BAYSIDE ACADEMY (11-3) VS.
WHEN: 11 a.m. today
PLAYOFF PATH: Bayside Academy beat Fultondale 42-10, Daleville 49-41, Gordo 17-14 and Hillcrest-Evergreen 36-0; Piedmont beat Lexington 34-0, Oakman 64-22, Madison Academy 35-21 and Colbert County 14-0
FINALS HISTORY: Bayside Academy is making its first finals appearance. Piedmont beat Cordova 35-28 in overtime in 2009 in its lone trip to finals.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Bayside Academy — RB Wil Cox (1,222 rushing yards, 29 TDs), QB/LB Connor Sirmon (1,124 passing yards, 84 tackles), WR Charles Norton (31 receptions, 461 yards), OL/DL Jack Heebe (6-2, 275-pound senior has 80 tackles, three sacks); Piedmont — QB Taylor Hayes (1,631 passing yards, 18 TDs, 1,495 rushing yards, 16 TDs), RB Darnell Jackson (1,371 rushing yards, 19 TDs), WR Bayley Blanchard (32 catches, 767 yards, 12 TDs), DL Chase Bobbitt (111 tackles, 13 sacks), LB Neonta Alexander (147 tackles)
NOTEWORTHY: Bayside Academy finished second in its region to T.R. Miller and earned its first championship game appearance despite missing the playoffs last year. Coach Phil Lazenby, now in his 39th season coaching, lost twice in the championship game while at Benjamin Russell in 1997 and 2000. He served as an assistant coach for three state championship teams at UMS-Wright before taking the helm at Bayside in 2007. The Admirals upset second-ranked Gordo on the road in the quarterfinals, scoring with 21 seconds left to cap a 92-yard drive.
Piedmont dethroned three-time defending champion and No. 1 Madison Academy on the road in the quarterfinals, avenging elimination losses to the Mustangs the previous two years. The Bulldogs have won nine straight games since losing to Class 4A finalist and defending champion Leeds. Coach Steve Smith is 107-23 in 10 years at Piedmont, having previously coached for 11 years at Class 1A finalist Cedar Bluff. The Bulldogs pitched their fourth shutout last week, blanking host Colbert County that was averaging 32.6 points per contest.
MAPLESVILLE (12-1) VS.
CEDAR BLUFF (13-1)
WHEN: 3 p.m. today
PLAYOFF PATH: Maplesville beat Kinston 49-12, Marengo 50-6, Georgiana 36-28 and Linden 50-19; Cedar Bluff beat Ragland 47-26, Hackleburg 37-14, Wadley 34-27 and Decatur Heritage 53-40
FINALS HISTORY: Maplesville is 2-2 in championship game appearances, adding to its 1996 title with a 49-0 win over Hubbertville in 2014. Cedar Bluff is making its second trip to the finals, losing to Sweet Water 48-0 in 2006
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Maplesville — QB Cole Spencer (1,290 passing yards, 12 TDs), RB Terence Dunlap (2,261 rushing yards, 32 TDs, 9.7 yards per carry), DL Corey Hall (105 tackles, nine sacks), CB Jerry Nix III (40 tackles, seven interceptions); Cedar Bluff — RB Ivory Starr (freshman has 2,493 yards rushing, 30 TDs, nine yards per carry), QB Josh Decker (1,620 yards passing, 21 TDs plus 545 yards rushing, 21 TDs), LB Ross Johnson (124 tackles), LB Logan Shinn (260-pounder has 100 tackles).
NOTEWORTHY: M aplesville has won 10 games or more games seven straight years and seeks to defend last year’s title in their third straight trip to the finals. The Red Devils have reeled off eight straight wins since losing to Tanner, the top-ranked team in Class 2A. Maplesville allows only 13.2 points per game and has four shutouts. Meanwhile, the offense has tallied 40.8 points per outing. Coach Brent Hubbert has compiled a 115-14 record the past 10 seasons, following in the footsteps of his father, Jim, who coached 14 years at Maplesville, including a 1996 championship.
Cedar Bluff quarterback Josh Decker scored on three straight possessions — part of his six-touchdown performance — to seal the Tigers comeback in last week’s semifinal. The fourth-ranked Tigers also got 247 rushing yards from freshman Ivory Starr. This is Cedar Bluff’s first trip to the finals since coach Jonathan McWhorter’s first year in 2006. The Tigers have advanced past the second round only once in the eight seasons between championship appearances. Cedar Bluff’s offense is averaging 43.7 games, scoring more than 62 points in three contests.
ST. PAUL’S (12-2) VS.
MORTIMER JORDAN (13-1)
WHEN: 7 p.m. today
PLAYOFF PATH: St. Paul’s beat Sylacauga 42-17, Greenville 24-23, Demopolis 35-13 and Jackson 35-24; Mortimer Jordan beat Lawrence County 46-20, Wenonah 30-20, Guntersville 26-0 and Alexandria 42-36 (OT)
FINALS HISTORY: St. Paul’s is 2-1 in the finals, most recently defeating Pleasant Grove 35-13 in 2014. Mortimer Jordan makes its first championship game appearance.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: St. Paul’s — RB Ostin McPherson (1,804 yards, 17 TDs), QB Miller Mosley (1,387 passing yards, 13 TDs plus 709 yards rushing), LB Noah Michael (117 tackles), LB B.J. Edmonds (98 tackles, four interceptions), OL/DL Darius Whitfield (6-3, 275-pound South Carolina commit dominant on both lines); Mortimer Jordan — QB Duncan Hodges (2,652 passing yards, 24 TDs plus 746 rushing yards, 12 TDs), RB Kalin Stringer (960 rushing yards, eight TDs), RB/DE Spencer Brown (867 yards rushing, 24 TDs, 88 tackles, 11 sacks), WR Jacob Dean (62 receptions, 1,121 yards, 8 TDs), LB Colby Moon (92 tackles)
NOTEWORTHY: St. Paul’s has won more than 10 games six straight seasons, the first two of those coming under the guidance of current St. James coach Jimmy Perry. Veteran coach Steve Mask, who led Colbert County to a 2002 Class 3A runner-up finish, has compiled a 48-8 record in his four seasons. The fifth-ranked Saints atoned for a Week 4 loss to undefeated No. 1 Jackson in last week’s semifinals, converting a pair of fourth-quarter muffed punts into scores. St. Paul’s also handed No. 3 Greenville its only loss with a one-point win in the second round. Current Alabama quarterback Jake Coker and former Crimson Tide signal caller AJ McCarron are both St. Paul’s alums
Mortimer Jordan makes its first appearance in the finals, overcoming a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to win in overtime at Alexandria last week. The semifinal win gave the Blue Devils revenge for their lone blemish, a 39-36 loss to Alexandria in early October. Mortimer Jordan had previously never advanced past the quarterfinals. The 13 wins and 585 points both established new highs for the No. 8 Blue Devils. While the Mortimer Jordan offense averages 41.8 points, the defense has given up more than 35 five times. Third-year coach Dusty Goode has made improvement each year since a 4-7 debut.