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Good year for local spikers

By Staff
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
PELHAM — It certainly wasn’t the end result any of the three teams wanted, but it was still perhaps the most successful year ever for area high school volleyball teams. For the first time in history, both Brewer and Hartselle advanced to the Elite Eight, and Danville made it for the second-straight season.
Of the five teams in the Enquirer’s coverage area, there were four who were either area champion or runner-up (Hartselle, Brewer, Danville and Falkville) and two who were regional champions (Danville and Hartselle). Considering that just 16 teams advance to the regional round per classification, that is quite an accomplishment for area teams. The Lady Hawks and Lady Tigers also spent the entirety of the regular season ranked in the Birmingham News state Top 10 volleyball poll.
In a sport that has usually been dominated by the bigger Huntsville schools to the north, Morgan County proved it has plenty of capable players and coaches of its own this season. Congratulations to all of them for a successful season.
And now, changing from one state tournament to another, here’s this week’s playoff picks:
Benjamin Russell Wildcats at Hartselle Tigers: After a one-year absence, the Tigers are back in the playoffs and have their eyes set on a lengthy postseason run after finishing second in Region 8. In their way is a very tough opponent in Benjamin Russell, who has made the playoffs 11 straight seasons and last year advanced to the Class 5A semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Homewood. The Wildcats have a fast and physical defense that has held its opponents to exactly 16 points per game during the regular season, and their running game led by senior Chaz Russell is very potent at times. Hartselle will have to use balance on offense and will probably want to control the clock to tire out that talented Benjamin Russell defense. It should be a battle to the final horn, but I see the Tigers’ own defense making some big stops late to take the victory…Tigers 27, Wildcats 24.
Falkville Blue Devils at Addison Bulldogs: Addison is typically a powerhouse team, and this year is no exception. The Bulldogs outscored their regular season opponents 314-134 and their only loss this season was to Class 3A West Morgan. Falkville has made the playoffs for the second-straight year, but it’s tough to see the Blue Devils lasting more than one round in the playoffs…Bulldogs 35, Blue Devils 14.
Alabama Crimson Tide (6-4, 2-4 in SEC) at LSU Tigers (7-2, 3-2): If there is one thing certain about the SEC, it’s that you can’t script this conference. Who would have thought the SEC champion from last year (Georgia) would be in the cellar of the SEC East this year? In this wacky conference season, I feel that the Crimson Tide has nothing to lose and will give the Bayou Bengals all they can handle. LSU’s offense is inconsistent, so I expect this game to be a defensive battle and for Alabama to somehow pull it out…Crimson Tide 13, LSU 10.
Georgia Bulldogs (6-4, 3-4) at Auburn Tigers (9-1, 5-1): Last season’s Auburn-Georgia game was an instant classic. With the Bulldogs having lost four of their last five, you might think that this game will be a blowout in favor of the home team. And you know what, I think you’re probably right…Tigers 28, Bulldogs 7.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-1) at Air Force Falcons (4-4): You might remember Air Force as the team that nearly defeated Tennessee in Knoxville in the opening game of the season. Since then, the Falcons have been woefully inconsistent, clobbering Army 43-7 while losing to San Diego State 19-12. Even so, playing in the cold Colorado Springs mountain air should give the Falcons an advantage at least for a while. Then the Notre Dame offense will take over and the defense will adjust to the triple option and the Irish will pick up their ninth win of the season…Fighting Irish 38, Falcons 20.

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