• 52°

McKenzie – BCMS rivalry sure to excite

BCMS at McKenzie

I’m just going to go ahead and say that I’m excited about this game.

There are big games, and there are rivalry games – especially when the two teams are separated by seven or eight miles (depending on whether you count from the old school or the new one).

There are the usual things that go along with a rivalry: people on both sides see each other every day, and a loss is something you have to deal with throughout the year.

However, there is another big storyline hanging on this year’s game since BCMS is fighting for a playoff berth.

J.U. Blacksher, Fruitdale and BCMS are all tied for two playoff spots, so the Panthers need a win over McKenzie to guarantee a spot in the postseason.

If BCMS loses, Blacksher wins, and Fruitdale loses, the Panthers are out.

If any other scenario plays out, BCMS is in.

To me, the most interesting sequence of events would be if BCMS wins and Fruitdale loses.

Because of the fact that BCMS and McKenzie are in different regions and the fact that their regions pair up in the playoffs, that would send the Panthers back to McKenzie next week for a rematch in the first game of the playoffs.

As much fun as it is to speculate about all these things, it comes down to one thing: Thursday night’s game.

One thing McKenzie has used all year to win games is great team speed – Emmanuel Johnson, Calvin Henderson, Armond Ball, and several others are a handful for defenses to deal with because of how fast they are.

However, speed has also been BCMS’s strength this year with Victor Marshall, LaJordan Crittenden and Rickey Everett.

“We’re going to have to play great assignment football, not make any mistakes and not have any stupid penalties,” said McKenzie head coach Miles Brown. “Other than the fact that it’s a rivalry and it’s McKenzie-Georgiana, they’ve got a little extra incentive this year because of the playoffs.”

Assignment football is also on BCMS coach Shane Smothers’s checklist.

“Emmanuel Johnson isn’t the only big-time player they’ve got – their skill players are role-players, which makes them stronger, and we’ve got to play assignment football,” Smothers said. “We’ve also got to move the chains and keep their offense off the field.”

On paper, this is an easy pick.

McKenzie is 8-1, while BCMS is 5-4.

The Tigers have outscored their opponents by a combined 232 points this season, but BCMS’s margin is only 61 points.

However, the reality is that it’s not that easy to pick this game.

Last year, McKenzie was the heavy favorite, and quite honestly the better team, but Georgiana put a scare into them and the final score was 49-34.

Calvin Henderson is also questionable for McKenzie with a shoulder injury, so that may have some effect on the Tigers.

“We are preparing and expecting the unexpected out of the Panthers,” Brown said.

“We’re 5-4, but we believe we’ll be one of the better teams they play this year,” Smothers said. “We’re going in and expecting to win. ‘Win and in’ is what we’ve been saying. We don’t want to lose and hope.”

There will be big plays on both sides, but I think McKenzie will come away with a win. A close win, but still a win.

McKenzie 36, BCMS 27

Greenville at Hillcrest

Greenville pulled out a skin-of-their-teeth win over Chilton County last week, and maybe that reality check is what the Tigers needed heading into the playoffs.

The Tigers won’t get nearly that much fight this Friday night against Hillcrest.

The Jaguars have only won one game this year (against W.S. Neal), and Greenville is the last of a tough schedule.

“They are a very athletic team, and they remind me a lot of Selma,” said head coach Ben Blackmon. “But we’ve got to get some folks healthy.”

The Tigers sustained a key injury to Patrick Bedgood last week against Chilton County, which is another hit to an already-thin backfield.

Bedgood injured his ankle, but it’s still unclear how severe that injury is.

I expect Greenville’s first team to get enough to work to keep the rust off, but the second team will also see a good bit of action.

Greenville 42, Hillcrest 13

Fort Dale

The Eagles have a rare off-week this week.

Because Shelby Academy and Taylor Road closed, that left two holes in the schedule, one of which FDA filled with Monroe.

The other is conveniently this week, just before the playoffs.

“I was trying to play a game when this situation first happened, but now it’s a blessing in disguise,” said head coach Speed Sampley.

The Eagles will get a chance to work on fundamentals during the week, and to also start planning for a rematch with Prattville Christian in the first round of the playoffs.

“We’re also going to work on things like taking a safety, free kicks or other things that might arise in a playoff situation, but that you normally cram into practice somewhere,” Sampley said.

The Eagles will also travel to Prattville on Friday to watch PCA square off against Monroe.

Overall record: 29-7