While high school football isn’t associated with the holiday, I usually have someone ask me about the subject around this time of year, even though practice doesn’t begin until Aug. 6 and the regular season kicks off Aug. 30-31.
With that in mind, I thought I’d devote this column as a preview to the 2012 season. Happy Independence Day, everyone!
Week 1 (Aug. 30-31)
A lot of teams traditionally play their rivalry games the last week of the regular season, but two of this area’s bigger rivalry games will take place during Week 1. One of those rivalry games gets the fireworks started a day early on Thursday.
The Gaylesville Trojans travel to Cedar Bluff in a battle that gives the winner an early leg up in the Class 1A, Region 7 race. Cedar Bluff won last year’s game 34-14.
Another Region 7 battle also takes place on Thursday when Collinsville hosts Coosa Christian. The two teams met in last year’s season opener, with the Panthers pounding the Conquerors 49-0.
The rest of the fireworks will be set off on Friday. The Cherokee County Warriors travel to Piedmont’s Field of Champions to tangle with the Bulldogs. Piedmont defeated the Warriors last year 42-22, but the Warriors hold the all-time series lead 37-30-3.
Class 2A Sand Rock kicks off its season at Class 3A Pisgah and Spring Garden welcomes Fayetteville in Jason Howard’s first game back as the Panthers’ head coach.
Week 2 (Sept. 7)
Cherokee County jumps into the new Class 4A, Region 5 fire when it hosts Alexandria. The two teams haven’t played since 2009, with the Warriors claiming a 36-25 victory.
Sand Rock also gets its region schedule underway when it hosts Gaston for the first time since 2009, a 42-7 Wildcat victory.
Three key battles are also slated for Week 2 in Class 1A, Region 7: Spring Garden at Gaylesville, Cedar Bluff at Valley Head, and Collinsville at Jacksonville Christian.
Piedmont opens its Class 3A, Region 5 schedule with a visit to Ashville.
Week 3 (Sept. 14)
Sand Rock renews its rivalry with North Sand Mountain on the road in a key Class 2A, Region 7 clash. The Bison won last year’s game 28-7.
Another rivalry game is set in Piedmont when the Bulldogs welcome Glencoe to town. Piedmont defeated the Yellow Jackets last year’s battle 28-17 and has taken the last four meetings.
Other key clashes in Week 3 include Jacksonville at Cherokee County, Gaylesville at Ragland, Valley Head at Spring Garden, Coosa Christian at Cedar Bluff, and Woodville at Collinsville.
Week 4 (Sept. 21)
Cherokee County hits the road to Heflin to take on the Cleburne County Tigers. The Tigers have won the last two battles, including last year’s game 33-7.
Sand Rock looks to extend its five-game winning streak against Section at Russell Jacoway Stadium, while the rest of our area teams hit the road: Spring Garden travels to Coosa Christian, Cedar Bluff takes on Jacksonville Christian, Gaylesville tangles with Valley Head, Piedmont makes the trek to Cleveland, and Sumiton Christian battles Collinsville at Jacksonville State University.
Week 5 (Sept. 27-28)
Modern rivals battle once again when Piedmont hosts Leeds on Thursday, Sept. 27. It’s the first time both teams have crossed paths since 2009, when the Green Wave took a 14-13 victory in the regular season. The Bulldogs got revenge in the Class 3A state semifinals that year, a 13-7 win that propelled Piedmont to its first football state championship.
Then on Friday, Plainview travels to Sand Rock for the first time since 2005 in another non-region battle. Another non-region game features Class 2A Ider traveling to Centre to face the Warriors for their first-ever football meeting.
Staying in region during Week 5 is Cedar Bluff, which travels to Woodville, Spring Garden, which hosts Jacksonville Christian, and Gaylesville, which hosts Coosa Christian.
Week 6 (Oct. 5)
For the past few seasons, the winner of the Cedar Bluff-Collinsville game has gone on to claim a region championship. The two clash again in a Week 6 showdown at Cedar Bluff. The Panthers have won the last three meetings by a total of 17 points.
There will be a lot of black and gold at Bobby Joe Johnson Field when the Lincoln Golden Bears face the Cherokee County Warriors in another crucial Week 6 region battle. Surprisingly, this game will be the first time the two teams have faced each other throughout their storied football histories.
In another highlighted game, Sand Rock looks to put an end to a three-game skid against Fyffe. The Red Devils came away with a 37-6 victory last year.
Piedmont at White Plains, Jacksonville Christian at Gaylesville, and Woodville at Spring Garden are also scheduled for Week 6.
Week 7 (Oct. 12)
Cherokee County returns to the scene of where its season ended last year by taking a trip to new Class 4A, Region 5 rival Anniston. The Bulldogs defeated the Warriors in the first round of the state playoffs last season 41-0. In fact, the Warriors are seeking their first victory against the Bulldogs. They’re 0-6 against them in the series.
In other key region games, Westbrook Christian visits Sand Rock, Spring Garden travels to Collinsville, Cedar Bluff hosts Donoho, Piedmont hits the road to Susan Moore, and Gaylesville visits Woodville.
Week 8 (Oct. 19)
Former Cherokee County assistant coach Will Wagnon, now the head coach at Munford, returns to Cherokee County to face the Warriors in a highlight from Week 8. The only other time the two teams crossed paths was the second round of the state playoffs in 1984, won by the Warriors 18-13.
In other key games of Week 8, Collinsville travels to Gaylesville in a tough Class 1A, Region 7 clash, Saks travels to Piedmont, Sand Rock visits West End of Walnut Grove, and Spring Garden hits the road to Donoho.
Week 9 (Oct. 26)
Playoff positioning could be on the line in Week 9, which features several intriguing matchups.
Spring Garden looks to halt Cedar Bluff’s four-game winning streak against them when it hosts the Tigers. Hokes Bluff renews its rivalry with Cherokee County at Warrior Stadium in the first meeting between the two schools since 2009, won by the Warriors 49-21.
Ider travels to Sand Rock, Piedmont hosts Weaver, Gaylesville takes on Donoho, and Valley Head visits Collinsville to round out the Week 9 schedule.
Week 10 (Nov. 1-2)
The final week of the regular season gets started a day early when Class 3A White Plains visits Collinsville in the first-ever football meeting between the two schools.
Then on Friday, Cedar Bluff renews its rivalry with Sand Rock. The Tigers lead the overall series 29-24, but Sand Rock has claimed the last three meetings in the rivalry, including a 23-12 win in 2009.
Other non-region battles include Piedmont at Lincoln, Spring Garden at Talladega County Central, and Ohatchee at Gaylesville.