A total of 104 teams earned a spot in the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) state football playoffs, which begin this week. All seven state champions are back to defend their titles, while 15 teams have made it through the regular season undefeated.
But only one team can claim both of those distinctions. That’s the UMS-Wright Bulldogs. The Bulldogs have the longest winning streak in the AHSAA, posting 14 straight victories. UMS won five games in the playoffs last season, including a 21-7 domination of Fayette County in the snow at Bryant-Denny Stadium to claim the Class 4A state championship.
This season they are 9-0 without being seriously challenged. No team has scored more than seven points against the Bulldogs and every win has been by double digits. That includes beating Class 6A playoff team St. Paul’s, Class 3A’s best team Mobile Christian and last year’s Class 2A state champion Hillcrest-Evergreen.
When UMS-Wright wins its second playoff game next week, it will mark the 300th career win for coach Terry Curtis in 29 seasons. That’s more than 10 wins per season, which is simply incredible.
Of all 104 teams that qualified for the playoffs, I would pick UMS-Wright as the team most likely to win a state championship. The first order of business for any opponent of UMS-Wright is to overcome the aura surrounding the UMS-Wright program based on its consistent success.
But the Bulldogs aren’t the only team from Mobile and Baldwin counties with a chance to make it all the way to Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium to play for a state championship.
Here’s a breakdown of each classification, this week’s schedule and the possibility of a team from the Gulf Coast bringing home a state championship.
Class 1A: Francis Marion (5-4) at St. Luke’s Episcopal (9-1)
St. Luke’s was extremely impressive in beating Cottage Hill last week, knocking the Warriors from the ranks of the unbeaten. St. Luke’s has the kind of team to make a state championship run but there are tough challenges ahead. Undefeated Linden and defending state champion Lanett stand in the way of a trip to Auburn.
State championship prediction: Lanett over Falkville
Class 2A: Goshen (4-6) at Cottage Hill Christian (9-1)
Cottage Hill is making its first AHSAA playoff appearance. The Warriors have an explosive offense that can score with anyone. A second-round game against Thorsby is going to be a test.
State championship prediction: Fyffe over Luverne
Class 3A: Pike Road (6-4) at Mobile Christian (8-1)
The Leopards decided to test themselves against a very tough schedule this season, which resulted in the only loss of the season to Class 4A No. 1 UMS-Wright. If not for that scheduling decision, Mobile Christian would still be undefeated. Even so, they are one of the favorites to win the state championships. The last time the state championship games were played in Auburn the Leopards lost in the title game. This year they take the final step.
State championship prediction: Mobile Christian over Piedmont
Class 4A: Williamson (6-4) at American Christian (10-0); West Blocton (4-6) at UMS-Wright (9-0)
American Christian, with its potent passing attack, will be a challenge for any team in the playoffs. But until somebody shows they can challenge UMS-Wright, this is the Bulldogs’ class to win.
State championship prediction: UMS-Wright over North Jackson
Class 5A: Citronelle (6-4) at Bibb County (7-3); Faith Academy (6-4) at Demopolis (8-2); Central-Tuscaloosa (4-6) at Vigor (9-1)
During the preseason, I proclaimed this the Year of the Wolf. The Vigor Wolves have lived up to that billing, with their only loss coming in overtime on the road to Class 6A Opelika. This is a great Vigor defense. If they can score 20 points every week, the Year of the Wolf will come to fruition in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
State championship prediction: Vigor over Etowah
Class 6A: Stanhope Elmore (6-4) at Saraland (9-1); St. Paul’s Episcopal (7-3) at Opelika (5-4); Daphne (5-5) at Wetumpka (8-2); Benjamin Russell (6-4) at Spanish Fort (9-1)
All season, the teams in Class 6A Region 1 have been among the best in the state. Spanish Fort won the region title with an impressive win at Saraland last week. St. Paul’s proved it can compete in Class 6A after winning the 5A state title a year ago.
State championship prediction: Pinson Valley over Wetumpka
Class 7A: Lee-Montgomery (6-4) at Theodore (8-2); Fairhope (7-3) at Auburn (9-1); Davidson (6-4) at Central-Phenix City (10-0); Prattville (7-3) at McGill-Toolen Catholic (8-2)
There are half as many playoff teams in Class 7A compared to the other classes. But the competition is stiff for the state’s largest schools. In recent years Central-Phenix City has proven to be a great regular-season team. Maybe this is the year the Red Devils make it to the title game against the team that survives among the Birmingham area schools.
State championship prediction: Thompson over Central-Phenix City
Randy Kennedy writes a weekly column for Lagniappe and is co-host of “Sports Drive” every weekday from 3-6 p.m. on WNSP 105.5 FM, the country’s first all-sports FM station.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).