It doesn’t feel like J.B. Pennington High’s football team is in contention for a region championship.

No one is talking about the Tigers — except for the team’s fans in Blountsville.

When it comes to Pennington, there has been very little chatter this season. But Wayne Murphy isn’t complaining.

The Tigers coach actually likes that his team has quietly been going about its business.

“Yeah, there hasn’t been a whole lot of talk about us this season,” he said. “I don’t think many people know about us.”

If Pennington continues its winning ways, Murphy may not have the luxury of a stealthy approach. A few more wins and this team is going to be thrust into the limelight.

Not that Pennington isn’t familiar with being a frontrunner. The Tigers did advance to the Class 2A quarterfinals a year ago.

But that was last season. Gone from that team are several key players — including Class 2A Lineman of the Year James Jordan.

Pennington was hit hard by graduation this year, but Murphy’s team has recovered nicely. Tailback Devyn Murphree has emerged as one of the area’s top playmakers, and a host of youngsters have been able to fill most of the team’s gaping holes.

“Our young guys are growing up,” said Murphy, whose team is tied with Hamilton for first place in Class 3A, Region 7. “We didn’t have a whole lot of experience when the season started, but I don’t look at it that way anymore.

“This group of guys have played five games this season. That’s five more games than we started with. You can tell that the players have improved since that first game. Sure, we’ve still got a ways to go. But we are getting better.”

That first game — a 35-32 loss to Blount County rival Susan Moore — is the only blemish on Pennington’s resume.

Since then, the Tigers have improved drastically — especially on the offensive end.

Pennington’s offense may not do anything flashy, but the Tigers have still been able to put up big numbers.

“That style of offense suits our young players,” Murphy said. “It’s not too complicated, which has helped us improve every week.”

Pennington (4-1, 3-0) has traveled a completely different path than Good Hope (3-2, 2-1). The Raiders opened the season with a pair of losses, but have battled back into contention for one of the region’s top playoff spots since then.

While Pennington has run past opponents, Good Hope has stuffed the teams on its schedule — using tough defense to win three straight games.

Remove a 38-16 loss at Hamilton from Good Hope’s schedule, and the Raiders have been one of the area’s top defensive teams — holding opponents to around 12 points per game.

Good Hope’s offense has also improved since its 21-14 loss at Cullman County rival West Point in the season opener. Behind running backs Jake King and Taylor Hollis, the Raiders have averaged close to 200 yards on the ground every week.

“The guys have been playing hard,” Good Hope coach Chris Moss said. “They’ve played us back into this thing.”

With four region games remaining on the slate, both Pennington and Good Hope have a shot to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Both teams will try to take the first step in making that happen tonight when Good Hope hosts Pennington. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at James W. Shabel Stadium.

‰ Justin Graves is the sports editor at The Times. He can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 257 or by e-mail at jgraves@cullmantimes.com.

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