Dalton Morris (12) and North Jackson close the regular season with a clash with Class 6A Fort Payne.

After North Jackson officially clinched its playoff spot after a Week 8 win over St. John Paul II, head coach Joe Hollis Jr. said the remainder of the regular season was about getting playoff ready.

The Chiefs “took a step toward” that last week with a dominant 48-7 win over New Hope in the teams’ Class 4A Region 7 finale.

North Jackson (5-4) produced their second-highest point total of the season in the win, posted its highest rushing total of the year on offense and forced a season-high six turnovers on defense.

“I thought we played a really good all-around football game,” Hollis said. 

The Chiefs will try to keep the momentum going forward this week when they close the regular season with a non-region matchup at Class 6A Fort Payne Friday night (7 p.m.).

It’s the 20th all-time meeting between the schools. The teams met every season from when North Jackson opened following the consolidation of Bridgeport and Stevenson high schools in 1988 through 2001 but have played just five times since entering Friday’s matchup. North Jackson leads the series 11-8, but Fort Payne has won the last five meetings.

This season, Fort Payne (5-4) overcame an 0-3 start and earn a playoff berth in Class 6A Region 7 as the No. 3 seed. The Wildcats are coming off of a 41-13 loss to Oxford, ending their five-game winning streak.

Key players for Fort Payne are quarterback Jake Barnes, running back Kaden Dubose, tight end Sawyer Burt, defensive players Devin Wells and Kobe King and place kicker Alex McPherson, who is committed to Auburn.

“They’re a well-coached team. They’re explosive and dynamic on offense and they pursue the football on defense. And their special teams are elite with the kicker they have,” Hollis said. “It’ll definitely be a playoff kind of challenge for us.”

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