MADISON ACADEMY (12-2) vs. FAYETTE COUNTY (12-2)
WHEN: 11 a.m. today
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Madison Academy def. Winston County, 58-19; Plainview, 42-7; Colbert County, 66-28; Lauderdale County, 21-13; Fayette County def. B.B. Comer, 35-16; W.S. Neal, 34-6; Leeds, 24-14; Straughn, 35-14
STATE PLAYOFF CHAMPIONSHIPS: Madison Academy -- none; Fayette County -- 1 (1996)
Last Finals Appearance: Madison Academy -- 2011 (lost to Handley, 20-14); Fayette County -- 2000 (lost to T.R. Miller, 28-9)
RECORD IN FINALS: Madison Academy, 0-1; Fayette County, 1-1
LAST MEETING: first meeting
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Madison Academy - RB Kerryon Johnson (1,699 yards rushing with 29 TDs), QB Blake Coward (987 passing yards with 15 TDs), LB Taylor Ziak (142 total tackles), DL Pierre Brown (6-foot-2, 330-pound behemoth often takes two blockers to handle); Fayette County -- QB Marcellus Redmond (over 1,600 yards passing with 20 TDs), WR JaTevin Madison (52 receptions for 952 yards and 13 TDs), LB Darnell Williams (101 tackles), RB Kyle Nalls (700 yards rushing)
NOTEWORTHY: Madison Academy, ranked fifth in the final poll, makes its second straight trip to the championship game in pursuit of its first title. The Mustangs, who set a school record with 565 points, are seek to atone for last year's finals loss to Handley which ended with a potential game-winning touchdown catch being ruled out of bounds. Madison Academy is coached by Dr. Eric Cohu, who has compiled a 46-9 record in his four seasons. Cohu is also an adjunct professor in sports management with Liberty University as well as serving as a consultant to the Israel Football League. The Mustangs seek to become the first team within the borders of Madison County to win a state football title since the playoffs began in 1966.
... Fayette County is coached by former Alabama quarterback Lance Tucker, who set numerous state passing records for the Tigers from 1987-92. He is in his second year at the helm after succeeding his father, Waldon, who retired in as the state's winningest high school coach with 309 career victories including 27 seasons at Fayette County. The elder Tucker recorded his 300th win to open the 2010 season by defeating Sipsey Valley, a new program led by Lance Tucker making his coaching debut. This is the first time Fayette County has advanced past the quarterfinals since 2000 when the Tigers lost to T.R. Miller in the finals. Unranked in the final poll, the Tigers reeled off 28 straight points last week against Straughn after trailing 14-7 at the half.
MARION COUNTY (13-1) vs. BRANTLEY (14-0)
WHEN: 3 p.m. today
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Marion County def. Meek, 83-6; R.A. Hubbard, 47-20; Hubbertville, 41-22; Pickens County, 42-41; Brantley def. Fruitdale, 62-0; Billingsley, 48-0; Linden, 20-14; McIntosh, 46-0
STATE PLAYOFF CHAMPIONSHIPS: Marion County -- 4 (1971, 1972, 1973, 2011); Brantley -- 3 (1993, 1998, 2009)
LAST FINALS APPEARANCE: Marion County -- 2011 (defeated Linden, 23-12); Brantley -- 2009 (defeated Hackleburg, 28-13)
RECORD IN FINALS: Marion County, 4-0; Brantley, 3-4
LAST MEETING: first meeting
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Marion County - QB Sean Wallace (953 yards rushing, 1,249 passing with 20 TD passes), FB/LB Justin Sanderson (1,205 rushing yards with 17 TDs; recorded 134 total tackles), RB Dorryl Swanigan (rushed for 1,031 yards averaging 12.1 yards per carry, 465 receiving yards with 7 TDs averaging 38 yards per catch), RB DeShawn Riebesehl (1,001 rushing yards with 16 TDs, 417 receiving yards with 7 TDs); Brantley -- QB Andrew Lowery (the son of the Bulldogs' coach has passed for 1,812 yards with 27 TDs), OL/DL Taylor Driggers (6-3, 250-pound all-state lineman has 71 tackles with 14 sacks), RB Andrew Parker (139 carries for 1,280 yards, 18 TDs), LB Adrian Howard (111 tackles with 8 sacks).
NOTEWORTHY: Marion County is the lone defending champion still alive after blocking a 26-yard field goal on the final play to defeat region foe Pickens County in a 42-41 semifinal shootoout. The Red Raider ground attack averages 342 yards per contest and -- if quarterback Sean Wallace picks up 47 yards -- will have a quartet of 1,000-yard rushers for the second straight year. Third-ranked Marion County has amassed 700 points for an average of 50 per game, eclipsing last year's school record 685 points. The Red Raiders, whose lone loss came in Week 10 to Class 2A Red Bay, are undefeated in four previous finals appearances.
... Brantley held five consecutive opponents scoreless en route to nine shutouts on the season, the most since Clay County recorded 11 in 1996. The Bulldog defense surrendered only 47 points all season (3.4 per game) while the offense racked up a school record 697 points. Top-ranked Brantley avenged a 2010 first-round playoff loss to McIntosh in last week's semifinal, limiting the Demons to minus-32 yards of total offense and only two first downs. Coach David Lowery is in his 14th season at Brantley, posting a record of 118-14 over the past 10 campaigns. The Bulldogs seek their second undefeated season in school history, the last one coming in 1993.
SPANISH FORT (13-1) vs. McADORY (14-0)
WHEN: 7 p.m. today
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Spanish Fort def. Carroll, 51-7; Demopolis, 38-14; Benjamin Russell, 28-17; St. Paul's, 24-10; McAdory def. Mortimer Jordan, 21-13; Russellville, 27-3; Cullman, 28-22; Muscle Shoals, 10-3
STATE PLAYOFF CHAMPIONSHIPS: Spanish Fort -- 1 (2010); McAdory -- 0
LAST FINALS APPEARANCE: Spanish Fort -- 2010 (defeated Briarwood, 14-0); McAdory -- first appearance
RECORD IN FINALS: Spanish Fort, 1-0; McAdory, 0-0
LAST MEETING: Spanish Fort 37, McAdory 16 (2010 semifinals)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Spanish Fort -- DB Johnny Cook (Nebraska commit has 7 interceptions), QB Joel Poe (passed for more than 2,900 yards with 36 TDs), WR Blain Crain (son of late Auburn linebacker Kurt Crain has 51 receptions for 824 yards and 15 TDs), LB Matt Hall (83 tackles); McAdory -- LB Darius Jackson (116 tackles), DB Damien Whitfield (6 interceptions, including two for TDs), DL Cory Thomas (6-foot-5, 260-pound junior can single-handedly take over a game), QB Kyran Moore (forced to move from cornerback to run the offense after a pre-season injury to the starter has passed for 1,242 yards)
NOTEWORTHY: Spanish Fort avenged its only loss by defeating region foe St. Paul's in last week's semifinal. The Toros seek their second championship in only their 7th year of existence. Coach Mark Freeman is in his second year with the Toros but won four AISA state titles at Bessemer Academy where he compiled a mark of 101-21 over 10 seasons. Spanish Fort overcame the distraction of losing star receiver D.J. Johnson, who had committed to Alabama earlier this year. when he was arrested in September. The fourth-ranked Toros' 553 points (39.5 per game) set a new school record behind their spread offensive attack. Freeman's daughter and her husband, defensive coordinator Shawn DeFoor, both are graduates of McAdory.
... McAdory, long known as the alma mater of former Auburn star Bo Jackson, looks to make a new name for itself in its first trip to the finals. The Yellow Jackets have developed a "survive and advance" mentality during the playoffs, winning three games by eight points or less. In last week's defeat of Muscle Shoals, McAdory held the top-ranked Trojans -- who had been averaging 40 points per game -- to only a field goal. The fifth-ranked Yellow Jackets were limited to 25 rushing yards and only 150 total yards, but benefited from four Muscle Shoals turnovers for their first semifinals win in three tries. McAdory's stingy defense is allowing only 11 points per game and is anchored by one of the best defensive fronts in the state.