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Playoffs begin for high school football

It’s play-off time for high school football, and here’s what local fans can look forward to.

Franklin County has three local teams continuing their seasons into play-off action: Russellville and Red Bay will open the playoffs at home, and Phil Campbell will travel. AHSAA play-off tickets must be purchased digitally through the GoFan app, and stadiums will have 33 percent capacity limits.

Russellville’s stadium capacity for the game will be 3,300. Red Bay’s stadium capacity limit will be 1,089. Walter Welborn, where Phil Campbell will be the first round, will have a capacity of 2,146.

RUSSELLVILLE VS. FAIRFIELD

Russellville enters the playoffs with an 8-2 record on paper and a 7-1 record on the field as the champions of Class 5A, Region 8. The Golden Tigers got a forfeit at the start of season against Deshler and had a forfeit loss to Madison Academy last week when the coronavirus forced the team to quarantine.

Fairfield enters the playoffs with a 5-5 record on paper and a 5-3 record on the field, finishing fourth in Class 5A, Region 5. The Tigers had forfeit losses to the No. 2 team in their region, Pleasant Grove, and the No. 7 team in their region, Wenonah.

Russellville and Fairfield have met only once on the gridiron – in 2003, when the Golden Tigers won 38-12.

Russellville is averaging 35.8 points per game and giving up 10.5 points per game. Fairfield is averaging 21.1 points per game and giving up 14.9 points per game.

Russellville’s biggest win was a 35-19 victory over the No. 2 team in the region, East Limestone. The Golden Tigers toughest loss was to Class 6A Hartselle, 38-14. Fairfield lost to the No. 1 team in the region, Ramsay, 34-12, and the No. 3 team in the region, Parker, 25-0. The Fairfield Tigers have won their past two games to a relatively weak team in Cordova 47-0 and Central-Tuscaloosa 42-6.

“We are not taking anything for granted,” said Russellville Coach John Ritter. “Region 5 is very good. We just have to go out and do our job and give our best effort.”

Russellville returned to the practice field Monday after putting players in quarantine for a week.

“I think we will be okay,” said Ritter. “We just have to execute our game plan. Players are creatures of habit. We have a base game, and we will add some wrinkles to it. The big thing is that it comes down to players doing what they are supposed to do.”

RED BAY VS. WINSTON COUNTY

Red Bay enters the playoffs with an 8-1 record on paper and a 7-1 record on the field, finishing second in Class 2A, Region 8. The Tigers got a forfeit win to start the season against Hamilton; the game against Biggersville, Miss., that was cancelled did not count on the record because that is an out-of-state team.

Winston County enters the playoffs with a 7-3 record on paper and a 6-3 record on the field, finishing third in Class 2A, Region 5. Winston County has a forfeit win against region opponent Midfield, which cancelled the entire season after starting 0-3.

Red Bay and Winston County have met on the gridiron 15 times, with the Tigers holding a decisive advantage with a record of 10-4-1. The last time the two teams met was in 2018, and Red Bay won 16-14.

Red Bay is averaging 34.5 points per game and giving up 15.4 points per game. Winston County is averaging 33.6 points per game while giving up 18.8 points per game.

Red Bay’s best win was 30-14 win over Colbert County a couple of weeks ago. The Tigers’ toughest loss was to the top team in Class 2A – Mars Hill, 35-8.

The Tigers and Yellow Jackets have a common opponent in Hatton. Winston County lost to Hatton 14-12, while  Red Bay beat the Hornets 47-8 in early October.

“I think the top three teams in 3A, Region 5, are all about the same,” said Red Bay Coach Michael Jackson. “They are all very competitive. Winston County will have one of the best football players we’ve seen all year in William Owen. They utilized him as a quarterback and running back. He had 200 yards on us as a sophomore when we beat them in the playoffs in overtime. We know they play some good football.

“They have a lot of confidence,” Jackson continued. “They beat Falkville Friday, who is a very good football team.”

The key to a win for Red Bay?

“Easy,” said Jackson. “Control Owen. He is 80 percent of their offense.”

PHIL CAMPBELL AT WALTER WELBORN

Phil Campbell enters the playoff as the third team in Class 3A, Region 8. The Bobcats earned their play-off spot last week when Hackleburg had to forfeit because of a coronavirus outbreak.

The Bobcats will face Walter Welborn High School in Anniston. The Panthers, although they are ranked second in the state in Class 3A, finished second in Class 3A, Region 5 .

Phil Campbell and Walter Welborn have never met on the gridiron – and it’s certain their namesakes never met in person, either, since Phil Campbell was railroad engineer who lived in the late 1800s and Walter Welborn was a member of the Calhoun County Board of Education in the early 1950s, as a bit of trivia.

On paper the Bobcats are 6-4. On the field they are 4-3. Phil Campbell has two forfeit wins: against Class 1A Phillips in the season opener and Class 1A Hackleburg last week. The Bobcats also have a coronavirus-related forfeit loss on their record – to East Lawrence, the Class 3A, Region 8 champion.

Phil Campbell’s biggest victory was a 34-30 goal-line stand win over Colbert Heights. The Bobcats’ biggest loss was a 41-0 thrashing by the Class 3A, Region 8 No. 2 team Lauderdale County.

Walter Welborn enters the playoffs with a record of 8-1. The Panthers’ only loss was in the last game they played, Oct. 23. They lost to Piedmont 27-21.

Walter Welborn is averaging 36.4 points per game while giving up 8.7 points per game.

The Bobcats and Panthers do not have any common opponents, but Walter Welborn did have a familiar opponent – the Hamilton Aggies. Walter Welborn beat Hamilton 55-7. Haleyville, a team Phil Campbell did play, beat the Aggies as well, 27-18.

“This is going to be a challenge for us,” said Phil Campbell Coach Kevin Barnwell. “Walter Welborn is a very good football team. There is a very good reason they are the second-ranked team in 3A. They have a very explosive offense, and their defenses make you earn everything. They are talented and well coached.”

Walter Welborn’s stadium is called The Hill and is located at 135 Pinson Road in Anniston.

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