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Done deals: Verbena only team fighting for playoff spot

Most local football teams play their final region games of the season on Friday, so Week 9 will feature studying the standings and deciphering tiebreakers, right?

Well, not for local teams.

The playoff fates of every team except one, Verbena, have already been decided. In: Chilton County, Jemison and Maplesville. Out: Billingsley, Isabella and Thorsby.

Parrish (6-1, 5-1 region) at Billingsley (4-4, 4-4)

– Billingsley is in a peculiar situation, with two games left but no chance to earn a playoff berth. Still, the Bears should get by a team they defeated 41-8 last season. Pick: Billingsley.

No. 3 Greenville (8-0, 5-0) at Chilton Co. (5-3, 3-2)

– Chilton County High already has a playoff berth wrapped up, so there might not be much motivation for the Tigers if they fall behind early to one of the best teams in Class 5A. Pick: Greenville.

Thorsby (2-6, 2-4) at Hale Co. (6-2, 4-2)

– Because of a snapped losing streak and a win over county rival Isabella, Thorsby will consider this a successful season even if it doesn’t win another game. The Rebels won’t stop trying, though. Pick: Hale Co.

Holt (0-8, 0-6) at Jemison (4-4, 4-2)

– Holt hasn’t won a game all year, and the Ironmen won’t win their first against a Jemison squad now gearing up for the playoffs. Pick: Jemison.

Holy Spirit (4-3, 4-1) at No. 4 Maplesville (7-0, 5-0)

– This is one of only two meaningful games involving local teams this week because the winner gets home field advantage in the first round of the state playoffs. Looks like we’ll welcome someone to George Walker Stadium. Pick: Maplesville.

Isabella (4-3, 2-3) at Shades Mtn. (0-7, 0-5)

– Last week saw Isabella drop a heartbreaker to county rival Thorsby. But I think the Mustangs have just enough left in the tank to pull this one out. Pick: Isabella.

Picks record: 42-10

The Red Devils (5-3, 3-3 Class 1A, Region 4) need a win over Winterboro coupled with a Wadley loss to Notasulga. It might take a small miracle because Winterboro has lost only one region game, and Notasulga has won only one region game.

“They know. They understand everything,” Verbena coach Mike Harris said about his players. “But we tell them the only thing we can control now is this game coming up.”

The only other game involving a local team that has playoff significance will be Holy Spirit-Maplesville. The winner would finish second in Class 1A, Region 3 and, therefore, earn home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs on Nov. 6.

Harris said the strategy for stopping the Bulldogs will be simple, though the execution might prove more difficult.

“We have got to stop their running game and stop them from making so many big plays,” Harris said.

Winterboro has four players—seniors Troy Garrett and Courtney Evans, junior Bacardy McClendon and sophomore Josh Taylor—that average at least 45 yards rushing per game.

Garrett has been the most effective, averaging 7.6 yards per carry and rushing for six touchdowns.

Verbena is talented enough to win the game, but the Devils might not be deep enough. A team that pounds the football on offense, as Winterboro will, makes it difficult on an opposing team that features almost every player going both ways, as Verbena’s players do. The hosts will keep it close early but fade late.

Pick: Winterboro.