Trying to pick the winners of playoff games is a bit tougher than making similar picks during the regular season — and my record indicates I don’t need to have this process become any more difficult. Yet here we are.
As we head into the second round of play there are 10 teams from the Lagniappe coverage area still alive in their respective classifications. We will concentrate on those 10 games this week. Naturally, the matchups become more difficult the deeper we go into the playoffs because at this point everyone left playing is pretty good and certainly capable of winning whenever they play. Picking the team that actually comes away with the win in these types of games is the tricky part of the equation. Often, your heart tells you one thing while your brain suggests a different outcome.
So let’s take a swing at this week’s games and hope that the picks, regardless of how those selections are made, lean more toward hits than misses. Last week I produced a 12-4 record. Somehow, I forgot to include the Saraland game in my picks. I would have gone with the Spartans, but because I didn’t actually put it down in print, that’s a no-counter.
That puts my overall record for the season at 156-51, which is close to 67 percent. That isn’t bad but isn’t great either. Maybe this week’s picks will help.
Let’s get started:
Montgomery Catholic at Bayside Academy: The Admirals are on a good run of late, having won six straight games since a loss to T.R. Miller in the fifth game of the year. They are playing well on both sides of the ball and have a lot going for them. But Montgomery Catholic hasn’t lost a game all season and holds the No. 1 spot in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 3A football poll. Bayside holds the No. 10 spot, but Catholic is playing well. I’d like to pick the Admirals, but … The pick: Montgomery Catholic.
Vigor at Cherokee County: On the good news side, the Wolves — a Team Without a Home — doesn’t have to worry about where they will “host” a game; they’re on the road this week, traveling to Centre to take on Cherokee County. The Wolves picked up a shutout last week while Cherokee County won a close game against Straughn. Vigor seems like it is playing some of its best football and should be able to get past Cherokee County. The pick: Vigor.
Greenville at UMS-Wright: Regardless of the team or its record, UMS-Wright is not who you want to be playing right now. Talk about a team in playoff mode, that’s the Bulldogs, or at least that’s the way they have been performing of late. And it’s a program with a strong playoff history, its players accustomed to the pressures and intensity of playoff football. And they’re playing at home. Those are all difficult obstacles for Greenville to have to overcome. A 32-0 win last week ended a two-game losing skid at the end of the regular season. This one is easy. The pick: UMS-Wright.
Central-Clay County at Faith Academy: Faith Academy has been operating without its best player, Shemar James, for the past few weeks and there’s no indication he’ll be available for this week’s game. Some suggest he won’t return for the Rams. Still, Faith Academy has pushed its way into the second round of the Class 5A playoffs, but this week it gets No. 6-ranked Central-Clay County that has scored 369 points while allowing just 165. That’s pretty good. The pick: Central-Clay County.
St. Paul’s at Pike Road: You have to like the way St. Paul’s bounced back from a slow start to the season against some tough opponents and has gained momentum heading into this week’s game at Pike Road. But Pike Road has not lost a game and has a roster full of college prospects. Since dropping 76 points on McGill-Toolen in the opener, Pike Road hasn’t looked back. They are ranked No. 1 in 5A. The pick: Pike Road.
Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa at Baldwin County: The Tigers of BCHS are on a five-game win streak heading into this game; Hillcrest is on a six-game win streak. BCHS has allowed only 167 points this season; Hillcrest has allowed the same exact total, but has scored 438 while BCHS has scored 362. BCHS is at home. Hmmm. The pick: Baldwin County.
Lee-Montgomery at Saraland: The Spartans just keep rolling along and the guess here is they will continue to do so this week as well. They are playing well right now, having won their past nine games in a row. Make it 10. The pick: Saraland.
Hueytown at McGill-Toolen: I’ve had trouble correctly picking the outcome of McGill games all season. So I’ll do the Yellow Jackets a favor. The pick: Hueytown.
Spanish Fort at Opelika: This should be one of the better games involving teams in our area this week. The Toros have played for the 5A crown the past two years and Opelika is always in the mix. I have to lean toward the Toros in this one. The pick: Spanish Fort.
Theodore at Central-Phenix City: It seems Class 7A teams from this area have to go through Central-Phenix City if they want to play for a state title. The Red Devils topped Daphne last week and now face Theodore. Central is unbeaten and has some top prospects on the roster. The pick: Central-Phenix City.
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