Fourteen high school football teams take unbeaten records into the 2012 AHSAA state football playoffs, which begin Friday night with 96 first-round games.
In addition, five of the 2011 state champions return. None of them, however, are unbeaten after Jackson (9-1) and Marion County (9-1) fell in week 10 to Thomasville and Red Bay, respectively, snapping the state’s current two longest winning streaks.
Coach Danny Powell’s Aggies had won 24 straight games since he moved from neighboring Leroy to take over the Jackson program last season. He led the Aggies to a 15-0 record and the 4A state title and will lead his team into the 5A state playoffs this week. Marion County (9-1) had won 16 straight before the Red Bay loss.
Defending Class 2A state champion Elba (6-4) returns to the 2A playoffs. Class 3A state champion Handley (6-4) moved up to 4A and made that 32-team field, while defending 5A state champion Hartselle qualified again. Prattville, the 2011 Class 6A state champion, did not make the field.
Classes 1A, 3A and 5A have the most unbeaten teams heading into the state playoffs with three each. Classes 2A and 6A have two each and Class 4A has one, Oneonta (10-0). The Redskins reached the 4A finals last season and have now won 16 of their last 17 contests.
Unbeaten teams through the regular season include: Class 1A: Brantley (10-0), Ragland (10-0) and Cedar Bluff (9-0); Class 2A: Fyffe (10-0) and 2011 runner-up Tanner (9-0); Class 3A: Daleville (10-0), Piedmont (10-0) and Hamilton (10-0); Class 5A: McAdory (10-0), Fort Payne (10-0) and Muscle Shoals (10-0); and Class 6A: 2011 runner-up Hoover (10-0) and McGill-Toolen (10-0).
This year’s playoffs mark the 29th year since the six-classification format was introduced in 1984. A four-class format was used during the first 20 years of the playoff system that began in 1966.
The top four finishers from each of the eight regions are paired in a 32-team, rotating bracket by classification for the five rounds of the competition.