Valley Preps

Preps football is almost here. 4 predictions for Columbus-area teams heading into season

Raw Video: Watch Jamey DuBose, Central Red Devils accept state championship trophy

The Central High School Red Devils won their first state football championship Wednesday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama, defeating Thompson 52-7. Here's the moment DuBose accepted the trophy and walked it over to the team.
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The Central High School Red Devils won their first state football championship Wednesday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama, defeating Thompson 52-7. Here's the moment DuBose accepted the trophy and walked it over to the team.

It won’t be long now until bleachers begin filling up with hundreds of anxious fans, parents and students each Friday night.

High school football starts back in about a month, and the 21 programs around Columbus and Phenix City each enter the season with varying levels of expectations, from state-championship hopefuls to teams just trying to make the jump into the playoffs.

With all that in mind, here are some predictions for the 2019 preps football season.

No. 1: Central makes the Alabama Class 7A state championship

Might as well start out bold.

The Red Devils dominated everybody last season. They finished 14-0, scored 40-plus points in all but three of their games and won the Alabama Class 7A state championship by 45 points. It was Central’s first undefeated and untied season in 74 years.

The Red Devils lose some major talent: quarterback Peter Parrish, the Ledger-Enquirer’s Player of the Year for the 2018 All-Bi-City Football Team, graduated this past spring. So did linebacker Xavier Billingsley, the L-E’s Defensive Player of the Year, and tight end Kameron Mason, who made the L-E’s All-Bi-City second-team offense.

But the Red Devils also return a plethora of talent, and a coach who knows how to manage it.

Receiver E.J. Williams, a projected Clemson commit, headlines a talented Central offense that includes three-star pro-style quarterback Tucker Melton, running back Joseph McKay and receiver Jackson Meeks. There might be a bit of a drop-off from last season’s unbeaten champions, but nothing too significant.

Much more will be known, of course, when the Red Devils face perennial power Hoover in the AHSAA Kickoff Classic, held August 22 at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl.

No. 2: All four area private schools make the playoffs

Brookstone, Pacelli, Calvary and Glenwood, on paper, share very few similarities. At their core, Brookstone and Pacelli are in much different places than Calvary and Glenwood, which are both much smaller schools and teams.

However, the schedules line up favorably for each team to make the playoffs.

The Cougars return a solid amount of experience on both sides of the ball. Depth remains an issue, but the Cougars have stood neck-and-neck with Marion County and Manchester each year. Calvary’s football team has made the playoffs in each year of its eight-year existence, and the Gators beat Lee-Scott and took Bessemer to overtime in last year’s playoffs.

The biggest question surrounds Pacelli, and whether the Vikings can turn around last year’s 4-6, playoff-less season that ended with two consecutive blowout losses. The Vikings’ six losses all came by double digits, the closest a 22-7 loss to GHSA 5-A Landmark Christian. The Vikings and Cougars play for the Broocelli Jug on October 4.

No. 3: Kendrick wins more than one game

At some point, something’s got to give.

Kendrick is 2-18 over the previous two seasons — back-to-back 1-9 records (and a 0-10 dud before that) — so there’s little reason for optimism about the state of the Cherokees. The Cherokees’ only two wins since 2015 came against Rutland, and were not blowouts, so that probably will not change this season.

The team that finished one spot above Kendrick in region 4-AAA, Central (Macon), beat the Cherokees 34-0 last season and 18-12 the year before that. The Cherokees host the Chargers on October 12. If Kendrick is to win that elusive second game, it will have to come then.

No. 4: Carver, Marion each win at least nine games

Carver rattled off a 9-1 regular season in 2018 before being upset by Woodward Academy in the first round of the GHSA 4-A playoffs. Marion County went 12-1 and lost in the GHSA 2-A semifinals. So, two big seasons from two of the area’s more successful programs should not be a questionable prediction.

Marion County went unbeaten in the 2018 regular season and handled region opponents Manchester, Brookstone and Pacelli without many issues. Manchester could serve as the Eagles’ toughest test, but they will likely hit nine wins even if they slip up and fall to both Manchester and Brookstone.

At Carver, the Tigers seem to be trending positively. They followed a 3-8 2017 season with a region runner-up campaign last year, with the one regular-season loss coming to region champion Cairo.

Follow the Ledger-Enquirer’s preps football coverage at and on Twitter @lesports.

Joshua Mixon is a reporter for the Ledger-Enquirer. He covers sports (Auburn and preps) and local news, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America. He previously covered Georgia athletics for the Macon Telegraph. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshDMixon.