Septembers in high school football are similar to Aprils in Major League Baseball: It’s too early to get excited about a fast start, and it’s too early to get depressed about a poor start.
With that being said, it’s also true that games played early in the season count just as much as games played later in the year. So now is as good a time as any to evaluate where area teams are at this early point in 2011.
Hoover (4-0 overall, 3-0 in Class 6A Region 6). The Buccaneers have looked invincible in their first four games. Quarterback Sam Gilliken has stepped right in to follow in the tradition of fine Hoover signal-callers of the past. He is surrounded by an outstanding supporting cast.
But the Bucs’ trump card could easily be its defense, which may be one of the finest in school history. Hoover pitched a shutout against powerful Spain Park back on Sept. 2 and has gotten better in the games that have followed.
The Bucs have a clear path before them for an undefeated regular season run and another state 6A championship.
Spain Park (3-1 overall, 2-1 in Class 6A Region 6). The Jaguars continue to suffer frustration at the hands of crosstown rival Hoover, as once again they fell short against the Bucs. But that doesn’t mean new coach Chip Lindsey hasn’t inherited one of metro Birmingham’s best teams.
After the anemic performance in the Hoover game, Spain Park has rebounded with impressive wins over Homewood and Oak Mountain. A mid-season schedule streak of Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills and Pelham will probably determine where the Jags finish in the region standings.
Mountain Brook (4-0 overall, 3-0 in Class 6A Region 6). After a down year in 2009, the Spartans have reestablished themselves as one of the state’s best football programs. Quarterback Ed Aldag leads a team that should be undefeated going into its Sept. 30 game against Spain Park.
If Mountain Brook can get past the Jags, its meeting with Hoover three weeks later could be a battle of the unbeatens. From there, anything can happen.
Homewood (2-2 overall, 1-2 in Class 6A Region 6). A new era may have begun under first-year Coach Doug Goodwin, but in many ways the Patriots seem much like they have in the recent past: good coaching, good athletes, but not enough depth to be competitive with the powerhouses in its region.
As always, however, Homewood has outstanding talent at the skill positions, notably quarterback Stephen Baggett. The Patriots won’t win their region, but they usually pull off one big upset – and that win could determine the ultimate region winner.
Briarwood (4-0 overall, 3-0 in Class 5A Region 5). The Lions have looked unstoppable in their first four games, as Fred Yancey’s squad seems to be a team on a mission. Only a meeting with Class 6A’s Vestavia Hills seems to stand between the Lions and a perfect regular season.
In the playoffs anything can happen, but anything includes another state championship for Briarwood.
Vestavia (1-3 overall, 1-2 in Class 6A Region 6). The Rebels are off to their most disappointing start in years. It would be politically correct to say that there’s still plenty of time to turn the situation around, but the truth is that the season is nearly half complete.
Probably no team in Alabama will have a tougher slate over the next four weeks, as Vestavia faces Briarwood, Homewood, Spain Park and Hoover in succession. How the Rebels fare over that period will say a lot about how their season winds up.
The good news for Vestavia, however, is that you can never count a Buddy Anderson-coached team out.
Oak Mountain (1-3 overall, 0-3 in Class 6A Region 6). The Eagles are still building and aren’t that far from being a factor in the region race. They haven’t quite reached that plateau yet, as there is still too much inexperience in key positions.
Oak Mountain may not reach the playoffs this season but does have a realistic shot at a winning season. That accomplishment would give Coach Jeff Harris something on which to build for next year.
John Carroll Catholic (2-2 overall, 1-2 in Class 5A Region 4). The Cavs got their fans excited with a 2-0 start but have come back to earth after consecutive losses to McAdory and Parker. Things won’t get much easier for John Carroll either, as tough games against the likes of Chelsea, Hueytown and Fairfield are still ahead.
The Cavaliers’ offense, however, is difficult to stop, and on any given night, Carroll can be competitive with almost anyone in its class. At this point, however, a lot of things must break the Cavs’ way for them to have a winning season.
Shades Mountain Christian (0-3 overall, 0-2 in Class 1A Region 4). It’s been a long, tough haul for the Eagles since the school adopted football a few years ago, and it won’t get easier anytime soon.
New coach Joel Dunn had only 19 players on his August roster, including three eighth graders, so it’s no surprise that Shades Mountain is having a rough time on the field. But there’s nothing wrong with the program that adding more athletes and getting more depth won’t solve.