The Pickens County High School football team will put its unbeaten record on the line Friday night when it plays host to Aliceville at G.S. Spruill Stadium in Reform.
The Tornadoes (4-0) enter the non-region contest averaging 50.4 points per game. Meanwhile, Aliceville just hopes to hang on to the football. Now at 2-2, the Yellow Jackets have committed 15 turnovers in their losses and one turnover in their wins.
Elsewhere in the area Friday night, other non-region games have Lamar County playing host to American Christian, South Lamar traveling to Winfield, and Sulligent visiting Marion County. In an Alabama Independent School Association Class 2A, Region 1 matchup, Pickens Academy visits Edgewood Academy.
All games start at 7 p.m.
Aliceville at Pickens County
Pickens County improved to 3-0 in Class 1A, Region 4 play last week with a 53-14 victory against John Essex. Now, the Tornadoes are setting their sights on avenging last year’s 38-14 defeat at Aliceville.
“This is a rivalry game, and when you play these types of games you always get your opponent’s best shot,” Pickens County coach Patrick Plott said. “We expect that this week. I think it will be a hard-fought game. I think the fans are excited. I think we will have a nice crowd and a really good atmosphere.”
Pickens County leads the all-time series 33-27-1. The Tornadoes had won three straight series meetings before the Yellow Jackets broke through last season.
“This is a big deal for all of the fans,” Aliceville coach Charles Moody said. “This is one of the games they look forward to every season. We are 20 miles apart. The fans come out no matter when the game is played or where the game is played. Most folks in Aliceville and Reform know each other, and most folks are related to one another.”
Aliceville had seven turnovers last week in a 49-20 non-region home loss to undefeated Tanner. The Yellow Jackets had four fumbles and three interceptions. Quarterback Christopher Crowell was 21 of 44 for 293 yards and one touchdown.
“We have to take better care of the football,” Moody said. “We have to make sure we line up in the right position and make plays. We have to make adjustments and tackle well. Pickens County is very elusive and they play hard. We have to match that.”
Against Essex, Pickens County quarterback Devontae Simon was 18 of 29 for 374 yards and six touchdowns. He connected with four receivers for scoring plays. Senior De’Marko Hall also scored four touchdowns, giving him 17 on the season.
“We can not make mistakes,” Plott said. “We have to take care of the football and get defensive stops. When we have a chance to make the tackle, we have to make it. We can’t give them second chances.”
Crowell has thrown for 1,083 yards in four games. Wide receiver DeMario Lanier leads the team with seven touchdowns, including two kickoff returns.
“Crowell is a young player, but he makes a lot of plays for them,” Plott said. “If you put the ball in the vicinity of Lanier, he will go get it. They are both good players. We are not as big (defensively), but our corners play bigger than they are. They will be ready for the challenge this week.”
Win or lose Friday, the Yellow Jackets will remain 2-0 in Class 3A, Region 4 play. Still, the game has implications.
“The kids know who we are playing this week,” Moody said. “You can tell by the way we have practiced this week. They have had a good work ethic. I think we will be ready to play. They want bragging rights. I understand that totally. We want bragging rights, too. It’s a big game for both of us.”
American Christian (3-1) at Lamar County (3-1)
Lamar County will step out of Class 2A, Region 8 play when it welcomes American Christian Academy to George Bell Stadium in Vernon.
The Bulldogs suffered their first loss of the season last week when homestanding Red Bay posted a 35-14 win in region play.
“We took a step backward,” Lamar County coach Ken Adams said. “There were some bright spots. We saw some of the things we will have to do better to compete for a playoff spot in this region.”
American Christian is coached by former University of Alabama center John Causey, who is in his first season. A 12-win team last season, the Patriots took a 63-7 victory last season in the first meeting between the schools.
“They have great speed,” Adams said. “They have some talented players at the skill positions and they have some good size. We will have to play better in several areas. However, the kids have responded in practice and are ready to go.”
American Christian has scored 40 or more points in every game this season. Its only loss was a 47-42 setback to Pickens County. Last Friday, ACA ran its win streak to three with a 70-32 win at Isabella in a Class 2A, Region 4 game.
Against Red Bay, Lamar County quarterback Dallas Cockerham was 7 of 12 for 176 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Bulldogs are averaging 222.5 rushing yards per game and have 13 rushing scores. Eric Smith leads all ground-gainers with 22 rushes for 129 yards and five touchdowns.
South Lamar (0-4) at Winfield (2-2)
South Lamar will step out of Class 1A, Region 5 play for a road trip to Winfield.
South Lamar suffered its most heart-breaking defeat to date last week when Brilliant rallied for a 21-14 region win in Millport. South Lamar led 7-6 entering the final quarter.
“We did not do a good job of finishing,” South Lamar coach Josh Harper said. “We competed, but we didn’t make enough plays at the end of the game.”
Against Brilliant, Hank Parker had 14 carries for 104 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown run in the final quarter. He also had 14 tackles. Parker has run for 232 yards in the last two games, with three touchdowns.
Jordan Smith scored on a 1-yard run and had five receptions for 92 yards.
“We have only played three region games, so there is a lot of football to be played,” Harper said. “We just have to keep working hard and stay positive.”
Winfield, a Class 3A opponent, opened with victories against Haleyville (7-6) and Vinemont (42-6) before falling to Hamilton (37-13) and Cordova (38-20).
Winfield beat South Lamar 43-7 last season in Millport.
Sulligent (1-3) at Marion County (4-0)
Sulligent will face its biggest challenge of the season when it travels to take on highly-touted Marion County in a non-region tussle at Bill Rayburn Stadium in Guin.
“They have all the weapons you need,” Sulligent coach Scott Marchant said. “It is quite a challenge. However, our kids have fought all year. We will respond with a good effort.”
Sulligent is 1-2 in Class 2A, Region 8 play after a 28-21 setback to Colbert Heights last week. Peter Swanigan led the way with 23 rushes for 228 yards and a touchdown. The Blue Devils were without three starters; however, all three are expected back for Friday night’s contest.
“We had our chances,” Marchant said. “We had a difficulty getting a couple of stops. Offensively, we had a good game. We fought hard but came up a little short.”
Marion County defeated Hubbertville 69-43 in a Class 1A, Region 5 game last week. Quarterback Sean Wallace had seven touchdowns in the win. Alex Johnson caught three of the touchdown passes. The Red Raiders are averaging 43 points per game, and have tallied 50 or more three times this season.
Marion County beat Sulligent 34-14 last season in Sulligent.
Pickens Academy (1-4, 0-2) at Edgewood Academy (4-0, 2-0)
Pickens Academy will travel to Elmore on Friday night for an AIAS Class 2A, Region 1 game against undefeated Edgewood Academy.
Pickens Academy dropped a 35-14 non-region decision to longtime rival Tuscaloosa Academy last week. Josh Lewis had 16 rushes for 95 yards and the game’s opening touchdown. Joel Pratt scored on a 45-yard run for the Pirates in the fourth quarter.
“It was an emotionally draining rivalry game,” Pickens Academy coach John Gartman said. “Now, we go on the road and face a really great team.”
The Wildcats have not been threatened this year. Their lowest margin of victory is 28 points. Edgewood has beaten East Memorial Christian (55-14), Evangel Christian (42-14), Lakeside (57-12), and Morgan (41-6).
“This is our third region game, so each of them takes on added meaning,” Gartman said. “We will have to play mistake-free ball to have a chance. Offensively, we have to have better production. On defense, we can get down after giving up a play. We just have to go out and make the next one.”
Edgewood beat Pickens Academy 21-6 last season in Carrollton.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.