5 Birmingham area high school football games to watch in Round 1 of the playoffs
CLASS 7A ROUND 1 PLAYOFFS
FLORENCE (5-5) AT THOMPSON (9-1)
Time / place: Friday 7 p.m., Warriors Stadium, Alabaster
Last week: Region 4 No. 3 Florence lost 27-14 to Gardendale and Region 3 No. 2 Thompson was inactive, but lost 24-21 to Hoover the week before.
The lean: Thompson leads the series 4-1, including a 38-31 victory in 2019.
Florence’s offense has been powerful at times, scoring over 40 points in half of its games this season. RB Bubba Simpson leads the game on floor behind center Jeremiah Johnson on an OL who did not face the talent that Thompson presents in his first seven. QB Caleb Mahan launches WR / DB Jahlil Hurley — nine SEC offerings, including Alabama and Auburn. The defense, which allowed 320 yards on the ground against Gardendale, will be tested against Thompson no matter who plays QB. Expect the Falcons to charge up to stop the run, which will put 5-star rookie Hurley as well as DBs Xavier Garner and Kei Mari Clardy under a lot of pressure against a talented receiving body from Thompson. Elijah Hartnett leads the first seven.
The big question for Thompson is the status of QB Conner Harrell, who did not play in the second half of Hoover’s loss. If Harrell isn’t playing, substitute Zac Sims has plenty of weapons in the passing game with WR Ryan Peppins (53-967 yards, 17 TDs), Jaylen Ward (28-608 yards, 9 TDs) and RB Justin. Pegues (21-504 yards, 5 TDs). RB Brandon Franklin (73-514 yards, 9 TDs), Ahmari Bolden (56-357 yards, 3 TDs) and Pegues (35-291 yards, 2 TDs) thrive behind a good OL. The defense is impressive, giving up just 50 points all season, including 24 against Hoover. Jeremiah Alexander (70 tackles, 23 TFL, 7 sacks) and Peter Woods (70 tackles, 18 TFL, 7 sacks) are beasts on the DL while LBs Jax Van Zandt, Nate Riddle, Seth Hampton and Jake Ivie seek and destroy with regularity. Tony Mitchell, Tre’Quon Fegans and Trevor Hardy go through high school.
CLASS 6A ROUND 1 PLAYOFFS
FORT PAYNE (6-4) AT BRIARWOOD CHRISTIAN (9-1)
Time / place: 7:00 p.m. Friday, Lions Pride Stadium, Birmingham
Last week: Fort Payne Region 3 beat North Jackson 32-7 while Briarwood Christian Region 2 beat Corner 40-15.
The lean: Briarwood has won all three games in the series, all in the playoffs, including 30-26 in the 2015 first round playoffs.
Fort Payne QB Jake Barnes (82-163 assists, 1,196 yards, 13 touchdowns) is leading an offense that averages 27.2 points per game. RB Kaden Dubose (102-682 yards, 8 TDs) is the main threat in the running game while WR Marcus Ledford (29-337 yards, 3 TDs) and TE Sawyer Burt (13-185 yards, 4 TDs) attract the more Barnes’ attention. DB Kobe King (56 tackles, 3 INT, 1 forced fumble) is leading the defense and LB Bennett Blanks (36 tackles, 5 TFL, 9 rushing QB) is solid up front. Kohl’s Kicking ranks K / P Alex McPherson the nation’s top kicker and 9th punter. He is averaging 45 yards per punt and produced 49 touchdowns on 52 kickoffs while converting the 29 point attempts after. McPherson set an AHSAA record last week with a 61-yard non-frank field goal and did 52, 55 and 39 yards. He attempted a 66-yarder and a 70-yarder, both just before the crossbar.
Briarwood QB Christopher Vizzina (119-168 assists, 1,848 yards, 17 touchdowns, 2 INTs) is leading an offense that produced 56 plays of 20 yards or more. RB Luke Reebals (107-688 yards, 15 TDs) is the primary runner, but Vizzina (101-505, 12 TDs) is a threat to run. Vizzina’s targets include Jay Butler (23-467 yards, 5TDs) and Ethan Anderson (26-442 yards, 5 TDs) and Reebals (23-287, 2 TDs). Briarwood’s strength is his defense, allowing 17.1 points per game with a plus-5 margin for turnover and 10 steals. Miller Stubblefield and Holden Patterson as well as LB Haddon Stubbs are in the middle of the top seven while DB Seth Alford cleans up at the back.
GARDENDALE (8-2) AT HARTSELLE (10-0)
Time / place: Friday 7 p.m., Stade JP Cain, Hartselle
Last week: Region No.4 Gardendale beat Florence 27-14 and Region No.1 Hartselle was absent, but beat Hazel Green 56-7 the week before.
The lean: Hartselle leads the series 5-3 and the teams haven’t played since the first round of the 2015 playoffs, a 38-14 victory at Gardendale.
Gardendale builds on his solid ground play led by RB LT Sanders (178-1415 yards, 14 TDs) while QB Tyler Nelson (95-721 yards, 8 TDs) is also a good runner. WR Ean Nation (16-220 yards) and Sanders (12-215 yards, 3 TDs) are Nelson’s main receivers (61-125 passes, 774 yards, 7 TDs). The defense is led by LBs Nick Rigdon (89 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 TFL, 1 INT) and Kejuan Brown (59 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) while DL Kelby Collins (85 tackles, 13.5 sacks) , 12 TFL, 2 fumbles recoveries) is difficult to block. Caleb Harrell (55 tackles, 2 sacks, 6 TFL) and Isaiah Robinson (50 tackles, 1 sack, 8 TFL) fill in the gaps on the DL. Dallas Young (38 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 2 blocked kicks) and Eli Moore (57 tackles, 1 sack, 1 safety) lead the back.
Hartselle finished his first undefeated regular season since 2018 with a balanced offense (2,289 rushing yards, 37 touchdowns, 2,082 passing yards, 18 touchdowns). A pair of small but efficient running backs in Ri Fletcher of 5-9, 175 pounds (78-973 yards, 18 TDs) and Armahdeo Dunigan of 5-9, 165 pounds (93-565 yards, 10 TDs) in the game racing behind three-year-old OL starter Braxton Quattlebaum with 6-4, 215 pounds Colton Stinson. QB JT Blackwood (126-184 passes, 1,977 yards, 18 TDs) targets Izayah Fletcher (49-784 yards, 8 TDs) – he’s the older brother of Ri and son of former Alabama WR Zach, who coaches wide receivers Broad Tigers – and Eli Tidwell (33-643 yards, 5 TDs). The defensive front is led by LB Kaleb Moore while two Alabama baseball players, Coleman Mizell and Peyton Steele, are secondary leaders. Kicker Crawford Lang has a big leg and could make the difference in a close game.
MCGILL-TOOLEN (6-4) AT PELHAM (7-3)
Time / place: 7 p.m. Friday, Ned Bearden Stadium, Pelham
Last week: Region 3 McGill-Toolen lost 17-13 to Dothan while Region 2 Pelham beat Homewood 10-7.
The lean: The teams never played.
McGill-Toolen lost back-to-back games, losing to Spanish Fort (35-14) and Dothan (17-13) to end the regular season. The Yellow Jackets are in the playoffs for a seventh straight season. A year ago – their first season back in Class 6A after leaving Class 7A – they lost to Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (31-21) in the first round. The offensive is led by the South Alabama RB commits Braylon McReynolds (182-1683 yards, 23 TDs), an average of 9.2 yards per carry. QB Michael Crocker (44-82, 582 yards, 5 TDs) will start and his first target is WR Anthony Eager (20-390 yards, 4 TDs). The defense allows 22.4 points per game, including three shutouts at the start of the season.
Pelham has won four straight games after a two-game midseason losing streak. The Panthers’ offense begins with double-threat QB Will Lankford (76-152 passes, 1,305 yards, 18 touchdowns, 76-457 yards, 5 touchdowns) while RB Gabe Gamble (183-1,218 yards, 8 touchdowns) can bring it home from anywhere. The receiving targets are Darius Copeland (24-390 yards, 4 TDs) and Jake Fox (17-356 yards, 4 TDs). Copeland also has 3 rushing TDs and 2 punt return TDs. LBs Brayden Marlowe and Seth Branham lead the Panthers in tackles while DLs Jake Ingram and Isaac Cruz plug the holes. DBs Jaylen Tate (3 INT), Markel Bell, Cory Perkins and Jamal Miles are the last line of defense.
PINSON VALLEY (7-3) AT MUSCLE SHOALS (9-1)
Time / place: 7 p.m. Friday, JF Moore Stadium, Muscle Shoals
Last week: Pinson Valley Region 3 beat Lee-Montgomery 15-14 and Muscle Shoals Region 2 beat Sparkman 42-7.
The lean: Pinson Valley leads the series 2-1, including a 26-14 third round victory of the 2019 playoffs.
Pinson Valley produced their weakest offensive production of the season against a good team from Lee. QB Zach Pyron leads the offense, both with his arms and feet, while RBs Mike Sharpe and Jaylen Taylor run behind OL Cameron Ambrose and Joel Brown. The main reception targets are Taborie Reed, Amare Thomas and Korbyn Williams. The defensive front is solid with DE BJ Diakite and LB Jacobi Jackson in the lead. DB TJ Metcalf, who is also an offensive playmaker, is the point guard at the back.
Muscle Shoals QB Luke Peoples (100-145 passes, 1623 yards, 18 TDs, 4 INT) leads the offensive while RB Brooks Berry (166-1 038 yards, 16 TDs) thrives behind an OL anchored by C Collin Wright (note average of 92 percent with 10 pancakes). The defensive front includes DT JyHeim Ingram (38 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 TFL, 4 PBUs) while LB Silas Russell (61 tackles, 11 TFL, 8 rushing QBs, 1PBU) follows the running backs from line to line. other. Dontavious Pritchard (39 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 forced fumble, 11 PBU, 3 INT) is the leader of the last line of defense.
BIRMINGHAM REGION SCHEDULE
(All matches at 7 p.m.)
Class 7A playoffs
Oak Mountain (6-4) vs. James Clemens (10-0)
Class 7A playoffs
Florence (5-5) at Thompson (9-1)
Sparkman (4-6) at Hoover (10-0)
Hewitt-Trussville (8-2) vs. Bob Jones (5-5)
Class 6A qualifiers
Baldwin County (7-3) at Helena (9-1)
Carver-Montgomery (7-3) at Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa (8-2)
McAdory (7-3) at Lee-Montgomery (7-2), Cramton Bowl
Eufaula (5-5) at Hueytown (9-1)
McGill-Toolen (6-4) at Pelham (7-3)
Northridge (7-3) at Opelika (7-3)
Calera (7-3) at the Spanish fort (9-1)
Chelsea (4-6) at Oxford (6-4)
Pinson Valley (7-3) at Muscle Shoals (9-1)
Southside-Gadsden (5-5) at Mountain Brook (9-1)
Cullman (7-3) at Jackson-Olin (8-2)
Gardendale (8-2) at Hartselle (10-0)
Homewood (5-5) to Arabic (8-2)
Decatur (4-6) at Clay-Chalkville (10-0)
Fort Payne (6-4) at Briarwood Christian (9-1)
Class 5A qualifiers
Faith Academy (5-4) in Shelby County (5-4)
Ramsay 5-4) at Guntersville (9-1)
Central point (7-3) at East Limestone (5-5)
Douglas (6-4) at Pleasant Grove (8-1)
Lee-Huntsville (5-5) at Leeds (9-1)
Fairfield (7-3) at Fairview (9-1)
Boaz (6-4) vs. Parker (9-1)
Class 4A playoffs
Montevallo (8-2) vs. Jackson (8-2)
Williamson (5-5) vs. American Christian (9-1)
Dora (6-4) at Brooks (10-0)
Class 2A playoffs
South East (6-4) at Lexington (7-3)
North Sand Mountain (4-6) in midfield (8-1)
Colbert County (6-4) at Cleveland (8-2)
Class 1A playoffs
Sumiton Christian (7-3) at Winterboro (6-4)
Banks Academy (6-4) at Autauga Academy (10-0)
Coosa Valley (3-6) to Sparta (8-1)
Valiant Cross (3-4) at Tuscaloosa Academy (5-4)