Hartselle (6-4) at No. 3 Fort Payne (10-0)
Series: Hartselle leads 3-1
Last Meeting: Fort Payne won 17-13 in 2001
Stuggles down the stretch – Hartselle has hit a rut in the last couple of weeks. While the Tigers have controlled games against Russellville and Austin early on, Hartselle has not been able to put away teams down the stretch. A reason for that has been turnovers, as Hartselle has turned it over five times in the fourth quarter in the last two weeks. If Hartselle can keep control of the football, the Tigers have a realistic chance of pulling off the upset against Fort Payne.
Hartselle finishes season with toughest schedule – The Tigers have been battle-tested heading into the playoffs. According to some statistical services, Hartselle has played the toughest schedule in Class 5A. Their opponents’ combined record is 61-40, making it one of the toughest schedules in any classification. In comparison, Fort Payne, while 10-0, has played opponents with a combined record of 39-51.
Missing from the rankings: Hartselle’s 6-4 record broke a nearly four-year streak of being ranked in the ASWA Top 10. The last time Hartselle failed to be ranked was in 2007, when Hartselle finished 4-7 but still made the playoffs. That year as a No. 4 seed, Hartselle lost a 42-41 shootout with Cullman, which went all the way to the semifinals. The next season, Hartselle began its four-year region championship streak.
Stats for Hartselle – Deacon Aldridge, pass 181-107-1,212 9 TD, 5 INT, rush 104-558 4 TD; Blake Slayton, rush: 116-744 8 TD, rec: 17-149 TD; D’Andre Mack, rush: 42-256 5 TD; Masio Stover, rush: 30-168 4 TD; Sidney Steele, rec: 36-508 4 TD; Preston Adams, rec: 23-200 TD; Nick Beach, rec: 15-208 2 TD; Tanner Oakes, rec: 13-200 TD; Zane Hamlett, rec. 5-55 2 TD.