SHANNON FAGAN: Finally on track

It’s been a bumpy opening month to the high school football season, but it finally appears I’m hitting my stride picking the preps.

I posted my first undefeated record last week, going 6-0 to improve to 16-5 on the season. Picking three out of every four games correctly up to this point feels pretty good, but the competitor is wanting to maintain perfection.

As we continue region play this week, some teams will take another step closer to a playoff berth. Others look to get back in the chase, while more will sink further behind.

Which teams will do what this week? Here’s what I’m thinking.

Appalachian (3-1) at Gaylesville (0-4): The Trojans scored their first points of the season last week in their loss at Cedar Bluff. I’m sure that’s a big monkey off their back.

This young team seems to be taking small strides each week. I foresee a win coming in their near future, but I’m afraid it won’t be this week against the Eagles.

The pick: Appalachian.

Spring Garden (2-2) at Winterboro (2-1): Spring Garden got back on track last week in a 41-7 win over Victory Christian, led by Chapel Pope. Here’s thinking the Panthers continue to find creative ways to get him the ball. Add to that a dose of Connor Bates running the ball effectively and I think the Panthers will come out on top against Winterboro.

The pick: Spring Garden.

Cedar Bluff (2-2) at Decatur Heritage (3-1): After turning in a dominating performance against Gaylesville last week in their first home game of the season, the Tigers hit the road again for the next two weeks beginning with Decatur Heritage tomorrow night.

This could be one of the better matchups on this week’s area schedule, but since Cedar Bluff is 1-2 away from L.D. Bruce Field this season, I’m taking the home team here.

The pick: Decatur Heritage.

Hanceville (2-2) at Cherokee County (4-0): The tornado known as Jacob Cornejo continues to blow away the competition. He ran for 420 yards and two touchdowns against Oneonta last week and now stands at 974 rushing yards with eight touchdowns through four games this season.

Here’s thinking Cornejo easily surpasses the 1,000-yard mark with more twists and turns than Hanceville can handle.

The pick: Cherokee County.

Ohatchee (3-1) at Piedmont (1-2): The Bulldogs picked up their first win of the season last week at Plainview, but this week they’ll face a team that has given them fits two of the past three seasons.

The Indians have proven dynamic, even in last week’s 64-34 loss to Sylvania. Jesse Baswell ran for 175 yards and three touchdowns. Jake Roberson completed six of 12 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns, and Colby Hester caught five passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

I think that trio might be a little too much for the Bulldogs to keep up with.

The pick: Ohatchee.

Collinsville (2-1) at Sand Rock (1-3): Sand Rock finally got in the win column thanks to an overall outstanding performance from Gatlin Cox.
Cox caught the game-winning touchdown pass and ensuing 2-point conversion from freshman quarterback Alec Ashley in the fourth quarter, lifting the Wildcats to a 14-7 homecoming victory over Section. He also made an impact on defense with four tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.

It’s going to take another spectacular outing from Cox and several other Wildcats if they’re going to have a chance to beat Collinsville.

I know the Panthers are coming off a pounding to Pisgah, but I feel like this is a team that can shake things off easily behind freshman quarterback sensation Mason McAteer. I like the Panthers in this week’s Foothills Tractor Game of the Week.

The pick: Collinsville.

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