If your team is in Class 1A, 2A, or 3A, the target is pretty clear. Maplesville, Fyffe and Piedmont were all convincing champions in 2016 and after the first month of the season in the small school classes, apparently nothing has changed. These three teams are the gold standard in Classes 1A-3A.
1A Maplesville looks to extend their consecutive state championship streak to four. The Red Devils are riding a 26 game win streak. This season they have run up an average of 52 points per game. Maplesville has speed everywhere and some size as well. The defense is led by junior linebacker Timothy Bradley. The offense can spread out and throw to 6’3 wide receiver Nathaniel Watson, a Mississippi State commitment or get in a power set and run it right at you. This squad has 5A talent. To beat Maplesville, a team will have to be able to score points and hope that the Red Devils have their mind on other things. That is not likely with Coach Brent Hubbert at the helm.
Maplesville looks to win its fourth straight 1A crown.
2A Fyffe has a rich tradition of success on Sand Mountain. In the last sixteen seasons, these Red Devils have won 10 or more games 13 times. Coach Paul Benefield has built a squad based on a strong weigh room work ethic. Fyffe takes pride in their physical play. Their offense is a mixture of power and Wing T concepts that lately has featured a hard running quarterback as well. The physical play of the offensive line is one of the corner stones of the team. The defense gave up 7 points or less in 10 of the 15 games last year on the way to the 2016 championship. The Red Devils have not been challenged this season and last year no squad other than 5A Cleburne County in the regular season came within 34 points. Fyffe is a small town with roughly 1,000 people but it’s a football factory. “Families let me coach their kids in a tough way. Tough love as we call it,” Paul Benefield jokes. “We’re not always going to be at the top of the mountain but we can work to be.” To beat Fyffe, a team will have to be disciplined and physical enough to slow their running attack, and use speed on offense to create big plays against the Red Devil defense in the passing game.
Coach Paul Benefield has Fyffe believing another championship is possible.
3A Piedmont is looking for their third straight title. They lost the 3A Back of the Year in quarterback Taylor Hayes, but look to still be an offensive juggernaut. The Bulldogs also pride themselves in strong offensive line play and running the ball. But they have also been able to throw the ball effectively from the spread offense. Their power isolation plays with tough runners and the quarterback have been too much for teams to tolerate over 48 minutes. This season runner Lee Stanley, a 5’9, 180 pound senior and senior quarterback Cardavion Myers have taken over the rushing attack. Myers is different from Hayes, using more quickness and sweeps than power plays. The Bulldogs lost to a strong Rockmart (Ga) team in the opener, but have reeled off three straight wins. Last week they fell behind an outstanding Randolph County team 13 points with turnovers, but rallied to score 41 points in the second half to win 41-31. Any team that beats Piedmont will need to score big points, and need some turnover help. They will need to have a solid defense against the run. In order to win a game against Piedmont, you will need to out score them. Of the big three in the small classes, Piedmont has the toughest regular season road by far. Their second half schedule includes 4A Leeds, currently ranked #1, and 5th ranked region foe Weaver, who is 3-0. It also includes region opponent Ohatchee, which lost twice to Piedmont last season-45-35 in the regular season and 53-26 in the playoffs.
Lee Stanley is the latest leader of the Piedmont run game.
The only team that for sure can beat the big three may be one of the others. Maplesville defeated Fyffe 20-7 in the Champions Challenge a month ago. Can Pickens County or Brantley challenge Maplesville one Friday night? Is Lanett strong enough to stop the Fyffe rushing game? Does Mobile Chrstian have the passing game to topple Piedmont in 3A?
Let the game continue. Strange things happen sometime in playoff November.