Week 6 Predictions: Another big week

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 30, 2005

All right, I’ve been dreading this for nearly two weeks, so let’s get this out of the way right now:

John Essex at Linden

For those of you just tuning in, my record in picking another area team against John Essex this season: 0-2. I know, because they’ve told me. And uh-oh, here’s another John Essex toss-up game, this time against the Hornets’ biggest rivals. Both teams have tremendous quarterbacks: the Keniote Phillips/Suran Allen platoon for Essex, Darnell Richardson for Linden. Both have the proverbial big ol’ boys along the line in Linden’s Marcus Catlin and Essex’s Robert Parker. And both have outstanding linebacking corps with Essex’s Darnell Edwards and Linden’s Tates, Maurice and Carlos. You could throw out the records in a game like this, but even if you kept the records, they both only have one loss. It all adds up to a game I honestly have no clue who will win. It should be closer than Bush-Gore, closer than a Norelco shave. It’s a coin-flip, and in coin-flip games you take the home team, right? Right. Guess I still haven’t learned my Essex lesson.

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The pick: Linden, by a two-point conversion in OT or something

Players to watch: John Essex–LB Darnell Edwards, RB Chris Jones. Linden–QB Darnell Richardson, DE Marcus Catlin.

Now, the good news for high school football fans? That’s only the first in a stacked lineup of Week 6 games. AHSAA teams return to regional play this week and there are clashes with “Playoff Impact” written all over them all over the place. In AISA, a few long losing streaks might be coming to an end. And considering that the current combined record of Vanderbilt, Baylor, and the Cincinnati Bengals is 10-0, I think it’s safe to say that just about anything can happen.

Demopolis at Southside-Selma

Among the many talents Demopolis has shown in their 5-0 start is the goal-line stand. Bibb Co. and Northridge both had first downs inside the five–Bibb’s in the fourth quarter, Northridge’s in the first–and both walked away without a point to show for it. It’s great to see that when teams do manage to put a little bit of pressure on the Tigers, they’re ready to respond, especially with a team on the docket this week that has the capability to produce that little bit of pressure. Southside very likely isn’t as good as the 2004 team that scored the first points of the year on DHS’s defense and held the Tigers to their lowest winning margin of the regular season (why, a mere 22 points), but have shown some spunk at home in beating Greene Co. 53-28 and (an admittedly very bad) Central-Hayneville team 33-0. Plus DHS might be due for a letdown after last week’s resounding victory. The kind of letdown that could actually make this a game in the fourth quarter? Nah. That’s what goal-line stands are for.

The pick: Demopolis, by 20

Players to watch: Demopolis–S Willie Blount, RB Rock Jones. Southside–RB Jamarcus Hardy, QB Travis Shine.

A.L. Johnson at Sweet Water

After Johnson couldn’t make a game of it on the road at American Christian (they lost 44-7), how likely is it they make a game of it on the road against Sweet Water? Well, it doesn’t look too likely. The Eagles don’t appear to be playing their best football right now after the loss to John Essex and a 14-point win over Fruitdale, and Sweet Water just blew two teams comparable to Johnson (Linden and Marengo) out of the water by a combined 102-6. With Johnson’s skill position talent, they have the potential to make this a heck of a game. But with the game in Sweet Water and the Bulldogs hitting on all cylinders, even Johnson will have a hard time hanging in there.

The pick: Sweet Water, by three scores

Players to watch: A.L. Johnson–QB Michael McGhee, RB Brandon Fritts. Sweet Water–RB Dominic Holt, DB Paul Lynn.


Or, if you prefer the long version, West Alabama Preparatory at Marion Military Institute. (I’ll stick with WAP at MMI, thanks.) Whatever you call them, one of these teams will walk away with their first victory of the season Friday night after both started the season 0-5. But those 0-5’s aren’t quite created equal: beset by injuries and inexperience, WAP has struggled to remain competitive in most games, while the Tigers have been within two touchdowns or less in their last three (two of which were vs. likely playoff teams and the other vs. a 2A team). With the game in Marion as well, the Tigers should be able to turn away the Titans’ usual game effort and claim the win.

The pick: MMI, by 10

Players to watch: MMI–QB Andrew Alexander, WR Jovaris Smith. WAP–FB Wesley White, OT Brooks McGee.

Central at Southern Academy

Simple math: Southern defeated Sumter Academy 47-0. Sumter defeated Central 49-29. I think we can all see where this is going: namely, into Southern’s win column in very short order.

The pick: Southern, by a wide, wide margin

Players to watch: Southern–LB Nathan Bonds, DB Jason Segura, C Allen Langham.

Marengo Academy at South Choctaw

Marengo might be 1-3, but the good news for Longhorn fans is that the worst part of the schedule–back-to-back-to-back games with three very good teams in Patrician, Jackson, and Pickens–is done. This week the Longhorns have a very winnable game against South Choctaw, who defeated WAP last Friday but did so without the kind of dominance Marengo showed in their 64-0 win over the Titans to open the season. The Longhorns should double their win total this week.

The pick: Marengo, by two scores

Players to watch: Marengo–RB John Cox Miller, OT Robbie Smith, QB Trey Lyles

Bibb County at Greensboro

The biggest game in 4A Region 4 this week sees the Raiders looking to bounce back at home from three straight losses and take control of the race for one of the two available Region 4 playoff berths. It won’t be easy, especially if the Raider offense continues to struggle the way it did against Greene County and Thomasville, when they scored 8 points a game. But the Choctaws haven’t exactly set the world on fire, either, needing overtime to defeat also-ran Dallas County two weeks ago and defeating a 1-4 Montevallo team by nine last week. To boot the Choctaws’ pass-first offense doesn’t match up especially well against a Raiders’ defense that thanks to secondary guys like Rashaud Hobbs and Rod Travis is probably quicker than it is big. With the Raiders at home, they should be able to just squeak by.

The pick: Greensboro, by two

Players to watch: Greensboro–T Adrian Williams, WR Rashad Hobson, WR Antonio Robinson

Marengo at Frisco City

Perhaps the biggest measuring-stick game of the season so far for the Panthers. A 3-0 start in the region has shown that Marengo is in the top half of 1A Region 1, but are they in the same class as regional powers Frisco and Millry? We’ll find out this week as lightning-in-a-bottle WR/RB Jeremy Dixon looks to see if he can work more of his big play magic against the Whippets. (Yes, the Whippets.) The guess here is that coach Travis Carswell has his team on its way to challenging the top of the region standings…but with the Whippets at home, it might have to wait one more year.

The pick: Frisco City, by six

Players to watch: Marengo–WR Jeremy Dixon, QB Jarvis McCall, WR Ronnie Hildreth

Sumter Academy at Lakeside

The second Bob Taylor Bowl of the year as Taylor and the Eagles make the long drive to Eufaula take on Taylor’s old team. The Chiefs are 4-1 on the year and have several blowouts under their belts while moving up the East region standings. How will Sumter do? I don’t have the foggiest clue, to be honest with you, though we do know that the Eagles are playing their best football of the year after their 49-29 demolition of Central. The way Matt Boler’s running and Hunter Spidle’s throwing…hey, why not?

The pick: Sumter, by three

Players to watch: RB Matt Boler, WR Patrick Castleman, T Brandon Briggs

Sunshine at American Christian

Congratulations to Sunshine, which made me look quite the fool by blasting Calhoun 34-12 after I’d picked against the Tigers in this space last week. I’d love to make it up to them by backing them this week, but….uh…aside from Sweet Water, there’s not a team in 1A in the state I could back against ACA and the Chris Smelley Express.

The pick: ACA, by, um, more than a few

Players to watch: Sunshine–QB Marcus Lee, RB Jermaine Wood, RB Robert Lyons

Aliceville at Sumter County, Jemison at Livingston

The Sumter County schools have gotten over some early-season difficulties to play much better football recently. Livingston comes into this week’s action riding a two-game winning streak while Sumter is coming off a narrow 10-point loss to 4A loss to Choctaw Co. Unfortunately, Jemison and Aliceville are much, much better teams than the likes of Dallas County and Northside. Better play or not, it will take a tremendous effort from either Sumter school to keep their game close.

The picks: Aliceville, Jemison, by three scores each

Players to watch: Sumter County–QB Cordarrin Wilson, RB Jeremy Brown. Livingston–RB Rodger Collins, RB Mario Newell.

Greene County at Dallas County

Can Greene Co. run the ball? Can they keep running the ball? If so, they’ll beat Dallas Co. The Hornets got well ahead of Livingston in the first half of their match-up but fell apart when LHS got the ground game going. Fortunately for the Tigers, they have back Quentin McElroy and QB Robert Jones, both of whom can, indeed, run the ball. With the Tigers likely full of confidence after their win over Greensboro two weeks ago, they should be able to continue their revival from a down 2004.

The pick: Greene Co.

Players to watch: Greene Co.–DE Kelvin Johnson, LB Michael Gibson.

R.C. Hatch at Vincent, Clarke County at Francis Marion

The Perry schools are hurting. Nothing new for Hatch, unfortunately, but a 1-4 season so far must be something of a disappointment for Marion and new coach LaCarlos Harvest, a disappointment that only deepened with a 30-0 whitewash at the hands of Linden last Friday. Things won’t get any easier this week against a Clarke Co. team that’s proving to be one of the best in 3A. As for Hatch, well, after the big loss to Keith two weeks ago the song remains the same.

The picks: Clarke Co., Vincent, by a healthy spread

Carrollton at Akron

With A.L. Johnson, John Essex, ACA, and 2A Hale County left on the schedule, this is probably the Rams’ last best shot at a win in 2005. Carrollton isn’t exactly a powerhouse: the Indians are 0-4 and haven’t been within two touchdowns of any opponent. But things have gone even tougher for Akron and while the game should be close–the Rams’ athletes at the skill positions should muster up some points–an actual victory may be just out of reach.

The pick: Carrollton, by three or less

Players to watch: RB Orlando McAlpine, QB Cleo Elliott

Record last week: 8-3

Area teams that made me look good: Demopolis, Southern Academy, Sweet Water, A.L. Johnson, Livingston.

Area teams that shut my big mouth up: Sunshine, Sumter Academy.

Season-to-date: 47-14