The first round of high school football playoffs will hit the Plains on Friday night as gears up to make a run toward its first state championship.
The sixth-ranked Tigers, who fell just short of having an undefeated season but have enjoyed their best start since 2018, secured the Region 2 Championship for the first time since 2013. The road to Tuscaloosa begins with the Baker Hornets Friday night. It will be the first time the two programs have ever met on the gridiron.
“We started this year not knowing if we would be able to play,” said AHS head coach Adam Winegarden. “The fact we are here is really remarkable.”
Baker comes into the game 5-4, finishing fourth in Region 1. The Hornets boast wins over Foley, Alma Bryant, Mary Montgomery, Murphy, and Davidson with losses to UMS-Wright, Theodore, Fairhope, and Daphne.
Auburn comes into the game 9-1 with wins over Park Crossing, Opelika, Prattville, Dothan High, Jeff Davis, Bob Jones, Central-Phenix City, Riverdale, Smiths Station, and a loss to Enterprise.
The Tigers have scored an average of 29.8 points on the season and only need two more points to make it 300 for the year. Baker’s defense has allowed only an average of 19.3 points per game on defense, whereas their offense is averaging 27.7 points per game, almost two fewer points than Auburn’s offense. The Tigers' defense has only allowed an average of 13.1 points per game.
When Auburn faces Baker, it is not only to advance in the playoffs, but also to break even in their playoff record. The Tigers are 23-23 all-time in the playoffs, and 13-10 in the first round. Baker is 1-7 all-time in playoff history, only having won in the first round once. While the statistics lean heavily in favor of Auburn, there is one that could draw some concern. Baker’s opponents have a combined record of 54-45, where Auburn’s are only 46-51. This means that while Auburn may have the superior record, Baker has played tougher opponents.
Playoffs bring out the best in every team and this Auburn team is trying to prove that they are the best team in the state. While the championship is always in mind, Winegarden knows that his team’s focus needs to be all on Baker.
“We are trying to keep the kids on the same process as all year,” said Winegarden. "We aren’t going to focus on what’s possible, we are focused on what’s guaranteed."
Auburn will host Baker at Duck Samford Stadium Friday night, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.
Lee-Scott to face Bessemer
After a week of nervously waiting, the Lee-Scott Academy Warriors got news that their season was not over and that they would control their own destiny with a playoff bid. The Warriors now have the opportunity to accomplish a goal that hasn’t been done since 1994: bring home a state title.
The journey to the championship begins Thursday night when the Warriors take on Bessemer Academy. The two foes faced off during the regular season, with Bessemer taking home the 43-6 win.
The Warriors come into the game 2-6 with wins over Springwood and Valiant Cross Academy. All season, the play of Lee-Scott quarterback Tate McKelvey has drawn praise, but first year head coach Buster Daniel has emphasized that more support is needed to put up better offensive production. When the team has done well, it has done so running the football, and the running game must be a focal point in order to pull off an upset on Thursday. The defense will need to step up as well, with the Rebels scoring an average of 41.3 points per game.
Bessemer Academy will host Lee-Scott Academy on Thursday at Norton Field, with kickoff set for 6 p.m.