If you live on the Gulf Coast and you’re a football fan, let me offer a piece of advice: Do not take 2018 for granted.
This is rarified air we’re breathing these days, whether we’re concentrating on the best players in the world on Sundays, or the greatest game in the world on Saturdays, or the thrills that come with the Friday night lights during the high school playoffs.
There is a chance that a very fortunate group of fans on the Gulf Coast could enjoy the ultimate football success this season, with championships on all three levels. It’s never happened before.
The closest we’ve come so far was the magical 2009 season. That was the year the Saints won the Super Bowl and Alabama went undefeated for the only time under Nick Saban, as the Tide rolled to the national championship. But there were no high school champions from Mobile or Baldwin counties crowned that year. Vigor and UMS-Wright won in 2008, then Daphne and Spanish Fort in 2010. But 2009 was devoid of any state champions.
Let’s take a look at the chances for a triple crown of championships this season.
• The New Orleans Saints are the best football team in the world at this moment. The Saints already disposed of the top challenger in the NFC, whipping the Los Angeles Rams 45-35 two weeks ago.
Following Sunday’s blowout of Cincinnati, the Saints have scored at least 40 points five times this season. They are 8-1 overall and have won eight in a row.
The Kansas City Chiefs have been equally impressive in the AFC, and the Super Bowl between the Chiefs and Saints would be a great matchup.
Of course, it’s the NFL, so there are a handful of teams that could get hot and make a run to the Super Bowl. But there’s no denying the Saints are at or near the top of that list.
• The list of possible champions in college football is shorter. Alabama and Clemson are the two best teams, and the next tier of teams are likely playing to lose to one of those two in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
For all the talk about quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence, the defenses for Alabama and Clemson are actually tied for best in the country, yielding only 12.7 points per game.
It’s understandable for fans of any other team having Alabama-Clemson fatigue. Of course, it would be good to see some new teams in the championship game, especially if it’s a traditional power such as Michigan or Notre Dame.
But there’s no denying that, at this point, the Tide and the Tigers deserve to be called the national championship favorites.
• If the Saints and the Tide can navigate the rest of the season and reach the ultimate championship, then there are several local high school teams poised to make a run to complete the triple crown of football championships.
There is still a chance teams from Mobile or Baldwin counties could sweep all seven state championships. That’s highly unlikely, but possible. St. Luke’s is alive in Class 1A, Cottage Hill in 2A, Mobile Christian in 3A, UMS-Wright in 4A, Vigor in 5A, Spanish Fort and Saraland in 6A and McGill-Toolen in 7A.
Four of those teams will be at home this week in the second round of the playoffs. St. Luke’s will host Wadley, Cottage Hill will visit Ariton, Mobile Christian will be at home against Gordo, UMS-Wright will be in Montgomery to face Trinity, Vigor will host Briarwood Christian, Spanish Fort will be at home against McAdory, Saraland will visit Hueytown and McGill-Toolen will be at No. 1 Central-Phenix City.
Of those eight teams, the most likely state champion is probably UMS-Wright, which won the Class 4A state title a year ago and has played at least as well so far this season.
Vigor has a great chance in Class 5A but must get past a Briarwood team that made the title game a year ago.
McGill-Toolen has been consistently excellent since the state added the seventh and largest classification. The Yellow Jackets have played some of their best and most dramatic games against Central-Phenix City in the playoffs. They will need another epic performance to advance this week.
So, as you can see, the triple crown of football is still a viable possibility for fans who cheer for the Saints, Alabama and one of these eight teams still competing for state championships. Yes, there are still major hurdles for each to clear. But to reach this point in the season with a chance at a clear sweep is something to cherish.
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.
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