After a devastating loss to end a Cinderella season, the Northside Rams have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Still, Gordo, ACA, and Pickens County all won and advanced to the semifinals of the AHSAA playoffs. With the turf fields of Bryant-Denny Stadium looking green as ever, it is crunch time for the three teams if they want to catch the elusive “blue map.”

No. 1 Handley Tigers (10-1, 6-0) @ No. 1 American Christian Patriots (13-0, 7-0):

After a big test against a tough Mobile Christian team, ACA bounced back and won handily against a talented Alabama Christian team. In fact, the Pats almost seemed back to normal but hanging almost 40 points in a team that was only averaging 21.4 allowed points a game.

As for the ACA defense, it was like the team never missed a beat. Alabama Christian, a team that was averaging 35 points a game only scored seven. This was the lowest amount of points allowed by the Patriots’ defense all year.

(James Benedetto)
(James Benedetto)

Handley’s offense could be in some trouble because of this. The Tigers are only scoring around 27 points a game. This is an outlier, however. In the nine games the team has played, Handley has only scored less than 32 points twice- a 6-3 victory over Lanett and a 15-14 loss to Central Clay County in Week 11.

On the Tigers’ defensive side, the unit has been stiffing. With only an average of 10.9 points a game, Handley has held opponents scoreless twice and under two touchdowns twice.

The winner of this semifinal matchup will travel to Tuscaloosa for the 4A State Championship against the winner of Etowah/Gordo. The game will be played on Friday, Dec. 4 at 10 a.m.

No. 1 Gordo Green Wave (12-1, 6-0) @ No. 1 Etowah Blue Devils (9-3, 6-0):

Speaking of Gordo and Etowah, this matchup will be as intriguing as they come.

In four of the Blue Devils’ 11 played games, Etowah has only allowed a touchdown or less.

This looks extremely similar to Gordon’s defense. The Green Wave’s “D” has pitched two shutouts and has only allowed 21 points or more once. On average, Gordo’s defense is only allowing 11 points a game.

Etowah, a team that seems to be able to challenge Gordo, is averaging about 32 points a game. They have scored over 30 points six times throughout the season.

Photo By Joe Gaither
Photo By Joe Gaither

With that being said, the main attraction in this semifinal matchup will surely be quarterback Tanner Bailey. Since coming back from injury for the first round of the playoffs, the sophomore talent has lit up the scoreboard. In last week’s blow-away victory over West Limestone, Bailey accounted for six total touchdowns.

While Etowah surely has a chance to advance to a state title game, Gordo is an iron-clad titan of a team. If Gordo’s defense plays as well as last week, and Bailey gets opportunities to make plays, the Green Wave could be returning to the state title game for the first time since 2001.

The winner of this game will take on the winner of the Handley/ACA game in the 4A State Championship.

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No. 2 Pickens County Tornadoes (10-3, 6-1) @ No. 1 Berry Wildcats (11-1, 7-0):

Last Friday, Pickens County took care of Hubbertville for the second time this season. This makes 14 wins and zero losses for the Tornadoes over the Lions.

This week will be different, however. Once again facing a region foe, Pickens County will be up for a big challenge. In Week 8, the Tornadoes lost their only region game to the Wildcats 29-28. That was only the second time Berry has taken down Pickens County.

Photo By Mason Woods
Photo By Mason Woods

As the common trope in football goes, “it’s hard to beat a team twice in one season,” so the odds might fall in favor of the Tornadoes.

The last week of the regular season featured an offensive performance by Pickens County that many probably wanted to forget, but since then, the Tornadoes have managed 121 points in three games- or about 40 per game. While they haven’t been lights out, the PC defense has been sturdy, only allowing about 20 points a game.

Simultaneously, Berry has been on an offensive upswing as well. Scoring around 40 points a game themselves has led to five victories in a row of over 10 points.

With a Berry defense that is only allowing about two touchdowns a game, Pickens County will need to score often to take down the region foe and avenge their regular-season loss.

The winner of this game will advance to the 1A State Championship in Bryant-Denny Stadium against the winner of Linden/Brantley. This game will kickoff at 2:45 on Thursday, Dec. 3.

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