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High school football preview

Tonight’s game against Fultondale will be critical if Isabella is to take the next step – a playoff berth – in the program’s development under second-year coach Lanny Jones.

The Mustangs won five games last year as a Class 1A team but barely missed the postseason. Fultondale is one of a handful of teams expected to clog up the top of Class 2A, Region 4 that Isabella needs to knock off to make the playoffs.

Chilton Co. (0-1) at Demopolis (0-1)

– CCHS has to find a way to rush for more than the 44 yards it mustered in a loss to rival Jemison. Demopolis won last year’s meeting, 27-13.

Marbury (0-1) at LaFayette (0-1)

– Marbury needs a passing game to go with running back Charles Averhart, who ran 17 times for 118 yards in last week’s loss to Holtville.

Jemison (1-0) at Southside-Selma (0-1)

– The Panthers came out of the win over rival CCHS on an emotional high but a little banged up.

Billingsley (0-1) at Sunshine (0-1)

– After a loss to Maplesville, the Bears must avoid an 0-2 start to region play, which would definitely hurt their playoff chances.

American Christian (1-0) at Thorsby (0-1)

– The Rebels have a tough task in front of them: ACA has lost only eight games over the last five years.

Wadley (1-0) at Verbena (1-0)

– The Red Devils can make a statement in Class 1A, Region 4 if they find a way to bounce the Bulldogs, who took last year’s meeting, 48-6.

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Even more importantly, the game is Isabella’s second of the season and first region contest.

“This is the game we’ve preached since the beginning,” Jones said. “I think this sets the tone for the season.”

The key will be stopping No. 6 Fultondale’s ground attack. The Wildcats (1-0) rushed for 630 yards in a 32-18 Week 1 win over Addison, the Class 2A preseason No. 3 team.

Chris Barber had 207 yards rushing in the game, Jonathan Craig had 196 yards and two touchdowns, and Chris Hardaway totaled 114 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Desmond Clapton attempted only one pass, which fell incomplete.

The Mustangs (1-0) put up some lopsided numbers themselves in a 74-0 rout of Jefferson Christian last week. Running back Brian Donovan, for example, touched the football five times and scored each time. He finished with 107 yards rushing on three carries.

Because the outcome of the game was decided early, Isabella was able to find playing time for players that might not get much in a closer game. That will help the team’s depth at several positions. That depth will be important against a team that likes to run the ball on every snap.

“We’re going to try to be disciplined against the run and make them pass it,” Jones said.