We have closed out the 2017 Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) football regular season.
Plenty of story lines to tell for the final week from dealing with stadium lights going out during the second half kickoff at Falkville on Thursday, plus 70 degree weather, fog and a full moon on Friday night in covering the Good Hope-Hanceville game.
Not to mention, 20 miles Northwest of Ray Talley Stadium, a pop up thunderstorm sent the West Point Warriors and Lawrence County Red Devils to the locker room for well over an hour. Once they resumed their game at 10:24 p.m., it went to the wire as West Point missed out on a possible game-tying score at the Lawrence County four-yard line with 0:04 remaining. The Warriors fell 28-20.
Add the thrill of victory for the Holly Pond Broncos in an 18-6 triumph at Fairview, completing their best regular season since 2004 at 7-3. The Broncos were finally able to defeat a George Redding led Fairview squad for the first time, ending a decade of losses to the Aggies.
Cullman continued its hard working success for interim coach Mark Stephens, hanging on for a 37-29 triumph at Chelsea. Stephens took over for Mark Britton, who has undergone treatment for kidney cancer.
Since the change on the sidelines, the Bearcats have gone 3-0 and have a lot of momentum going into the postseason.
Then across the Cullman County line on Highway 278 West, the Addison Bulldogs woke up from an early 7-0 deficit to rival Winston County, rolling past the Yellow Jackets 41-21. The performance of the Bulldogs follows the continued success of the volleyball team that claimed their 10th AHSAA state title on Thursday in Birmingham against arch rival Meek.
From the Falkville game Thursday at Burl Vest Stadium, the Blue Devils used 501 yards total offense and five touchdowns between the second and third quarter to defeat Vinemont 47-7. The lights on the visiting side of the stadium went out when the Devils were running the second half kickoff to the Vinemont 35-yard line.
The play was to the side where it was not easy to pick up the return man in blue as Falkville pulled out a reverse on the kickoff, already with a comfortable 27-7 advantage when the lights caused a 15-minute delay.
From power failure of half of stadium lights to Good Hope's 29-0 shutout of Hanceville in which the fog settled above the stadium, making it seem like November 3 was actually Halloween.
Five of the eight county teams left the field for the last time this weekend. Three continue for at least another week as the playoffs approach next Thursday and Friday across the state.
Cullman, Holly Pond and West Point have interesting facts of being a playoff qualifier. For Cullman, it's the Bearcats' 15th in 17 years while Britton patrolled the sidelines.
What makes it special is how Britton's players have responded while he is receiving treatment and is reportedly doing well in the process.
It began on October 20 in a thrilling 42-40 comeback victory at Southside-Gadsden when Stephens officially handled the head coaching details. Then a 24-0 shutout of Brewer the final Friday in October, followed by a gutsy performance in winning down in Shelby County to complete a 7-3 record and momentum going to the 6A playoffs next week in Birmingham with the Ramsay Rams.
Holly Pond has experienced the ride of going from worst to winning. When Mike Bates arrived in 2013, the Broncos were very young, lack of experience and marred in 29 consecutive losses.
That changed on the final week of the 2015 season in Holly Pond upsetting playoff bound Cold Springs on the road 49-40.
For the last two regular seasons, the Broncos have gone to the top of county football, winning 13 of 20, a .650 winning percentage and enjoying their first win against Fairview in a decade, plus back to back seasons of knocking off Brindlee Mountain, Susan Moore, Hanceville and Vinemont, something that hasn't happened in some time.
West Point has rode a steady course of four consecutive six-win regular seasons for Don Farley, compiling a .620 percentage in regional play, fighting through changes to be in the 5A playoffs for the fourth straight year.
The Warriors have a split personality in 2017. West Point is 5-0 away from campus and only 1-4 playing in front of the home crowd. The Warriors had to endure a weather delay and heartbreak, not being able to score before time ran out with Lawrence County. The victory for Lawrence County propelled them to the playoffs as the 4th seed from Region 8.
Holly Pond will go to West Morgan in opening the 3A postseason with West Point traveling near the Florence area next Thursday for a first round encounter with the Brooks Lions.
For the other county teams, they say goodbye to 2017 and can look ahead to optimism for next year with plenty of personnel to return.
Good Hope is the team that can really continue to move forward. From an 0-10 campaign in 2016, the Raiders were 4-6 this season, winning three county games via shutout.
Alan Scott has plenty of experience returning, especially in the backfield with two capable quarterbacks, at least four ball carriers and linemen that have gone through the trenches, looking to continue the rise to success.
Quarterbacks will be a plus with experience for Fairview, Vinemont, Cold Springs and Hanceville in 2018. All except Hanceville had first year starters with Jack Hill of Vinemont and Dayne Black of Fairview showing good ability in the just completed season of throwing the ball to quality receivers.
What all times await is reclassification by the AHSAA. An item that the state endures every two years, based on student enrollment.
All schools can guess where they could be for next season right now. Most are probable to remain in their current class. Rumor has it that one school might drop down to a lower class (Will keep you guessing on that).
Two and a half months of gridiron excitement has gone in a flash. Now comes the challenge where our three county squads, plus neighboring programs from Addison, Meek and Falkville trying to go well into the month of November.
The best advice I can say is sit back, watch and see what develops. It will be fun for sure.
Photo 1: Cullman vs. Chelsea, courtesy of Cullman High School.
Photo 2: West Point weather delay, courtesy of West Point High School.
Photo 3: Good Hope vs. Hanceville, Sportspage photo by Johnny Thornton