Thursday, August 8, 2019

Hillcrest-Evergreen one of few South Alabama teams ranked in Class 4A

HHS head coach Clinton Smith leads QBs through drills Tuesday.

High school football practice was in full swing this week and a lot of local football fans are looking forward to the start of the regular season.

Sparta Academy and the rest of the AISA schools usually kick off their seasons a week before the AHSAA schools, but this season Sparta and Hillcrest will both begin their seasons on Aug. 23.

Hillcrest will play Greenville High School that night, and Sparta will face Cornerstone Christian. Both of those games will be played in Evergreen, so it’ll be a big night for football in the Emerald City.

That night’s Hillcrest-Greenville game will be the 18th all-time meeting between the two schools in football. Hillcrest will likely be looking for some payback in this game after last year’s loss to the Tigers, which cost Hillcrest their starting quarterback for the rest of the season. While this isn’t a region game, it should be a good one.

The Sparta-Cornerstone game will be the fifth all-time meeting between those two schools in football. Sparta has never beaten Cornerstone in football, so a win for the Warriors will be a great way to start the season.

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The preseason football poll was released on Sunday night and to little surprise Hillcrest was ranked near the top for their class in 4A. Twenty-six sports writers voted in the preseason poll, and no one ranked Hillcrest lower than No. 5. Hillcrest got one first-place vote, 12 second-place votes, six third-place votes, five fourth-place votes and two fifth-place votes.

The good thing about the poll is that it’ll all sort itself out once the season gets underway. As the top teams stumble and the Cinderella teams begin to win, some teams will fall as others rise through the rankings. While it’s not unheard of, it’s rare for the No. 1 teams in the preseason to hold on to that No. 1 ranking.

I think No. 2 is a good starting point for Hillcrest. It not only gives them room to move up, but it also keeps the target off their back of being in the No. 1 spot right out of the gate. I think there’s some pressure when it comes to maintaining that No. 1 ranking, especially once the season starts.

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Interestingly, most of the teams ranked in 4A are north of Montgomery, except for tenth-ranked Headland, which is near Dothan. No. 4-ranked Hokes Bluff is way up in Etowah County, and fifth-ranked American Christian is in Tuscaloosa. No. 6-ranked Catholic-Montgomery is on Vaughn Road in the state capital and (aside from Andalusia and UMS-Wright) it’s the closest ranked team to Evergreen.

No. 7 Jacksonville is in Calhoun County, and eighth-ranked Montevallo is in Shelby County, right outside of Birmingham. Deshler High School is in Tuscumbia, which is in Colbert County, way up in northwest Alabama.

If things go as expected for Hillcrest this season, more than likely the Jags will end up playing one or more of those teams in the state playoffs. Only time will tell, and we’ve got a lot of good football to look forward to in the meantime.

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