Just because football coaches tell players not to look past their next opponent doesn’t mean that no one else can.
With regional play officially coming to a close last Friday night, it’s safe to look ahead to first-round playoff matchups, which have already been set for four of the five postseason-bound teams in The Times’ coverage area.
As the No. 2 seeds in their respective regions, Class 1A Addison, 3A Hanceville and 4A Fairview will act as hosts when the playoffs begin on Nov. 9.
Addison will welcome Berry (6-3, 5-2), Hanceville’s guest will be No. 10 Deshler (6-3, 5-2) and the Aggies will bring Munford (6-3, 5-2) to Dafford Smith Stadium.
Although Vinemont and Hanceville wound up with the same 5-2 region record, the Eagles will have to hit the road as the third seed because the Bulldogs earned the head-to-head tiebreaker with a 34-6 win in Week 4. Therefore, Vinemont will travel to No. 5 Lauderdale County (8-1, 6-1).
After a loss to Muscle Shoals, as well as Russellville’s 6-3 upset of Hartselle, Cullman is in a three-way tie with the Tigers and Golden Tigers for the second spot in 5A, Region 8, bringing the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s tiebreakers into effect.
The official wording of the tiebreaker that will ultimately dictate which school secures the No. 2 seed is “the team whose defeated non-region opponents in class and above have the most victories.”
Under those guidelines, Cullman can claim seven victories from 5A Walker, which it defeated in Week 1, and has the potential to add five more Friday night, four with a win over 5A Center Point and one with a Walker win over 6A Hueytown. The Bearcats cannot count Madison Academy’s wins because the Mustangs are a 3A school.
Hartselle can claim five victories from 6A Hillcrest Tuscaloosa, which it defeated in Week 1, and has the potential to add eight more Friday night, seven with a win over 6A Austin and one with a Hillcrest Tuscaloosa win over 5A Demopolis. The Tigers lost their other non-region game to 6A Decatur.
Russellville can only claim seven victories from 5A Walker, which it defeated in Week 5, with the potential to add one more if Walker beats Hueytown on Friday. The Golden Tigers other non-region games versus Fayette County and Deshler won’t count because both are 3A opponents.
Keeping all that in mind, here’s how the region’s last three seeds could shake out based on possible Week 10 outcomes:
% If Cullman AND Walker AND Hartselle AND Hillcrest Tuscaloosa win, the Tigers (13 victories) would edge the Bearcats (12 victories) for the No. 2 spot. The Golden Tigers (seven victories) would be fourth.
% If Cullman AND Walker AND Hartselle win AND Hillcrest Tuscaloosa loses, the Tigers (12 victories) would still get the second seed over the Bearcats (12 victories) because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker with a 21-14 Week 4 win over the Black and Gold. The Golden Tigers (seven or eight victories) would once again be fourth.
% If Cullman wins AND Hartselle loses, the Bearcats (11 or 12 victories) would host, while the Golden Tigers (seven or eight) victories) would grab third and the Tigers (five or six victories) would bring up the rear.
% If Hartselle wins AND Cullman loses, the Tigers (12 or 13 victories) would be at home for the first round, while the Bearcats would still be no worse than third (seven or eight victories) because they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Golden Tigers with a 21-20 overtime win in Week 6.
% If Cullman AND Hartselle lose, the Bearcats (seven or eight victories) would snag the No. 2 spot, the Golden Tigers (seven or eight victories) would be third and the Tigers (five or six victories) would drop to fourth.
Digesting all those scenarios is admittedly difficult, but a simple fact remains — the only way Cullman can host a playoff game is if Hartselle loses.
Whichever team ends up as the second seed will host Arab (7-2, 5-2), while the No. 3 squad will travel to Etowah (7-2, 5-2). Rusellville’s road matchup with No. 3 Fort Payne (9-0, 7-0) is already cemented, as is No. 1 Muscle Shoals’ home battle versus Boaz (6-3, 4-3).
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.