Something to prove: Rivalry all that’s left for Isabella, Thorsby

Published 6:29 pm Thursday, October 15, 2009

Isabella and Thorsby might enter Friday’s football game with matching 1-6 records, but the two teams find themselves in completely different situations.

They share one thing, though: Neither team has a chance to make the playoffs this season, a fact that might make a win over a county rival even sweeter.

No. 4 Maplesville (6-1, 5-1 region) at A.L. Johnson (4-3, 3-2)

– Like a good team should have done, Maplesville successfully put the loss to Linden behind it with a win over Akron last week. Don’t expect the Red Devils to lose again until deep into the playoffs—if they lose again at all. Pick: Maplesville.

Jemison (4-3, 4-1) at No. 6 Bibb Co. (7-0, 5-0)

– Jemison is in a good position in the battle to claim a playoff berth. That’s good news because a game against unbeaten Bibb County High isn’t likely to help at all. Pick: Bibb Co.

Verbena (4-3, 2-3) at Donoho (0-7, 0-5)

– In order to earn a playoff berth, Verbena needs to win both remaining region games and have Wadley lose both of its remaining region games. All the Red Devils can control right now, though, is this game, and they will win easily. Pick: Verbena.

Billingsley (4-3, 4-3) at Holy Spirit (4-3, 4-2)

– This is Billingsley’s last region game of the season, the end of a string of eight straight. A win and the Bears are in the playoffs as no worse than a No. 4 seed. Pick: Billingsley.

Chilton Co. (4-3, 2-2) at Wilcox Central (0-7, 0-4)

– A win in this region game will clinch a playoff berth for Chilton County High. That’s likely, considering Wilcox Central has yet to win a game. Pick: Chilton Co.

Picks record: 38-8

“I guess both teams are kind of hanging their hats on this one game,” Isabella coach Lanny Jones said. “I tell our kids, ‘It’s going to be a battle—expect a tough game.’”

Thorsby is coming off its first win, a 28-6 decision over Shades Mountain Christian, in its last 18 tries.

Isabella won its first game of the season, 57-6 over Jefferson Christian, but hasn’t won since.

The Mustangs (0-5 Class 2A, Region 4), meanwhile, aren’t too far removed from a significant losing streak. They dropped 23 consecutive games between Oct. 29, 2004 and Sept. 14, 2007 but made the second round of the playoffs in 2008, Jones’ second season.

So, besides determining which school has bragging rights for a year, the game will decide whether a young Thorsby squad builds more momentum for a potential playoff run next season or Isabella proves its program hasn’t fallen off as much as it has seemed at times this season.

Jones did say his team played perhaps its best game of the season last week in a 36-15 loss at Hale County High.

Don’t be fooled by the score: Hale might finish with an 8-2 record, and the Mustangs led, 15-14, late in the third quarter.

With the pressure of a losing streak gone, the Rebels (1-4 region) have been relaxed this week.

Coach Billy Jackson planned a practice for Monday morning because students were out of school on fall break. Rains pushed the team inside the gym, and the practice was concluded with a game of dodgeball.

“We’re going full pads [Thursday] to make up for it,” Jackson said. “It’s been a lot better this week. It’s a lot easier to come to practice coming off a win than a loss.”

Both teams are likely to depend on their running games, which will mean many opportunities for three of the county’s top tacklers: Isabella’s Blake Lawley (fourth among county leaders with 10.2 tackles per game) and Thorsby’s Eric Camarillo (first with 13.7) and Dustin Wilson (second with 13.1).

“We’re going to have to play well because Isabella’s record really does not reflect what kind of team they are,” Jackson said. “We know if we’re going to have a chance to win, we’re going to have to play our rear ends off.”

This might be one of the most entertaining games of the year. Thorsby would seem to have the psychological edge, but, with the Rebels relieved to have finally ended their losing streak last week, Isabella is the team with more to prove.

Pick: Isabella.