Jeremy Perkins doesn’t have many complaints about the first half of the season.
Everything has gone right for his Austin High football team.
The Class 6A No. 5 Black Bears have won five straight games for the first time since 1993 and have emerged as a contender for the Region 8 title.
But before Austin (5-0, 3-0 in Region 8) makes that goal a reality, there are several road blocks the Black Bears must overcome. The first happens today when Austin hosts Hazel Green (4-1, 2-1). Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“For our hot start to matter, we’ve got to maintain it,” Perkins said. “There are four region games left, so the region is still wide open. This stretch is super important, and we’re going to have to be on top of our game every week, starting with this game against a very good Hazel Green team.”
The fact that Austin is putting together a banner season isn’t surprising. The Black Bears have one of the area’s most explosive offenses, averaging more than 30 points per game.
Quarterback Chris Sparkman has been efficient, completing about 70 percent of his passes, while averaging more than 175 yards per game. Running backs Josh Walker and Brandon Watkins are a dynamic tandem in the backfield, breaking big plays at an impressive clip. And Malique Elliott, Kyle Pike and Chase Colon are arguably the best collection of wide receivers on any roster in north Alabama.
That talented collection of players, complemented by a big, bruising offensive line, have been the definition of efficient.
“Austin is very athletic and very balanced,” Hazel Green coach Matt Putnam said. “But what I notice first is the fact they execute very well. They cause a lot of problems with their balance, because they’re very efficient in both the passing and run games. With what they do, and the fact they do it well, they’re a difficult offense to stop.”
Hazel Green has emerged as one of Region 8’s most improved teams, and the Trojans already have a pair of signature wins.
In Week 4, Hazel Green upset Bob Jones 42-14, and the Trojans followed last week with a 14-12 win at Class 4A No. 8 Madison County.
Hazel Green’s blueprint for success begins in the trenches, where pound-for-pound, the Trojans have the largest offensive and defensive lines in Region 8. That unit has paved the way for quarterback Corey Collier and company, who are averaging 28.7 points per game.
“That’s an interesting matchup in the trenches,” Perkins said. “They have very good, and very big offensive and defensive lines. But we feel like our offensive and defensive fronts are pretty good, too. That’s been one of our strengths.
“Our guys are playing with a lot of confidence right now. They feel like we can beat anybody, but also know that we can lose to anyone if we don’t execute and play the game the right way. This is a tough stretch we have coming up, one where we will have to bring our A game every single time we step on the field.”
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