Four weeks down, seven to go.
With each and every passing Friday night, the playoff picture gradually becomes less opaque and a little more translucent — it’s not that clear yet — as we gear up for Week 5 of the still young prep football season.
One of the top matchups this Friday pits Vinemont (2-1, 1-0) versus Winfield (3-1, 2-0) in a big battle for Class 3A, Region 5 supremacy — at least, until next week.
The Eagles have reeled off two straight solid victories thanks in part to big bodies up front and the legs of John Michael Dye. The junior running back rushed for 262 yards and six touchdowns on just 12 carries in a 45-20 whipping of Hanceville and has scampered for more than 650 yards in only three contests for the Red and White.
Vinemont will have its hands full when it travels away from home to duke it out with the Pirates. Following a defeat to 4A Fayette County to open the season, Winfield has been as solid as can be — outscoring its next three opponents by a sublime margin of 117-33 en route to easy wins.
The contest could boil down to whichever star running back, Dye or the Pirates’ Xavier McCollum, puts up the bigger numbers.
In my opinion, a healthy Vinemont team is a dangerous team.
That’ll shine through come Friday night.
% Jake’s Pick: Vinemont
% Rob’s Pick: Winfield
% Addison (2-2, 1-1 in 2A, Region 6) at Hanceville (0-3, 0-2 in 3A, Region 5): The last time these two squads met Harry S. Truman was president of the United States, Mickey Mantle hit his first home run and “I Love Lucy” made its TV debut.
The year was 1951, and the outcome was a 13-6 victory for the Purple and Gold.
Fast forward 63 years later, and the two teams will battle it out once again in a non-region bout.
Addison has looked sharp at times, while Hanceville — by all means — seems to be in rebuilding mode.
Translation: The visiting Bulldogs are postseason contenders, and the home Dawgs, as it stands, are anything but.
% Jake’s Pick: Addison
% Rob’s Pick: Addison
% Cullman (1-2, 0-1 in 6A, Region 8) at Austin (0-4, 0-2): It would be far from wise to judge this game based on the tough record of the Black Bears.
While they are winless this season, they haven’t exactly been out there with a bunch of AISA squads.
Austin fell to 7A Spain Park and Buckhorn by a total of just four points. It lost to Decatur by seven two weeks ago for its first region loss before dropping a 17-point affair to always-dangerous Muscle Shoals.
Meanwhile, the Bearcats followed up a bye week with a commendable effort against a very talented Florence squad in a 28-14 home loss.
Another defeat would most likely put Cullman in a hole it might not be able to dig out of with Decatur, Hartselle, Athens and Muscle Shoals lying in wait.
% Jake’s Pick: Austin
% Rob’s Pick: Austin
% Etowah (2-2, 2-0 in 5A, Region 7) at Fairview (1-2, 0-2): The Aggie offense just hasn’t been able to find its trademark consistency and explosiveness so far this season.
That’ll need to change really quick with a capable Blue Devil team coming into town.
After a 27-12 win over Hanceville, the Purple and Gold have fallen to Randolph and Boaz — two of the more beatable foes in a tough region — by 15 and 11 points, respectively.
If Fairview wants to continue its terrific streak of six straight playoff appearances, it’ll need to find its game in time to take the fight right to Etowah.
It’ll also need to shore up a suspect defense that’s been gouged over the course of three contests this season.
George Redding’s team will play better than its previous two outings, but it likely won’t be enough at night’s end.
% Jake’s Pick: Etowah
% Rob’s Pick: Etowah
% J.B. Pennington (1-2, 1-1 in 4A, Region 7) at Good Hope (0-3, 0-2): Another county team, another must-win situation when it comes to staying in the playoff hunt.
The Raiders have gotten off to a dicey start with two close losses to Cordova and Westminster Christian before understandably dropping a one-sided affair versus defending state champ Oneonta last Friday night.
Offense hasn’t been the problem — they’ve averaged 24.1 points a game. It’s been the defense — allowing a whopping 43.1 points per contest — that’s made for hard times since Day 1 of the campaign.
Good Hope will face another team with the ability to put up some big-time points, as proved by the Tigers’ 52-38 victory against D.A.R. a week ago.
However, with all the said, I think Riley Eisner and the Raider offense rise up to the occasion and outscore Pennington just enough to notch that first triumph.
% Jake’s Pick: Good Hope
% Rob’s Pick: J.B. Pennington
% Susan Moore (1-2, 0-2 in Class 3A, Region 5) at Holly Pond (0-3, 0-2): I won’t beat around the bush with this matchup one second longer than I need to.
Holly Pond will get its first win since a Week 10 victory all the way back in 2012.
The Broncos have been far and away more competitive under Mike Bates this season, taking a lead late into last week’s bout against Collinsville before coming up just short.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have been absolutely overmatched their past two games — a 35-7 loss to Winfield followed by a 54-0 rout at the hands of Oakman.
Susan Moore’s only win? A one-point affair against West End, a team Holly Pond came out on top of in the varsity half of its fall jamboree.
% Jake’s Pick: Holly Pond
% Rob’s Pick: Holly Pond
% Pope John Paul II (0-3, 0-2 in 5A, Region 8) at West Point (3-0, 2-0): The Warriors are looking forward to celebrating an outstanding 50-year anniversary come Friday night.
In fact, those being honored could most likely suit up and all but smash a hapless Falcon program only in its third year.
To put it simply, West Point is good. Pope John Paul II isn’t.
The visitors have scored just 31 points — the Maroon and White, by the way, have only given up 20 — in three losses and pretty much haven’t been any better on defense.
Couple the last fact with an explosive team like West Point, and it’s going to be “muy mal” for the Falcons.
Not even the Pope himself could save them, seriously.
% Jake’s Pick: West Point
% Rob’s Pick: West Point
% Falkville (2-1, 0-1 in 2A, Region 6) at Cold Springs (3-1, 1-1): Check out www.cullmantimes.com or Thursday’s Times for a full preview of this county clash.
% Jake’s Pick: Cold Springs
% Rob’s Pick: Cold Springs
% Rob’s Record to Date: 17-6
% Jake’s Record to Date: 16-7