Valley Preps football power rankings: Strong start has Smiths Station in top spot

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerSeptember 17, 2013 

Spotted at the Smiths Station Auburn High School Game Friday Night

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Coming into the season, I thought Smiths Station would be good.

I thought it would be one of about five teams in its region that could compete for a playoff spot, but I knew things would have to bounce its way for it to break into a top four that included Opelika, Carver-Montgomery, Auburn and Central, all of which have been considered among the state’s best over the past few years.

I didn’t, however, expect to be ranking the Panthers as the top team in the Bi-City area three games into the season. With their win over Auburn and Carver-Columbus’ loss to Colquitt County, though, I don’t think there is any more deserving team.

There’s a lot of season left, and it’s likely Smiths Station will fall from this perch at some point. It still has tough games to play against Opelika, Carver-Montgomery and Central. But there has been no team as impressive in the early part of the season.

The Panthers’ win against Auburn was no fluke, either. Watching the game, it was clear which was the better team. Smiths Station’s defense was dominant all game, particularly in the second half, and the offense found ways to move the ball consistently both on the ground and through the air.

If the Panthers can be careful over the next few weeks and avoid slipping into the trap of a let-down game, it’s likely they could start the season 6-0 heading into a game against Opelika, a feat it hasn’t accomplished since 1996 when it won 12 straight before losing in the playoffs.

Time will tell.

Week 2 Power rankings

1. Smiths Station (3-0, 2-0)

Its win over Auburn was only the second in the past 16 tries for Smiths Station. If that isn’t a sign this team is ready to get over the hump and into the playoffs this season, I’m not sure what is.

2. Carver (2-1, 0-0)

A 34-0 shutout looks bad, but keep in mind that it came against Colquitt County, the No. 3 team in Class AAAAAA. Carver lost the same game 33-0 last season, and rebounded to win out the regular season and advance to the state quarterfinals. I expect a similar response this season.

3. Manchester (3-0, 1-0)

The Manchester defense was supposed to take a step back after losing the majority of its starters this year. Not so much. In three games, it has outscored its opponents 125-22. Once again, it is looking like a strong playoff contender.

4. Central (1-2, 0-2)

The Red Devils have played the hardest schedule in the Bi-City area during the first quarter of the season. It defeated a vastly improved Russell County squad, then had to travel to face Carver-Montgomery before hosting Opelika. It’ll have a chance to get back on the right track over the next few weeks.

5. Harris County (2-1, 0-0)

It’s opening-week hiccup is a distant memory now as Harris County has rebounded nicely to win two games it lost last season. The next one against Callaway will be interesting. Callaway is a very solid team.

Just missed

Shaw, Marion County, Russell County, Pacelli, Hardaway

I couldn’t pick just a couple teams here. All five of these deserve to be mentioned. Shaw got a big win over Hardaway, 22-17, but that was only the Hawks’ first lost. Marion County and Pacelli are undefeated in Class A, and Russell County is 2-1 with its only loss coming to Central. A good start for all of them.

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