Friday Night Preview: Sept. 13

(Photo by Lynn Smith) Shade Pritchett streaks down the sidelines to finish off a 65-yard touchdown pass play on the Longhorns' first score of the game last week at Eastwood Christian. The Longhorns host Jackson Academy Friday.

(Photo by Lynn Smith)
Shade Pritchett streaks down the sidelines to finish off a 65-yard touchdown pass play on the Longhorns’ first score of the game last week at Eastwood Christian. The Longhorns host Jackson Academy Friday.

As week three of the 2013 season readies for kickoff, only two of Marengo County’s seven high school football teams remain unblemished. And all seven of the county’s teams will be involved in key region games as the continual drive toward November wears on.

Marengo Academy (2-0) vs. Jackson Academy (1-2)

The Longhorns opened AISA, Class A, Region 2 play last week with a 51-14 road demolishing of Eastwood Christian. MA has outscored opponents 85-20 through the season’s first two weeks and would love to add to that mark against a Jackson Academy Eagles team that has surrendered 65 points in three games this season, a stretch that includes an Eagle shutout of Eastwood.

The Longhorns are 18-6 lifetime against Jackson and took last season’s meeting in Clarke County 37-8. MA will hope for more of the same this go round as they utilize a punishing ground attack that amassed nearly 400 yards a week ago.

Josh Holifield currently has 318 rushing yards and four touchdowns on only 30 carries. If he can find similar production Friday night, MA will likely be carrying a 3-0 mark into its showdown with Patrician next Thursday.

Demopolis (2-0) @ Saraland (2-0)

Demopolis hits the road Friday night for a Class 5A, Region 3 contest that is bigger than most local football fans realize. Saraland is a much improved team over the squad that lost to Demopolis 41-14 a season ago. This time, the Spartans get the Tigers at their place and come in having outscored opponents 113-24 in two contests.

Make no mistake about it, Saraland has designs on winning the region and Demopolis is the first major stepping stone to the Spartans getting there.

A sloppy performance similar to what Demopolis had in the first half against Citronelle could lead the Tigers into big problems Friday night against Saraland. Demopolis will need to be sharp in all phases of the game and on both sides of the ball Friday night. But, like most big games, this one is likely to be decided in the trenches. Saraland will provide the first major test for both Tiger fronts. If the DHS linemen rise to the occasion, Demopolis should emerge unscathed Friday.

Linden (1-1) @ St. Luke’s (1-1)

St. Luke’s is 0-3 all time against Linden, a fact that is not lost on Class 1A, Region 1’s up-and-coming Wildcats. St. Luke’s has gotten progressively better in each of its meetings with the regional powerhouse Patriots, falling 64-0 in 2010, 54-14 in 2011 and 34-14 in 2012. Now, St. Luke’s believes it is poised to knock off Linden and clear its path to a region championship.

However, in 43 region games under head coach Andro Williams, the Patriots are 41-2 with both losses coming against now 2A Sweet Water. The Patriots have won 19 straight region games, a streak Linden would like to see continue indefinitely.

Moving that streak to 20 straight Friday night will require a disciplined performance from the Pats and another step forward for the team’s younger players.

Sweet Water (1-1) @ Millry (1-1)

After a week one loss to Thomasville, Sweet Water righted the ship with a 41-6 thrashing of Leroy. The Bulldogs will now look to continue their methodical march toward a chance at the region crown with a road win over Millry Friday night.

Jacksonville State commit Jakoby Aldridge enters the contest as the county’s leading rusher, having amassed 383 yards and four touchdowns on the ground thus far. Odds are, Millry will have a hard time slowing his momentum this week after having surrendered 33 points to Choctaw County a week ago.

Suffocating defense and steady drives usually add up to Sweet Water’s recipe for success and Friday night should be no different for the Bulldogs.

A.L. Johnson (1-1) vs. Fruitdale (1-1)

A game that will probably go largely unnoticed Friday night, this one will likely have a lot to say about who finishes in one of the region’s coveted top four spots and snags a playoff berth our of Class 1A, Region 1.

Fruitdale enters after a 45-20 win over John Essex a week ago while A.L. Johnson is licking its wounds following a 21-6 loss to St. Luke’s in a contest it had opportunities to win.

After a loss to St. Luke’s last season, a lethargic ALJ team stumbled and ultimately fell 21-20 to Fruitdale. At season’s end, ALJ sat at 6-4, but spent November focused on basketball season as it missed the playoffs, watching the region’s No. 4 seed go to a 4-6 Fruitdale team due in large part to that one-point loss in week three.

ALJ has the talent, but will need to prove itself resilient enough to bounce back quickly from a disappointing loss if it is to avoid last season’s misstep from happening again.

 Marengo (1-1) vs. John Essex (0-2)

There is a new bounce in the step of the football team that call Dixon’s Mills home. The Marengo Panthers snapped a 17-game losing streak last week with a 54-18 dispatching of McIntosh. And, were it not for miscues in week one against Class 2A Southern Choctaw, the Panthers could easily be 2-0 at the moment.

Suffice it to say, these are not the 2012 Panthers as this group is firmly eyeing its first trip to the playoffs in the Dedrick Bell era. The next step in that process, is moving through region rival John Essex.

The Hornets have not beaten the Panthers since 2007 and will have a tall task ahead of them Friday given their slight numbers and early defensive struggles that have seen them surrender 72 points in two games.