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2014 Fab Five: the marquee matchups

Published 10:37am Friday, July 25, 2014

In The Outlook’s second installment of its Fab Five lists, we’ll take a look at the five most intriguing games of the 2014 season.
This year’s slate is filled with top-tier matchups that should pit high school powers against one another, as well as clashes that could go on to define the season trajectories of any of our respective local area teams.
Without further ado, here are The Outlook’s choices for the five most intriguing games of 2014:

5. Central of Coosa County vs. Montgomery Academy (Oct. 17)
Series: 2014 marks the first-ever meeting between both teams.
The low down: With the departure of usual 3A powers Trinity and Leeds to the 4A level, the region just got a little bit easier for the Cougars as they look to end a playoff drought that has spanned more than a decade.
However, with Midfield favored to win the region and 3A newcomer Montgomery Academy in the fold, it won’t be easy. The Eagles sliced up many a 2A foe last season thanks to the Josh Thomas and Justin Woolfolk combo at quarterback and runningback, respectively. Thomas and Woolfolk combined for more than 3,300 yards on the ground with 44 scores between them.
Thomas returns for the Eagles and figures to be the man who makes or breaks their season.
In Rockford, however, resides perhaps the best player in this area that no one really talks about in Tre Royal, who dominated most of the Cougars’ 2013 opponents in spite of Central-Coosa’s 3-7 record.  In this game, you get two of the biggest game-changers in their region – each on the opposite side of the ball.

4. Benjamin Russell vs. Opelika (Sept. 5)
Series: BRHS leads Opelika, 36-29-3.
2013 result: Opelika won, 21-7.
The low down: As the longest-running rivalry for the Wildcats, it’s needless to say that the Wildcats and Bulldogs aren’t unfamiliar foes. However, with this game falling at week three of the season, this should be a great litmus test for both squads.
There’s a good chance that Opelika will enter the season – and this particular game – ranked in the top 10 of Class 6A. Meanwhile, BRHS will be fresh off a roadtrip at Central of Clay County, who many have pegged as one of the better teams in a now wide-open 5A class.
It won’t be easy for Opelika, as they start their season with road tests at Carver-Montgomery and Class 6A finalist – and newly-minted 7A team – Auburn.
In addition, this will be the first region game for the ‘Cats and the ‘Dawgs. The winner of this game could very well hoist the region championship at the end of the year.

3. Reeltown @ Lanett  (Oct. 24)
Series: Tied 3-3.
2013 result: Lanett won, 20-14.
The low down: As one of the more even matchups of recent memory (In six meetings, RHS has outscored LHS 126-120), Reeltown and Lanett figure to be involved in perhaps the most exciting game of its region, and – depending on the year the Rebels have – one of the most important.
Lanett’s Wing-T offense, as powered by 2A Back of the Year finalist Marlon Bridges ran over almost all of its 2013 region slate as the Panthers claimed the region title.
However, in 2013, Reeltown gave the Panthers, who are considered one of the favorites to end Tanner’s current grip on the 2A crown, the closest game Lanett saw all year.
While Bridges and most of the 2013 team returns for Lanett, the same can be said for the Rebels, who didn’t quite play up to its talent level for much of the season.
This will be the region finale for both teams, and it could very well be the region championship game for both squads.

2. Reeltown @ Dadeville (Aug. 28)
Series: Dadeville leads, 29-14.
2013 result: Dadeville won, 28-0.
The low down: While Dadeville has held the advantage in this heated rivalry for the past six years, never has a Richard White-coached DHS squad looked as dominant against Reeltown as it did in the 28-0 beatdown the Tigers administered to the Rebels in last year’s season opener.
While the Tigers went on to a berth in the Class 4A quarterfinals, the Rebels battled inconsistency and injuries – with some of the latter coming during the game against DHS – eventually finishing with a 7-4 record.
However, Reeltown returns the majority of last year’s squad in 2014 and should be motivated to wipe the bad taste of 2013 out of their mouths, starting with the team that handed them their first loss of that season.
Still, with Dadeville likely to be considered a top-10 team in Class 4A, don’t expect the Tigers, who are typically chock-full of athletes from top to bottom, to have their sights on anything but a repeat result of last year’s clash.

1. Dadeville vs. Leeds (Oct. 10)
Series: 2014 marks the first-ever meeting between both teams.
The low down: Not only is Leeds the biggest challenge to Dadeville’s designs on repeating as region champion, the Green Wave is considered one of the favorites to claim the Class 4A state title in Auburn this year. Leeds, which lost to  Madison Academy in the Class 3A state championship last season, returns all but three starters from last year’s team. The Green Wave stands to be the most talented of a litany of arduous opponents for Dadeville.
In this tilt between projected 4A heavyweights, the Tigers can rest on two key points:  more often than not, they field an athletically superior team than their opponents (regardless of who it is) and if the Green Wave is to claim a victory, it will have to defeat the Tigers in Tiger Stadium, where Dadeville has been nearly unbeatable over the last several seasons.
Next up on The Outlook’s Fab Five list: the top defenders to watch in 2014.

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