Kaniji Chandler

Gardendale junior Kaniji Chandler heads back to the sideline after running in a 6-yard touchdown last week at Minor Stadium.

The playoff field has been cut to 16 teams for those competing in Class 1A through 6A. Three local schools, including Class 6A No. 3 Pinson Valley and No. 10 Gardendale along with 5A No. 9 Mortimer Jordan, will take the field this Friday night in the second round of the state playoffs.

Gardendale vs. Muscle Shoals

They’re ranked second in the state for good reason.

Muscle Shoals (11-0) has not been pushed all season, including last week’s 61-20 drubbing of Albertville in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. The Trojans have won their first 11 games by an average score of 44-10 and have not allowed an opponent to eclipse 21 points scored this year.

According to the Times Daily, Muscle Shoals scored touchdowns in all three phases last week. Thomas Marinelli picked off a pass and ran it back 34 yards to the end zone and Jacob Peters later scooped up the second-half kickoff and returned it 62 yards, giving the home team a pair of non-offensive touchdowns.

The Trojans are quarterbacked by Logan Smothers—a Nebraska pledge who tossed four touchdowns during a dominant first-round win over Albertville. Defensively, the Region 7 champions look to senior middle linebacker Jackson Bratton—an Alabama commit with additional offers from Clemson, Auburn, Texas A&M and others.

No. 10 Gardendale (8-3) has certainly been battle tested by a region comprised of No. 3 Pinson Valley, No. 4 Oxford and No. 9 Clay-Chalkville, but it’s hard not to pick Muscle Shoals in this one.

Mortimer Jordan at Guntersville

Guntersville (8-2) has been flat out good in close games this season. The Wildcats are 4-1 in games decided by seven points or less, with two of those wins coming in the final two weeks of the regular season when they beat East Limestone 28-26 in Week 9 and held off Albertville 24-21 in Week 10.

Guntersville—the 3-seed coming out of Class 5A, Region 8—began postseason play with a 31-9 win at Hamilton last Friday, securing their first second-round berth since 2015 when Mortimer Jordan beat the Wildcats 26-0 on their way to a state championship game appearance. This will be the third all-time meeting between the two programs, which are even at 1-1.

I’ve got the Blue Devils winning their 21st-ever playoff game on Friday night.

Pinson Valley at Fort Payne

Fort Payne (9-2) would need a lot to go right in this second-round playoff game.

The Wildcats won a second straight Class 6A, Region 8 championship this year. Region 8, however, did not prepare them for the defense coming to Wildcat Stadium on Friday night. No. 3 Pinson Valley—the 2-seed coming out of Region 6—has surrendered a grand total of 19 points over the last five games, dating back to Oct. 4.

The Indians (8-2) have won each of their 11 playoff games under third-year head coach Patrick Nix, and I expect them to make it 12 for 12 at some point Friday night.

Erik Harris is the sports editor for The North Jefferson News. He can be reached at sports@njeffersonnews.com

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