Opelika (9-4) at Carver-Montgomery (12-1)
A rematch of a game won 47-27 by Carver earlier this year, the Wolverines will face a much different Opelika team this time as the Bulldogs come off a huge 8-7 upset of rival Auburn last week.
Led by running back Calvin Bryant's 900 yards and seven touchdowns in just 11 games , Opelika beat Pelham on the road to open the playoffs and took down Daphne in week two. The Bulldogs average 27 points per game while allowing 16.3 per contest.
On the flip side Carver is where it was expected to be all season, playing for the chance to win a state championship in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Averaging 41.8 points per contest, the Wolverines are led by Auburn quarterback commitment Jeremy Johnson, speedy running back Harvey Harris, junior wide receivers Landy Capetillo and Draequon Murphy. Coach Billy Gresham noted that his team knows the challenge that is ahead Friday night.
"Right now we're playing well defensively, which is always great," Gresham said. "Playoff games are won on that side of the ball. Our kicking game is very solid so we feel good about where we are as a football team.
"I was joking with coach (Brian) Blackmon earlier in the season about the formula he has with a team is the way you win playoff football games. It just so happens we're playing them. They run the football very well and they are very sound on defense and in the kicking game."
Banged up late in the regular season, Johnson is back to full strength now, according to Gresham. Coming off a fantastic performance last week in a win over Spain Park when he completed 23-28 passes for 295 yards and added 79 rushing yards and 18 carries, Johnson is obviously one of the keys to Auburn's recruiting class.
With the dismissal of Gene Chizik on Sunday and without a head coach, Auburn's recruiting efforts have stalled until a new coach is hired. Gresham said because of that and with Carver striving for a state title, Johnson is just taking a step back at the moment and letting everything settle into place before he looks at recruiting again.
"He's still committed," Gresham said. "After the season he's going to sit down with his parents and evaluate where he is then."
Johnson had an outstanding performance in the 26-20 victory over Spain Park last Friday. Click here to watch highlights of Johnson.
Defensively, junior Shaun Hamilton had a solid game at middle linebacker. Click here to see his highlights.
Also, Spain Park quarterback Nick Mullens capped off his senior seasonw with more than 3,600 yards passing. Click here to see his highlights versus Carver.
Clay-Chalkville (12-1) at Hoover (13-0)
Averaging 37.4 points per game, Clay-Chalkville is looking to get back to the Super Six for the first time since 1999. Led by talented wide receiver DeAndre Woods on the outside, the Cougars are one of the most athletic teams in the state. With the only loss of the season coming in a one-point game against Huntsville, Clay-Chalkville has been challenged this season and looks to pull off a huge upset.
To do that it have to do something not done since 1995, give Hoover a home playoff loss. Led on offense by Auburn baseball commitment and quarterback Connor Short and running back Calen Campbell, the Bucs average 36.1 points per game this season.
Connor Short throws a pass in last week's Hoover victory vs. Vestavia.
Defensively, junior cornerback Marlon Humphrey is a future star, but sophomores R.J. Arnold and Darrell Williams anchor a defense that allows just 8.9 points per game. This season eight opponents have scored seven or less points and just once this season has Hoover given up more than 15 points.
Muscle Shoals (13-0) at McAdory (13-0)
The only meeting of undefeated teams in the semi-finals sees two of the best defenses in 5A meeting this Friday night. While Muscle Shoals averages 39.5 points per game behind running backs Jamarcus Nance and Tyler Jackson, who have combined for more than 2,800 yards on the ground with 42 touchdowns, it's on defense where the Trojans have been dominant. Led by Auburn commitment Dee Liner, Muscle Shoals is allowing just 8.5 points per game and allowed a touchdown or less in nine games.
With a big defensive front controlling the line of scrimmage the Yellow Jackets have allowed more than 20 points just twice this season. Damien Whitfield has five interceptions for McAdory with three returns for touchdowns. Up front Dylan Cline must play well on both sides of the ball if McAdory hopes to take down the top team in 5A.
St. Paul's (11-2) at Spanish Fort (12-1)
Finishing in a three-way tie for the region title along with Vigor, St. Paul's and Spanish Fort will meet for the second time this season Friday night. Even though the Saints won the first matchup, 31-21, they will travel to Spanish Fort this week after finishing third in the tiebreaker for playoff seeding.
Averaging 32.8 points per game, St. Paul's is paced on offense by running backs Jordan Huff and Ostin McPherson. Defensively, 2014 linebacker Tre Williams was injured early in last week's win over Briarwood, but is expected to play this week. He leads the team with 103 tackles this season. The Saints have outscored three playoff opponents 100-24 and have held seven opponents to a touchdown or less this season.
Talented runner Ostin McPherson
The Toros are looking for their second state title in the last three years and enter Friday night's rematch averaging 40.7 points per game. Led by senior quarterback Joel Poe's 36 touchdowns and only nine interceptions, Spanish Fort has a dangerous passing game that will put pressure on St. Paul's. Outside receiver Blain Crane (the son of former Auburn player and coach Kurt Crain) has 49 catches for 799 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Madison County (12-1) at Oneonta (13-0)
Two of the state's top offensive teams square off in the North bracket in Class 4A as Madison County comes in averaging 45.7 points per game while Oneonta scores 47 per contest. The Tigers have seven games of at least 50 points this season, but they have allowed 85 points in three playoff games on defense. Running back Jordan Chunn needs to have a big game if Madison County wants to pull the upset.
That's not good news facing the Redskins, a team that has beaten 5A foes Pinson Valley and Mortimer Jordan this season while running the table. Athletic Jalen Johnson is a threat on offense, defense and special teams for Oneonta. Defensively, the Redskins allow just 9.5 points per game and have held seven opponents to a touchdown or less.
Dora (12-1) at UMS-Wright (11-2)
With its only loss coming to 5A's top team, Muscle Shoals, Dora averages 40.5 points per game behind the running of back Kai Thomas. Last week he had a touchdown run, a touchdown reception and two interceptions on defense. For the season he has over 1,800 yards and 33 total touchdowns.
One of the most tested teams in the state regardless of classification, UMS-Wright's two losses came to 6A power McGill-Toolen and 5A semi-finalist St. Paul's. With a win over Thomasville and Andalusia in the regular season and Dadeville and Beauregard the last two weeks of the playoffs, Coach Terry Curtis' Bulldogs are battle-tested. Running back Troy Dixon has rushed for 1,793 yards and 21 touchdowns this season while brother T.J. has caught 65 passes for 903 yards and nine touchdowns outside at receiver.
Lauderdale County (12-1) at Madison Academy (11-2)
Another rematch of region foes after Madison Academy won the first game 24-10 way back in week two of the regular season, Lauderdale County has ripped off 10 consecutive wins since that contest. In three playoff games the Tigers have allowed just 23 total points on defense and they are giving up just 10.5 points per game this season.
Lauderdale County's defense will need to play well against a talented Madison Academy offense led by running back Kerryon Johnson. Last week he had 239 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries against Colbert County. Averaging 41.8 points per game this season, Madison Academy has scored 166 points in its first three playoff games.
Fayette County (11-2) at Straughn (9-3)
With its only losses to Pickens County in week one and 5A Russellville in week 10, Fayette County is making its sixth semi-final appearance and is looking to get to the Super Six for the first time since 2000. Averaging 33.3 points per game this season, Fayette County took down powerhouse Leeds 24-14 last week to get to the fourth round.
One of the surprises of the semi-final round, Straughn, is looking to get to its first state championship game after knocking off Midfield 17-13 last week on the road. Averaging 28.3 points per game the Tigers are stingy on defense, allowing just 15.6 points per game on that side of the ball.
Tanner (12-0) at Reeltown (12-1)
Everything has been pointing to this potential matchup since the brackets began to take shape late in the season. It will be the third consecutive season the two have met in the playoffs with each winning on the other's home field.
Tanner rolls into this fourth round game as one of the most dominant teams in the state this season regardless of classification. Averaging 47.5 points and giving up just six points per game, the Rattlers have outscored three playoff opponents 117-0. That includes a shutout last week of a Fultondale team that came into the game averaging 47 points per game.
Offensively, Tanner has scored fewer than 34 points just twice--the first time in a 13-7 win over 3A power Madison Academy in the season opener and the second last week in a 14-0 win over Fultondale.
A small-school power that is making its fourth semi-final appearance in the last five seasons, Reeltown's only loss this season came in the season opener to a strong 4A Dadeville team on the road. Surviving close calls against Horseshoe Bend and Lanett in weeks two and three, the Rebels have been on a roll since then with last week's 30-24 win over Woodland the only game decided by fewer than three touchdowns. Reeltown enters the game averaging 32.3 points per game while allowing 12.9 per contest.
Washington County (12-1) at Sweet Water (11-2)
This will be the second meeting of the year for the region foes as Sweet Water won the first one 20-6 in week seven. That is the only loss for Washington County as it enters the game averaging 32.8 points. Dominant in the playoffs, Washington County has outscored the opposition 109-19 in three games.
One of the most dominant programs in the state, Sweet Water is 11-3 all-time in semi-final games and has a strong chance to make it number 12 this Friday night. With the only two losses coming to Thomasville and T.R. Miller, Sweet Water has made 33 playoff appearances in school history. In three playoff games the Bulldogs have scored 172 points and allowed just 42.
Pickens County (11-2) at Marion County (12-1)
This will be the second meeting between the two schools with Marion County winning the first matchup 45-27 in week eight of the regular season. Averaging 50.6 points per game, Marion County's only loss came to Red Bay in the last week of the regular season. In 13 games this season Marion County has been held under 38 points just once.
Also a potent offensive team, averaging 42.1 points per game, Pickens County is allowing just 14.2 points per game this season and has five shutouts. In three playoff games the Tornados have outscored the opposition 130-32.
McIntosh (8-5) at Brantley (13-0)
On paper this game sets up as the biggest mismatch of the semi-finals in any classification as the Brantley Bulldogs have steamrolled the opposition all season long. In compiling a perfect 13-0 record the Bulldogs have outscored the opposition 651-47 with eight shutouts. Only twice has Brantley allowed more than eight points in a game with the lost points allowed 14 last week in a 20-14 win over Linden.
McIntosh comes into the fourth round game with the unique distinction of having been outscored this season by its opponents. Scoring just 265 points and allowing 271, McIntosh was beaten earlier in the season by Linden 49-0. The Demons have gotten hot at the right time however as victories over Geneva County (28-7), Notasulga (32-16), and Maplesville (22-12) have them primed for a fourth-straight upset and a shot at the title.