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Streaks define county rivalries

You might be wondering why my sports column appears today instead of Friday this week. That’s because I just couldn’t wait one more day to restart my high school football column. Actually, it’s mainly because Chilton County High School and Jemison moved up their game this year to Thursday night, which I think is a great idea.

Now, let’s take a look around the county this week and see what kind of games we have slated for Week 1 of the high school football season.

CCHS vs. Jemison

This is the biggest game in the county this year not just because these are two of the biggest schools in the county, but also because fewer county teams will be playing each other this year. Probably the biggest absence is that Maplesville and Isabella won’t be playing.

The Tigers’ and Panthers’ rivalry has been a streaky series. The Tigers are currently on a four-game winning streak. Before that, Jemison won six in a row, and CCHS won the four before that. Overall, CCHS leads the series 31-17, outscoring Jemison 1,003-710 according to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society.

I don’t know whether Jemison can end the streak or not, but it should be an interesting game. CCHS and Jemison will be mirror images of each other because the Tigers switched to the spread after hiring new coach Brian Carter. Both defenses should be strong, but the offenses have some holes.

I expect this to be a low scoring game. If it comes down to the kicking game, Jemison might have the edge, but CCHS has the ability to strike very quickly as Calera found out last week.

Thorsby at Verbena

If you thought streaks were bad in the Tigers-Panthers rivalry, this game is much worse. At one time Verbena won 21 consecutive over Thorsby in a period from 1977 to 1999. After losing six straight to Thorsby from 2000 to 2005, the Red Devils have won the last two.

Both Thorsby and Verbena seem to be on the upswing after disappointing seasons last year. This should be an entertaining game.

Both offensive lines should improve. Thorsby might have an edge when it comes to the offense, but Verbena has the edge on defense. It’s a strength-on-strength, weakness-on-weakness scenario.

Billingsley at Maplesville

This game should be much closer than it was last year. Unfortunately, this important region game happens right out of the gate. This rivalry has been close through the years, but Maplesville has won nine of the last 10 match-ups.

The Red Devils lost a lot of key players from last year’s team, but I don’t expect Maplesville to miss too much of a beat. They have returning players that have a lot of playing experience from last year.

Billingsley wants to build off their 5-6 season last year to try to make another playoff run. The backfield is definitely a strength for the Bears.

Isabella at Jefferson Christian

The Mustangs should be able to open the season with a win tomorrow night. Over the last five years, the Eagles have only won six games.

Isabella needs to get off to a good start by getting its running game going, and that should happen with Brian Donovan and Norman Craig back this season. The defense should be solid as well.

Isabella needs to put this game away early and not have any serious injuries.

Marbury vs. Holtville

Marbury and Holtville usually play an entertaining game each year. The Bulldogs’ numbers are down a bit after a large senior class graduated last year, six of which are playing in college.

The Bulldogs must find a consistent running game, and they have to find a way to get the ball in the hands of their playmaker, Pierre Warren, to have any success this year.