SHANNON FAGAN: Turning the page to the playoffs

It’s been a while since I’ve had a losing record picking the preps. It’s been even longer since I’ve entered the postseason picking below par.

Last week I was 2-3 in my weekly high school picks, dropping my record to 50-13 for the season. While I’m glad I reached 50 correct picks at a 79-percent clip for the regular season, it still bugs me that I didn’t finish as strong as I would’ve liked.

But hey, that ship has sailed. The page has turned to the postseason now.

We’ve got five area teams slated to play on Thursday and Friday night. Some of these contests aren’t your typical first-round matchups. I think a few of the underdogs might have a shot at pulling off an upset.

But will they? Read on a little further for the answers.

Cedar Bluff (5-5) at Wadley (9-1): The first round of the state playoffs hasn’t been kind of late to the Tigers. They’ve lost five first-round playoff games in a row.

Heading down to Wadley is not exactly the best cure-all for that.

The Bulldogs are 6-0 at home this season, led by the talented tandem of Jaquez Wilkes and Jaylon Marable. I think they’ll be too much for the Tigers to handle on Thursday night.

The pick: Wadley.

Collinsville (8-2) at Southeastern (6-3): Mason McAteer and Quintatvious Rogers have made quite the 1-2 offensive punch this season for the Panthers. McAteer has thrown for over 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns while Rogers has churned out over 1,000 rushing yards with 21 scores.

On last week’s Mathis Trailers and Equipment End Zone Show, I said Collinsville was a dangerous team heading into postseason. I still stand by that statement. I think McAteer and Rogers continue to put up the pinball numbers on the road Thursday night, where the Panthers are 5-0 this season.

The pick: Collinsville.

Central-Florence (6-4) at Cherokee County (9-1): Shortly after the Warriors’ 21-14 loss to Fort Payne last Friday, head coach Jacob Kelley confidently assured me his team would learn from it and be better off because of it.

When you’ve got a running back like Jacob Cornejo and a suffocating defense, along with an emerging quarterback in Carson Tittle and a clutch receiver Ben Frampton, I have no reason to doubt Kelley.

I look for the Warriors to rebound quite nicely Thursday night against the Wildcats, who have lost seven first-round playoff games in a row and nine of their last 10.

The pick: Cherokee County.

Piedmont (4-6) at J.B. Pennington (8-2): The Bulldogs have been working overtime down the stretch of the football season quite literally. It’s taken extra sessions the past two weeks for their games to be decided. Piedmont outlasted Hokes Bluff two weeks ago, but fell by a point in a heartbreaker last week against Class 5A Sylacauga.

There’s no doubt the Bulldogs have been battle tested throughout the season, and they’re 6-0 all-time against J.B. Pennington, including a 3-0 mark in the playoffs.

But this isn’t a Tiger team of years past. Their only two losses this season have come at Locust Fork and at Madison Academy. Both of those teams are undefeated. And the Tigers are also coming off a bye week.

I think the Bulldogs put up a tough fight, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Piedmont pulled off the win, but I like Pennington to prevail on Friday.

The pick: J.B. Pennington.

Coosa Christian (5-5) at Spring Garden (8-2): The Panthers have a chance to get a double dose of revenge in this one.

Last year, the Conquerors ended their season in the second round of the state playoffs with a 31-28 victory. On Sept. 1 of this season, the Panthers “lost” on the field by the final of 21-6 before Coosa had to forfeit the game, along with three others, for what was ruled by the AHSAA the use of ineligible players.

In their first meeting with Spring Garden earlier this season, the Conquerors caused six turnovers. They recovered three fumbles and had two interceptions.

In fact, Coosa’s defense has been solid all season. The unit has posted three straight shutouts and has six on the field this season (including the forfeits).

At Victory Christian last week, the Conquerors limited the Lions to minus-8 total yards, including minus-19 on the ground. The defense caused six turnovers, including four forced fumbles. Coosa also blocked two punts, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

I’m sure the Panthers have worked on keeping the turnovers to a minimum and ball control during their off week as a means to limit the Conquerors’ offensive possessions. I also expect Spring Garden to keep the Conquerors guessing by moving Chapel Pope around on offense in an attempt to create matchup problems.

And, I look for a game very similar to the last two times these teams have played. But in the end, I think Coosa advances in another memorable Foothills Tractor Game of the Week.

The pick: Coosa Christian.

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