SHANNON FAGAN: Taking two steps back

Remember when I said the first week of the high school football season was the toughest to pick? Well, I may need to amend that statement just a tad.

After opening the season with a 3-1 record, I took it on the chin a little bit last week by going 2-2.

I thought Spring Garden would have the edge against Coosa Christian by playing at home and with the revenge factor going. Wrong.

And, after struggling to get anything going at Winterboro under new coach Garrett Crane in Week 0, I thought it might take another game before Cedar Bluff really began to gel. Turns out it just took another half at Sand Rock.

But that was last week. It’s time to turn the page to Week 2.

This week isn’t going to be an easy one to pick either, as region play begins. I might need to look for my rabbit’s foot, my Magic-8 ball and my four-leaf clover to get my mojo back.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s what I’m thinking.

Coosa Christian (1-1) at Gaylesville (0-2): This Thursday night battle should come down to turnovers.

On Gaylesville’s six first-half possessions last week against Collinsville, the Trojans had two interceptions and lost two fumbles. They punted the other two times in a 47-0 thrashing.
Meanwhile, Coosa Christian caused a total of six turnovers at Spring Garden, including three fumble recoveries and two interceptions in a 21-6 win.

Here’s thinking the Conquerors win the crucial turnover battle again and come away with another win.

The pick: Coosa Christian.

Cedar Bluff (1-1) at Woodville (1-0): The Tigers found a much-needed spark last week at Sand Rock. Senior defensive back Eli McFry picked off a pair of passes, one of which he returned for a 20-yard touchdown to tie the game before halftime. The other interception he snagged led to a game-clinching score by Alex Baty late in the fourth quarter.

I think Cedar Bluff has found its rhythm, and that’s bad news for Woodville. The Tigers improve to 16-0 all-time against the Panthers following Friday night.

The pick: Cedar Bluff.

Cherokee County (2-0) at Good Hope (1-1): Speaking of a team in rhythm, it’s definitely the Warriors. Offense, defense, special teams, it’s all working well. There’s no reason for me to think it won’t again at Good Hope.

I look for the Warriors to raid the Raiders.

The pick: Cherokee County.

Collinsville (1-0) at Section (0-2): As I said earlier, Collinsville got its season off to a good start at Gaylesville last week, particularly on defense.

Meanwhile, the Lions have had their struggles in that department. They’ve given up 63 and 56 points respectively at Decatur Heritage and Valley Head.

Looks like Mason McAteer and company will have another big night.

The pick: Collinsville.

Piedmont (0-1) at Sylvania (1-0): After dealing with one of the state’s best running backs in Cherokee County High School’s Jacob Cornejo last week, Piedmont’s defense now has to turn around and defend against an aerial threat in Sylvania quarterback Josh Turner.

Turner tossed for 182 yards and five touchdowns to three different receivers for the Rams last week in a 49-14 victory at Saks.

Speaking of quarterbacks, left-handed junior Cole Wilson struggled last week, connecting on just 4 of his 14 attempts for 81 yards and a touchdown, but had four interceptions.

They say teams make most of their improvements from their first to second weeks. Here’s thinking Piedmont does the same.

The pick: Piedmont.

Sand Rock (0-2) at Pisgah (1-0): I like what the Wildcats attempted to do last week against Cedar Bluff. They were methodical with their opening drive (15 plays, 70 yards) which resulted in eating up 7:37 off the clock with a touchdown.

They’re going to need a similar start against the high-flying Eagles to have a shot. Pisgah scored three touchdowns in a little over three minutes against Lexington and held on for a 42-27 victory.

Even if the Wildcats do manage to slow the Eagles down, I still think they have just a little too much firepower for Sand Rock to extinguish completely.

The pick: Pisgah.

Spring Garden (1-1) at Wadley (2-0): Once again, Spring Garden has the revenge factor going for it this week at Wadley. The Panthers lost 9-0 to the Bulldogs last season before reeling off seven straight wins to close out the regular season and win their fifth straight region championship.

But to get revenge in this one, the Panthers have to find a way to slow down Wadley’s sophomore running back tandem of Jaquez Wilkes and Cortavion Lynch.

Wilkes ran for 190 yards and three scores on 12 totes while Lynch gained 159 yards and a score on just nine carries in a 49-21 victory against Ranburne last week.

The Panthers also have to clean up the turnovers from last week, and from this game last year. Spring Garden committed five miscues and finished with just 131 total yards in this game last season, as they were shut out for the first time since 2018.

It’s a rare thing to see Spring Garden lose back-to-back games. One has to go all the way back to 2017 to find the last time that happened. While I’d like to think that streak continues for the Panthers, I’m afraid it won’t.

The pick: Wadley.

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