SHANNON FAGAN: Two area teams with title hopes left

I was so sure I would be writing this week’s column about how great of a start I got off to picking in the postseason.

Instead I just barely kept my head above water at 3-2, dropping my overall record for the season to 53-15.

At least we’ve still got two area teams with their championship hopes still alive. And it’s two teams that have a deep playoff history in the Cherokee County Warriors and Piedmont Bulldogs.

Will both be able to keep their seasons alive for at least another week? Will I be able to bounce back from a mediocre first round? Read on to find out.

Lauderdale County (11-0) at Piedmont (5-6): Piedmont picked a great time to turn in its best performance of the season last Friday night at J.B. Pennington.

Ishmael Bethel returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, caught a 68-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cole Wilson, and had three interceptions on defense in leading the Bulldogs to a 44-14 victory. Wilson threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns. The other was a 42-yard strike to Trevor Pike. Hayes Gunn also had a solid performance for Piedmont, rushing for 138 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.

It’s going to take another collective effort like that to take down the Tigers, who are coming off a 35-14 victory over Fayette County.

In that game, Micah Christensen led the Lauderdale County with 149 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. Chris Belue had an interception return for 93 yards and a score. For the game, the Tiger defense finished with five interceptions.

The Bulldogs have had success against Lauderdale County in the past. They’re 2-0 against the Tigers, with both those wins coming in the second round of the playoffs. Piedmont posted a 31-0 victory the last time the two met in 2021.

Both of those wins came at the Field of Champions, the site of Friday’s latest battle.

I picked against the Bulldogs last week and you saw how well that worked out. Maybe they can repeat the feat if I do the same again.

The pick: Lauderdale County.

Haleyville (8-3) at Cherokee County (10-1): Don’t let the Lions’ record fool you. Their three losses have come against Winfield (10-1), at Region 5 champion Dora (8-3), and to Region 7 champion West Morgan (11-0). They defeated North Jackson 33-14 last week despite allowing 192 yards and two touchdowns to the Chiefs’ Diego Holt.

Now Haleyville has to contend with one of the state’s best rushers in Warrior senior Jacob Cornejo. The Tornado tore up Central of Florence for 300 yards and five touchdowns last week.

Add in a stout Warrior defense, which is allowing under 10 points per contest with four shutouts this season, and I think that’s a recipe for Cherokee County to advance in this week’s Foothills Tractor Game of the Week.

The pick: Cherokee County.

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