Continuing on with our high school football coverage, I’m going to preview Class 6A, Region 3. This region took one of the biggest hits during the reclassifications before the 2020 season. Selma and Opelika were removed from the region, and Pelham, Helena, and Chilton County were all added into this region. Pelham and Helena join Calera as teams from Shelby County. Stanhope Elmore, Wetumpka, and Benjamin Russell all remain in the region.
#14 Stanhope Elmore Mustangs
Stanhope Elmore enters 2020 as the only Region 3 team ranked in the ASWA Pre-season rankings, receiving 15 points from the voters. The Mustangs are coming off a 9-3 campaign in 2019 that was good enough to finish second in the region and led to the program’s first playoff victory since 2010, beating Paul Bryant 35-13 in the first round of the playoffs. Head coach Brian Radford enters his fourth season with a 20-14 record, being outscored 752-742 in his time as the coach. The Mustangs will look to 2019 ASWA All-State Honorable Mention, William Whitlow Jr. to be their leader on the defensive side of the football. Offensively, they will look to improve on their 23.8 points per game from 2019, as they try to become an offensive power in 2020. Stanhope Elmore will likely win the region this season, as they are coming off a season in which they beat Chilton County, Calera, Wetumka, and Benjamin Russell. If they can repeat those results, they would be 4-2, depending on how their matchups with the newcomers go. Stanhope Elmore opens their 2020 season up on August 21 at Selma High School.
To be quite frank, the fact that Helena didn’t receive a single vote in the ASWA Pre-season poll baffles me. 2019 was the best season in the school’s young history. After losing their second game to Hueytown 32-24, Helena went on an eight-game win streak, en route to winning Region 5 of Class 6A. Helena scored 387 points (35.2 PPG) while only allowing 196 points (17.8 PPG). While the competition they faced wasn’t too stellar, the Huskies still had a very impressive season under second-year head coach Richie Bubsy. The Huskies return two All-State players in Sr. RB Marquis Johnson and Sr. OL Seaburn Hines. The biggest test for the Huskies will be in the postseason, in my opinion. Helena is 1-3 in the playoffs since the first appearance in 2014. I think Helena has the potential to be a dangerous team in Region 3 this season, and they could make some noise in the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if Helena finished second or better in Region 3 this season. They could definitely pull off some big wins, including what I’m calling now as a victory over Stanhope Elmore. Helena opens up their 2020 season on August 21 at home against Dallas County.
The Indians are just three years removed from a state title game appearance, but they haven’t been too glorious since that 2017 season. 2020 could be a chance for Wetumpka to get back into the championship conversation. Coming off a 6-6 season that saw the Indians’ defense allow a school-record 359 points, Wetumpka looks positioned to return to the playoffs again. At this particular moment, I have Wetumpka finishing third in the region, but the Indians could very easily finish higher. Head coach Tim Perry is entering his ninth season at the helm with a 59-37 record, outscoring opponents 2853-2374. If recent years are any indication as to what we should expect from the Indians, we should expect an offense that will put up points, and a defense that will allow a lot of points. I expect a good amount of high-scoring shootouts for the Indians this year, especially against Helena. I would not be surprised to see close to 100 total points be scored in that matchup this season. Wetumka opens up its season on August 21 at the Cramton Bowl against Prattville.
Benjamin Russell Wildcats
Benjamin Russell is about as middle-of-the-road as you can get. The Wildcats are coming off back-to-back five loss seasons under head coach Kevin Smith. Playing in a small region with six teams allowed Benjamin Russell to make the playoffs in 2018 with a 5-5 record, but that same regular-season record in 2019 left the Wildcats out of the playoffs. Benjamin Russell’s season was full of extreme highs and extreme lows, in this case, blowouts galore. The Wildcats’ average margin of victory in 2019 was 28.4 points (4 TDs) but their average margin of defeat was 19.6 points (3 possessions). Benjamin Russell will have to hope the offense shows up more often than not in 2020 because this region will be full of high-powered offenses. If Benjamin Russel wants to return to the playoffs this year, then they will have to win some shootouts, or else one of the next three teams will slip into the fourth spot. Benjamin Russell starts its season at Huffman on August 21.
Calera is coming off back-to-back nine loss seasons. After beating Pelham 27-20 in “Week 0,” Calera lost nine-straight games to finish the season off, allowing a school-record 354 points. The Eagles only scored 135 points (13.5 PPG) en route to losing by an average of 25.1 points every week. Calera never scored more than 27 points, an offensive mark they reached twice. Calera will have to find something that works on both sides of the football if they are going to try to make the playoffs in 2020. I think Calera will finish in fifth in the region, as the Eagles have a better defense than Pelham and Chilton County do. Calera opens up the 2020 season on the road at Demopolis on August 21.
Tom Causey’s time as Pelham’s head coach has been full of ups and downs, and 2019 was no exception to that. Causey took over as Pelham’s head coach in 2015, leading the Panthers to an 18-34 record in his time. 2019 was supposed to be a very good season, coming off a playoff appearance in 2018. The Panthers did not live up to that expectation. Pelham lost the first six games of the season, including a very rare loss to Oak Mountain. Three straight wins followed by a 62-20 loss to Pelham left the Panthers at 3-7, good enough for fifth in their region. Defense has not been a strength for this program under Tom Causey. In Causey’s first five seasons, Pelham was outscored 1290-1676, with over 300 of those points being allowed in 2019. If Pelham can’t get the defense under control, they won’t stand a chance in this offensive region. Pelham opens up the 2020 season on August 21 at Mortimer Jordan.
Chilton County Tigers
Chilton County is brand new to class 6A, so we shouldn’t expect too much out of Tal Morrison’s squad in 2020. Chilton County was never great in 5A, and they won’t be too spectacular in 6A. The Tigers are 11-21 since Morrison took over in 2017, being outscored 603-906 in a middle-of-the-road 5A region. I’d expect Chilton County to eventually find their stride, but this will not be the year. The offense is not going to be able to keep up with the high-powered offenses of Stanhope Elmore, Helena, Wetumka, and Benjamin Russell. I expect the Tigers to get a couple of wins outside of the region, probably against Jemison and Marbury, but no more than one win inside the region, probably against Pelham. Chilton County starts the season on August 21 at home against Central Clay County.