Regular season wraps up

As quickly as the regular season began, it ends abruptly this week.

Two teams – Red Bay and Russellville – will march on into the first round of the playoffs next week. Phil Campbell, Tharptown and Vina will be playing in rivalry games for pride and the hopes of closing out the season on a positive note.

Phil Campbell (2-7) at Hackleburg (2-7)

This game is scheduled for Thursday night but could be pushed back to Friday night in the case of stormy weather.

The Phil Campbell Bobcats have been right on the cusp of a major turnaround this season. They have lost their past three regions games by a combined total of 18 points, but the Bobcats could easily be 4-2 in the region and playoff bound. Instead, they are 1-5 and on the outside looking in.

There is a lot the Bobcat faithful can look forward to, but for now, they have a chance to end an 18-year losing streak against rival Hackleburg and end the season on a positive note after weeks of disappointment.

The Panthers are having a rare year, struggling to win games. Hackleburg is 2-7 with lopsided wins against Shoals Christian and Vina.

On the flip side, the Panthers’ losses have also been lopsided.

An interesting side story in this rivalry is that first-year Phil Campbell head coach Kevin Barnwell is a graduate of Hackleburg High School.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say it was special,” said Barnwell. “But I want it to be about the kids. I can’t treat it any differently because I don’t want them to. We have to focus on being in the moment. We want to treat this game like we have treated every other game and go out and just focus on the next play. Hopefully, these seniors can go out winners.”

Red Bay (7-2) hosts Wilson (3-5)

The Red Bay Tigers had an easy homecoming win last week against Tharptown. Now they get a Wilson Warrior team that, at first glance, has struggled this year.

However, Wilson plays in a tough 4A region. The Warriors do have two opponents in common with Red Bay – Sheffield and Colbert Heights.

This is likely to be a good game and a good warmup for the playoff-bound Tigers.

Red Bay is still locked in a three-way tie for first place in the region, but it appears the Tigers, through tiebreakers, will end up second in the region and host Winston County in the first round of the playoffs.

“Wilson will be a challenge,” said Red Bay coach Michael Jackson. “They have very good size and a lot of depth. It will be like a play-off game as far the skill level of their team. They are fundamentally sound, and they have played some of the best teams in north Alabama.”

Russellville (8-1) at Central (5-4)

The Russellville Golden Tigers are also headed to the playoffs next week, hosting Center Point. First things first, however: The Golden Tigers have to travel to Central Friday night to close out the regular season.

The Wildcats play down a classification from Russellville in Class 4A, but they have played two common opponents of the Golden Tigers, Haleyville and Deshler. Central lost to Haleyville 21-7 and Deshler 35-21, both of which were big wins for Russellville.

“Central runs a Wing-T type of offense,” said Russellville coach John Ritter. “We will have to be fundamentally sound on defense and do our jobs to be successful this week.”

Tharptown (1-7) at Vina (0-9)

The Tharptown Wildcats and Vina Red Devils have both struggled this year to score points and stop other teams from scoring. The two teams will meet Friday night and each hope to end the season on a positive note.

Vina is winless on the season, and Tharptown hasn’t won since opening week, in August. Vina’s best outing was a 38-14 loss to Shoals Christian, which was Tharptown’s only win this season. The Wildcats beat the Flame 41-30 Aug. 24. Tharptown has also played in a brutal Class 2A, Region 7, this year – which should give the Wildcats an advantage.

Vina is the home team in this game, and the Red Devils desperately want to end the season with a win. The past two seasons this game has been won in the final minutes, with Tharptown winning two years ago and Vina winning last year.

This should be a good finale to an otherwise disappointing season for both teams.

“Vina’s offense is run heavy, and they run primarily out of the I-formation and Power-I,” said Tharptown coach Kevin Lacey. “They have backs with some size that run well. Their quarterback is also shifty with his feet. Our guys understand they will have to work hard this week, and they are looking forward to the test.”

“It’s been a long tumultuous season for us – full of injuries,” said Vina coach Jason Harris. “Tharptown has been playing well lately. It’s a rivalry game for us, and hopefully we can go out on a winning note. We will have to cut down on our mistakes to have a chance to win.”

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