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The fab five of the 5A playoff field

Published 5:43pm Monday, November 4, 2013

As you make out your sheets for your AHSAA Football playoff bracket contests (What? I am the only one that does that?), I am here to help. At least, moderately.
Go ahead and put Hoover and Madison Academy in as the winners of 6A and 3A, respectively. Those are pretty close to locks.
The 1A, 2A and 4A brackets are much less certain, so take your chances with teams that are NOT ranked in the top three of those classifications. 5A is where things are truly interesting.
It is at this point of the article that I will recommend Coach Danny Horn, other Wildcat coaches and the players themselves stop reading.
Not because I do not like the Cats’ chances, but because it is never good for a team to look ahead in the playoffs.
BRHS will play Chilton County round one, and Chilton County deserves their focus. For the rest of us, below are a few mini-capsules to help you understand who can win the 5A crown and when the Wildcats may have to play them.
The way I see it, there are only five potential 5A winners this year. BRHS is one, and we all just watched the Cats beat  Homewood (who is another viable candidate despite last Friday’s loss), but what about the other 3 teams?
1. Spanish Fort: The Toros have won two of the last three state titles and are the favorites to win again in 2013. Spanish Fort, if you remember, also knocked BRHS out of the playoffs last year. The team is 10-0 this season, riding a 19-game winning streak  and boasts a 17-3 record in the playoffs all time. The Toros have run roughshod over their competition in the uber-competitive Mobile area, and their closest game all year was against 6A power Daphne (a 19-17 win). Coach Mark Freeman’s team has a relatively easy path until round three when they would take on Jackson (see below).
Assuming a win there and that BRHS is still alive, the Wildcats would play the Toros for a right to play for a state title in Tuscaloosa.
2. Jackson: Undefeated Jackson (a 4A state title winner in 2011 before moving up a classification)  has been a top-five team all season, and their lone close game came in game nine against a stout Demopolis squad. The issue with the Aggies is their path to T-Town is much tougher on paper than, say, Spanish Fort’s.
Jackson faces LeFlore then the winner of Eufaula and Briarwood just to have the right to take on the Toros in round three. Jackson also exited the playoffs shockingly early last year. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back. Coach Danny Powell saw plenty of success in the form of titles when coaching at Leroy, too, it should be remembered.
3. Muscle Shoals: As the lone super power in the north bracket, there will be little to stop Muscle Shoals from marching to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Muscle Shoals certainly knows about winning  as a three-time defending region champ.
But just because the Trojans face little competition along the way doesn’t mean they are not strong enough to make hay once they get there.
Shoals is the best defensive team in the state not named “Hoover.” As of week nine, the Trojans had given up only 26 points all season (while scoring 394 themselves) and two of those points allowed came on a special teams safety.
That is an incredible stat regardless of class or opponent. In week ten, Muscle Shoals finally lost its first game but it was to 6A superpower Bob Jones in the waning seconds.
If anything that loss will serve as motivation heading into the playoffs.
My bet is we see a Spanish Fort/ BRHS winner take on Muscle Shoals for the 5A crown.
Yes, I am making the assumption that BRHS defeats Homewood in round three before the epic match up with the Toros.
Who wins that game? Here’s where I go all Coach Horn on you by saying, “Let’s just beat Chilton County first.”
Robinson is a sports columnist for The Outlook.