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Playoff bracket balanced in 5A

Looking to pick a favorite from the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 5A playoffs to reach Auburn for the Super 6?
There’s plenty of quality candidates.
Hartselle is surely a leader with a 9-1 record and a balanced team with few weaknesses.
“It’s now a five-week season,” said Hartselle head coach Bob Godsey after Friday night’s win over Austin. “I don’t know if we can win it or not but we are certainly going to try.
“It’s always going to be that way. There is a lot of good teams out there but we are going to go for it. You can’t be afraid to go for something big in life and that’s what we try to teach our players.”
Godsey looks at the 5A bracket and sees a handful of teams that could find their way to Auburn with a good run over the next month, including Fort Payne (10-0), Russellville (9-1), Briarwood Christian (9-1) Muscle Shoals (8-2) and Chelsea (8-2).
Briarwood enters the season ranked second behind Hartselle after a strong regular season that featured only one loss, a 34-10 thrashing by Class 6A power Vestavia Hills. Expect a second round matchup between Briarwood and Walker.
Fort Payne has allowed more than 14 points in a game just twice this season, though the Wildcats do have a tough challenge in the first round with J.O. Johnson.
Some might question Fort Payne’s schedule as being a little watered down, but remember, the Wildcats hammered Cullman in the fifth week of the season.
Muscle Shoals has certainly drawn attention this season, especially after an 8-7 win over Class 4A power Deshler last week.
The Trojans were the last team to beat Hartselle in a region game last season when both were playing in Region 8.
Russellville has already beaten Muscle Shoals this season, but lost to Walker in a fifth-week non-region game.
A perennial 5A favorite, Russellville has reached the state championship game five times in the last eight years.
But really nothing else matters for Hartselle right now other than Pinson Valley. That’s the first game of a new season that could carry the Tigers to Auburn in December.

Sports editor Todd Thompson can be reached at 773-6566 or at