By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
When Good Hope was briefly shipped to Class 4A, so too went the Raiders’ long-standing rivalry with Vinemont.
For 41 straight years, the foes met once each season — a third-round playoff matchup made it twice in 1988 — but from 2010-11, the annual battle between Cullman County’s two Red and Whites was put on hold.
With Good Hope’s arrival back to 3A, the rivalry returns, too. It will resume tonight when the Eagles travel across town for a Class 3A, Region 7 game between two teams heading in very different directions.
Despite a 56-49 home loss to Hamilton last week, it appears the only way Vinemont (4-2, 2-2 in Class 3A, Region 7) can go is up. On the legs of Ty Jones and Tyler Boland, the Eagles started the season with four straight wins, shook off a blowout loss to Hanceville by shutting out 5A Brewer and then nearly pulled off the upset versus the No. 4 Aggies.
Meanwhile, the Raiders’ ship has continued to sink following an impressive 2-0 start. Since a gutsy 34-27 road win over Hanceville in Week 2, Good Hope (2-4, 1-3) has gone 0-fer in its last four games, including last Friday’s narrow 22-19 road loss to Danville.
A victory would greatly help Vinemont’s chances of earning a postseason berth. Through six games, Hamilton and Winston County are 4-0 in the region, leaving the Eagles, Hanceville and Danville as the top three contenders for the final two spots at 2-2.
% Lawrence County (2-4, 0-4 in Class 5A, Region 8) at No. 10 Cullman (5-1, 3-1): After a relatively tough three-week stretch against Hartselle, Madison Academy and Russellville, it’s about time for Mark Britton and the Bearcats to relax.
With the not-near-as-threatening-as-their-mascot-would-have-you-believe Red Devils traveling to Oliver Woodard Stadium tonight, there should be plenty of time for the Black and Gold to do just that.
Lawrence County hasn’t had much luck putting points on the board this season, averaging an atrocious 4.3 points per game. Its opposition certainly has, though, as the D’s equally bad 35.5 points per game average clearly illustrates.
The Red Devils have only scored 13 points in five games since a 13-12 Week 1 win over 4A East Lawrence. They’ve been shut out three times over that span, with West Point serving up their last goose egg just last Friday in a 43-0 embarrassment.
Don’t expect to see usual contributors like Zac Crocker, Troy Forrest, Garrett Crider, Michael Skinner and others on the field for Cullman very long. With the Red Devils visiting, things could get ugly pretty quick, which would allow Britton to please the homecoming crowd by giving the second- and third-string units some valuable playing time.
The Bearcats’ 21-20 overtime classic on the road against Russellville gave the 13th-year coach 100 victories with the program. If everything goes as planned tonight, Britton’s wait for 101 will be a short one.
% Hanceville (3-3, 2-2 in Class 3A, Region 7) at Winston County (5-1, 4-0): Following a dream 2011 regular season for the 10-0 Bulldogs and a nightmarish campaign for the winless Yellow Jackets, both teams have proven to be nothing like their predecessors in 2012.
That’s good news for Winston County, which has strung together five straight wins since a season-opening 38-25 loss to Class 1A Lynn, but not necessarily bad news for Hanceville, which is back at .500 after a surprising 0-3 start.
A 5-1 record is nothing to scoff at, especially considering last year’s 0-10 showing, but the Yellow Jackets’ resume isn’t all that impressive. Their wins have come against Winfield, Good Hope, Danville, Cordova and lowly 4A Carbon Hill.
Hanceville, however, is right where its wants to be heading into a vital contest like this. The Dawgs pounded then-No. 6 Vinemont 34-6 in Week 4 before reeling off victories versus 5A West Point and Winfield.
If Hanceville hopes to leave Winston County with a win, its defense will have to play like it has the last three weeks — averaged 5.3 points per game — instead of the way it did the first three — averaged 38.
With Brontae Harris coming off a four-interception, two-touchdown performance at Winfield, it’s hard to imagine that’ll be a concern.
% No. 9 Hartselle (4-2, 3-1 in Class 5A, Region 8) at West Point (2-4, 1-3): Oh, how the mighty has fallen.
By the end of the night on Sept. 21, the Tigers were basking in the glory of a 19-game win streak. Two weeks later, they’re mired in an uncharacteristic two-game skid after consecutive losses to 6A Decatur and top-ranked Muscle Shoals.
That slide could reach three tonight, but with the Warriors’ track record against Hartselle, I wouldn’t count on it.
West Point has yet to top the Tigers in four tries. Last year’s attempt was thwarted by a 44-10 decision in the eventual 5A champion’s favor.
% Addison (4-2, 4-1 in Class 1A, Region 6) at Sumiton Christian (2-3, 2-2): The surging Bulldogs will look to keep their hot hand sizzling with a third straight shutout and fifth consecutive win.
No one’s come even close to Addison since a Week 2 loss to No. 4 Ragland, and it’s doubtful the Eagles will, either.
Since a 2-0 start, Sumiton Christian has lost back-to-back-to-back games against Meek, Collinsville and Falkville. Its offense is scoring a decent 22 points per game, but that doesn’t do much good when the defense averages 26 points each Friday night.
% Cold Springs (2-4, 1-3 in Class 2A, Region 4) at Lamar County (4-2, 3-1): A 22-6 homecoming triumph over Francis Marion last Friday night gives the Eagles a chance to win two games in a row for the first time since 2007.
The Bulldogs have other plans, though.
They score in bunches, averaging just under 34 points a game on offense. However, Cold Springs could be successful if it’s able to take advantage of Lamar County’s mediocre 25.2 point-per-game mark on D.
The Bulldogs are fresh off a 44-14 thumping of Aliceville, the same team that walloped the Eagles 63-12 in Week 4.
% Holly Pond (1-5, 1-3 in Class 3A, Region 6) at Geraldine (4-2, 4-0): One week after a crushing overtime loss to J.B. Pennington on homecoming night, it’s back to the grind for the Broncos, who are trying to shed a four-game losing streak.
That won’t be an easy task on the road versus a solid Bulldog squad. They’ve made quick work of all four region opponents thus far — Plainview (36-14), Brindlee Mountain (55-24), New Hope (42-19) and Sylvania (35-0).
% No. 1 Oneonta (6-0, 4-0 in Class 4A, Region 6) at Fairview (5-1, 3-1): Check out www.cullmantimes.com or Thursday’s print edition of The Times for a full preview of this region matchup.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.