Friday’s crucial battle between region rivals Fairview (5-0, 3-0) and Guntersville will feature two teams who have each excelled on at least one side of the ball so far this season.
Defensively, No. 10 Guntersville (4-1, 2-1) has given up a total of only 43 points in five games. The Wildcats shut out two of their opponents, blanking Crossville in Week 2 and Arab last week in a non-region contest.
On the other hand, No. 8 Fairview’s offense has scored at least 40 points three different times this season, including a 62-point pileup in Week 4 against DAR. All season long, Aggies’ quarterback Luke Bailey has put up big numbers both in the air — hitting reliable targets Tyler King, Spencer Byrd and Ethan Widner, among others — and on the ground.
Suffice it to say, only one of these two units will be left standing Friday night in Guntersville, and with the Wildcats vying to hold yet another opponent to zero points, Fairview coach George Redding doesn’t expect his Aggies to be the latest victim.
“We hope not,” he said. “We’ve been shut out before, and that happens, but we hope not.”
Ironically, though, Fairview’s last shutout occurred only two short years ago at the hands of the Wildcats, who trounced the then-No. 7 Aggies by a final score of 33-0.
“Two years ago, it was one of those deals where it seemed like the ball never bounced our way,” Redding said. “We had some turnovers and really never found the rhythm of the game, and that hurt us.”
As disappointing as the loss was for a team that had started the season 7-0, the Aggies didn’t wallow for long, settling the score in 2010 by pulling off a tough 29-17 victory at home. The win pushed the team’s all-time record against Guntersville to 3-12, but more importantly, it showed the Fairview team its region rival isn’t entirely invincible.
“It just proves they’re a beatable team,” wide receiver/linebacker King said.
Keeping that in mind, Redding said he was proud of last year’s win over a team the Aggies have historically struggled against, but he was quick to admit the past won’t have a huge impact on Friday night’s matchup.
“Being able to beat a team we’ve had so many problems with over the years was good for our guys and is always good for your program,” he said. “But it’s still not going to take anything away with how good that team is going to be and how prepared they’ll be.”
As dominant as the Wildcats’ defense has been this year, their offense hasn’t exactly been shabby, either.
Dual-threat quarterback Clayton Daniel has been extremely efficient as a passer this season — when he’s thrown — but he has proven to be even more effective in the ground game, rushing and scoring at will when he has decided to tuck and run.
With Daniel serving as a threat all on his own, matters won’t get any easier for Fairview as they will also be faced with the task of stopping Guntersville’s stud running back Rod Faulks.
Fairview defense coordinator Brian Simmons had high praise for Faulks, who has wreaked havoc on opponents’ defenses this year.
“That little running back might be one of the best — if not the best — athletes in our entire region,” he said.
With the Aggies entering the game without a region loss and the Wildcats sporting only one such defeat to this point, Friday’s competition will have huge implications on which teams could end up hosting playoff games when postseason play begins.
However, for this week at least, Fairview will be on the road and will return to the location where they last put up a golden goose egg on the scoreboard. Despite the bad memories and the obvious disadvantages that come with playing away from home, Redding said he is confident there will be enough of the Aggies’ faithful fanbase at the game to help even the playing field.
“There’s nothing better than playing at home, that’s for sure, especially here at Fairview with the way our crowd comes,” he said. “But our crowd will travel with us. It won’t be at home, but we’ll look at our stands and they’ll be just as full as they are here.
“If you’re going to be a great team, you’ve got to be able to play on the road, too.”
Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.