David Mitchell commentary: Central, Smiths Station football games worth keeping an eye on

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerSeptember 11, 2013 

If you’re a high school football fan in the Bi-City area, you’ll want to keep your eyes on the Alabama side of the river on Friday.

In just the third week of the season, two games that could significantly shape the playoff race in Region 3, Class 6A — arguably Alabama’s toughest region — will be played on Bi-City home turfs when Central hosts Opelika and Smiths Station hosts Auburn.

The results won’t mean anything is written in stone, not with five region games still left to play for each team, but it will set the tone for some and could put one up against the wall.

Let’s start with Central.

The Red Devils, who lost to Carver-Montgomery on the road in their region opener last week, get a chance to get back on track against a team that beat them 37-7 last season.

On the one hand, the best cure to a disappointing loss is an opportunity to get back in the region race early. On the other, a loss in this game could squash Central’s goal of a region championship in the first month of the season.

An Opelika win would put Central two games back in the region. Both Carver-Montgomery and Opelika, two of the main contenders in the region, would hold the tiebreakers. That’s a difficult scenario to overcome even this early in the season.

The Red Devils didn’t need anymore motivation for this game, but that possible outcome should emphasize the need for urgency. For Smiths Station, things are a little bit different.

Having failed to make the playoffs since 2010, the Panthers primary goal this season should be to crack the postseason, a goal that is certainly realistic given the experience on their roster.

The players and coaches know as well as anyone how difficult an opponent Auburn will be this week. Smiths Station was never in the game a year ago, losing 48-7. The Tigers will once again be the favorites in this game.

A loss wouldn’t severely damage the Panthers’ goals. Even after losing this game a year ago, they came within mere plays of making it to the postseason in the region finale against Central.

A win, however, could turn the region on its head, at least for people like us on the outside looking.

From our vantage point, Smiths Station appears to be the team trying to bust a top four that is as good as any in the state. A win for the Panthers, though, would be enough to add them to the long list of contenders for the region title.

It’s way too early to say this will make any determination of how things play out. No matter who wins or loses, there is plenty of time for teams to correct their trajectories or go off track.

Still, to have two games of this caliber being played on Bi-City home fields this early in the season is a treat worth taking notice of.

Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ledgerenquirersports.

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