Tough matchups across the state simply don’t hold as much weight as region games, and Calhoun County teams Donoho and Jacksonville Christian have games with meaning Friday night. Everyone else waits until Week 2.
But once the second week of games arrives, the true grind is underway for the rest. Similarly to every other year, the champion in most regions will come down to the ninth week, and there will be chaotic messes until those same games are over, as well.
But then again, that’s football.
Here's a look at how we think the region races involving Calhoun County teams will shake out:
Class 6A, Region 7
Overview: Discussing the 2012 season isn’t a hot commodity around Oxford. The Yellow Jackets finished 6-4 and missed the playoffs. Head coach John Grass left after the season to be Jackonsville State's offensive coordinator.
The good news is 2013 is going to be better. While second-ranked Clay-Chalkville is the frontrunner to win the region, Oxford is ranked just outside the Class 6A top 10 and is capable of making some special things happen. Auburn commitment Racean Thomas and rising standout quarterback Ty Webber are back. It’ll take leadership on this team to get the Yellow Jackets back into the postseason, but that’s likely to happen.
Oxford will see where it stands against the best when it travels to Clay-Chalkville in Week 2. That game will provide good measuring stick for where the team is early on and see where it still needs improvement.
Region playoff teams: Clay-Chalkville, Gadsden City, Oxford and Pell City.
Darkhorses: Huntsville and Grissom.
Class 4A, Region 5
Overview: Last season included an all-out battle for the four postseason spots. Midway through the season, Jacksonville was 3-1 in the region and appeared to have a strong hold on a playoff spot, but instead didn’t win another game. Cleburne County started the 2012 season 0-3 before nearly making the playoffs.
Alexandria ended up taking the title with a 6-1 region record, but from the top spot to the sixth, everything was decided in Week 9.
Despite how the 2012 season ended for Cleburne County, the Tigers are ranked 10th in the state in 4A and appear to be a frontrunner to win the region. Munford also has eight returning starters on defense, and do-it-all quarterback Monteo Garrett back, which could make things interesting.
However, it’s hard to sleep on Alexandria after the Valley Cubs defeated second-ranked Oneonta in its jamboree last Friday. And although Jacksonville has only made the playoffs once in the last decade the Golden Eagles have seniors scattered all over the field. Anniston is a question mark early in the season due to youth and inexperience, but if the Bulldogs can hit midseason form in time they may be back in the playoffs.
Just like last season, everything will come down to the Week 9 in what has been a crazy, crazy region.
Region playoff teams: Alexandria, Cleburne County, Jacksonville and Munford.
Darkhorses: Anniston and Cherokee County.
Class 3A, Region 5
Overview: It’s no secret this was Piedmont’s region last season.
The Bulldogs dominated every region game in 2012, winning by an average of 37.2 points. Despite losing 23 seniors off that team, the region is still third-ranked Piedmont’s until it’s dethroned.
Head coach Steve Smith will have Randolph County transfer Ty Sparks at quarterback and a list of running backs and receivers back from last year. Defensively, however, the Bulldogs aren't as deep.
But with 23 players graduating, that's understandable.
This season could be the year of the Saks Wildcats. Tre Smith is moving from wide receiver to quarterback, and the senior has the possibility of scoring every time he touches the ball — that’s every offensive play.
Saks met Piedmont for the region championship last season in mid-October and we may see a rematch this year.
Weaver and White Plains are also two teams looking to avenge last year. The Bearcats narrowly missed the playoffs, while White Plains is still trying to get to that point, which is coming sooner than later. Look for both teams to make some moves this fall.
Region playoff teams: Glencoe, Piedmont, Saks and Weaver.
Darkhorses: Susan Moore and White Plains.
Class 2A, Region 6
Overview: Wellborn and Woodland played for what ended up being the region championship last season, and as the Panthers enter the 2013 season ranked fourth and the Bobcats 10th, they may do it all over again this fall. But while Wellborn and Woodland ran the show last season, the middle of the pack may see some changes in 2013.
With Fultondale without do-it-all player ArDarius Stewart there is room for someone to step up. Vincent, which was beatable last season, also isn’t a shoe-in for the postseason either.
Ohatchee brings the most hype into the season with several big-time players returning, and it wouldn’t be surprising for Ranburne to make a push at a postseason berth with Dylan Wiggins at QB. There’s also an outside shot for Pleasant Valley to make a run with the growth Lucas Ford has made at quarterback.
Region playoff teams: Fultondale, Ohatchee, Wellborn and Woodland.
Darkhorses: Pleasant Valley and Ranburne.
Class 1A, Region 7
Overview: Expect some changes in this region.
Cedar Bluff isn’t going to be as good as last season, and that’ll give Collinsville a chance to step in and take over. Also in the playoff picture, Spring Garden lost Forrest Livingston, who holds the school record for rushing yards, and will look to huddle around quarterback Will Ivey to keep things on pace.
For Donoho, the Falcons should be looking at another playoff run. Donoho plays the easier teams in the region first and may need to steal a win in the latter part of the season in order to host a game in the first round. They'll need to finish first or second to do that, but the Falcons should make the playoffs regardless.
Jacksonville Christian is still looking to climb. Head coach Tommy Miller is known as “the man with the hardest job in Alabama” for a reason. JCA is still building a program since joining the AHSAA in 2002. Saying that, the Thunder still should see improvements from last season.
Region playoff teams: Cedar Bluff, Collinsville, Donoho and Gaylesville.
Darkhorses: JCA and Spring Garden.
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Anniston Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star