytcanga Foster died Aug. 29. He was 46.

Handley’s football team will play host to Lamar County and will soldier on without junior linebacker Nate Pike, hospitalized in Atlanta after an apparent head injury in last week’s key 4A, Region 4 victory over Munford.

Pike reported numbness on his left side after leaving the action in the third quarter. Trainers also noticed slurred speech and sent him to Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center, in LaGrange. From there, he was helicoptered to Atlanta.

As of this writing, doctors were determining the extent of Pike’s injury. Social media posts reporting on his progress say he lifted his left arm Saturday and remains alert, with a “really bad” headache.

A prayer circle was held for Pike around the Handley High School flag pole Tuesday. Those who attended also lifted prayers for kicker Caleb Burns, who sustained a broken collarbone.

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.