Welp, gang’s all here. Almost all here, anyway.
It’s week two of the Alabama high school football playoffs, and 14 of 15 Anniston Star coverage-area teams that made the playoffs reached the second round. That includes all eight playoff teams from Calhoun County.
They’ll try to keep it going this week. Let’s get right to the top storylines:
1. Bringin’ it home
Anniston and Wellborn won on the road in the first round, as the third seed in their respective regions. They validated their regions and schedule strength, with Anniston coming within minutes of a shutout in a 19-6 victory at Fayette County and Wellborn crushing Locust Fork 55-14.
Anniston and Wellborn earned second-round games, both at home. Anniston plays host to Fairview in the 4A North bracket, and Wellborn gets Susan Moore in 3A North.
Anniston, which has given up a touchdown or less in six games this season, will play its first home playoff game since 2011.
Wellborn, which has scored 506 points, will play its first home playoff game since 2014. The Panthers need three points to break a single-season school scoring record set in 1977.
2. Jacksonville seeks history
Jacksonville has made a lot of school history the past two seasons, including back-to-back unbeaten runs through region play. This week, the Golden Eagles seek to slay demons.
In 11 playoff appearances, Jacksonville has never advanced past the second round.
The Golden Eagles seemed likely to break the barrier a year ago, but the combination of wet-and-muddy playing conditions and an opponent built for it doomed them to a loss at Good Hope.
Jacksonville plays at St. John Paul II this week, and this week’s prep-playoff forecast for Huntsville today shows a 10 percent chance of rain, with a high temperature of 54 and low of 32, according to Weather.com.
3. Overcoming injuries
Piedmont and Alexandria go into the second round with one thing in common, having overcome major injuries.
Piedmont hopes to advance far enough to get wide receiver/running back Ethan Swinford back. He suffered a fractured fibula against Glencoe on Oct. 11, with a prognosis to return in six weeks. The Bulldogs’ second-round game against Lauderdale County today marks their fifth since his injury, and they’ve scored no fewer than 35 points since.
Alexandria running back/linebacker/punter Nate McCallum has battled an ankle injury since the Cleburne County game Sept. 27, and he reinjured it the Valley Cubs’ 10-7 victory over Sylacauga in the first round. He watched the second half on crutches and in a protective boot.
4. Huge rematch
It’s Clay Central-Jasper 2.5.
Their second-round game this season, featuring Class 5A’s top-ranked Jasper and No. 4 Clay Central, will mark the playoff rematch of this season’s classic in Clay County. Jasper won the first 35-34 in double overtime on Sept. 27, after Clay Central tried and failed on a two-point conversion.
The winner faces the Alexandria-Madison County winner. Clay Central is defending its 5A title.
5. Huge rematch warning
Oxford goes to Cullman today, and Clay-Chalkville plays host to Athens. The winners play each other in the quarterfinals, and Oxford wants another shot at Clay-Chalkville.
The Yellow Jackets lost to Clay-Chalkville in the quarterfinals in 2017 and 2018 and lost regular-season games to the Cougars in 2018 and this season. The loss this season saw Oxford missing its top two running backs and two starting offensive linemen to injury.
Oxford’s injury situation looks much better, but the Yellow Jackets have to get to the quarterfinals first.
6. Huge rematch watch
All signs have pointed Ohatchee to a semifinal rematch with defending 2A state champion Fyffe, the team that put the Indians out in the quarterfinals last year. Both face second-round tests this week.
Class 2A second-ranked Ohatchee gets No. 3 Collinsville at home, with Collinsville coming off a 68-13 roar past Colbert County in the first round. The Panthers have scored 60 or more points twice this season and 50 or more three times, needing 18 to reach 500 on the year.
No. 7 Ranburne goes to No. 1 Fyffe with the one thing that travels best in football … a strong defense. The Bulldogs will need it against Fyffe, which has eight shutouts, has given up more than a touchdown just once this season and held opponents to 23 points overall.
Then again, Ranburne comes tested, having faced Ohatchee and beaten No. 6 Reeltown. The Bulldogs won’t be intimidated.