JaVaris Branford and Scottsboro host TopCat rival Fort Payne in a Class 6A Region 7 matchup Friday night.

The Scottsboro and Fort Payne football teams battle each season for possession of the TopCat Trophy.

But this season, the stakes are much higher.

For the first time in five years, the teams are region rivals, meaning their game holds playoff implications.

The teams are set to face off Friday at 7 p.m. at Scottsboro’s Trammell Stadium.

It’s the 86th meeting in a series that began back in 1922.

The TopCat Trophy, which is sponsored by The Jackson County Sentinel and The (Fort Payne) Times-Journal, is awarded to the winner of the game each season.

Fort Payne holds a 51-31-3 series lead, though the teams have split their last four meetings. The home team has won the last four games in the series. Fort Payne won last year at home 42-7.

Fort Payne (3-2, 2-0) is currently undefeated in Class 6A Region 7 while Scottsboro (2-3, 1-2) is part of a three-way tie for the fourth playoff spot entering play this week.

Scottsboro is coming off of a 22-6 win over archrival North Jackson while Fort Payne posted a 35-21 victory over Etowah.

Fort Payne started 0-2 with losses to Briarwood Christian and Gadsden City before rebounding with two straight region wins over Arab 28-7 and Springville 38-14 prior to last week’s win over Etowah.

Running back Hunter Love is Fort Payne’s top-offensive weapon. Love, who ran for 128 yards on 13 carries against Scottsboro last season, has 622 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 125 carries through five games.

Dual-threat quarterback J.D. Blalock “is the one that makes them go” offensively, Scottsboro head coach Don Jacobs said.

Blalock has completed 33 of 61 passes for 482 yards and four touchdowns. Cam Thomas has been his top target, catching 14 passes for 233 yards and one score.

Jacobs said the Wildcats needed a repeat performance from last week when it prevented North Jackson from turning in its patented big plays.

The Wildcats also will look for a repeat on offense, a time-consuming run-based attack that churns up yardage and the clock before producing points. Jacobs said Fort Payne’s defense “makes you earn it. They don’t give up anything cheap.”

The game is the start of a four homes over the final five weeks of the season for Scottsboro. Jacobs hopes the homestand is the start of a strong stretch run.

“It’d be nice to play good and solidify the season and a playoff spot,” he said.

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