The North Jackson football team will be on the road to start the Class 4A Playoffs.
That is not necessarily a bad thing for the Chiefs, who are 4-1 in road games this season.
“We like playing on the road,” said North Jackson head coach Chandler Tygard.
North Jackson (6-4) makes its longest road of the trip of the season Friday night when it travels to play No. 10-ranked Good Hope (9-1) in the first round of the Class 4A Playoffs.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Good Hope High School’s James W. Shabel Stadium in Cullman County. Because of COVID-19 precautions, the Alabama High School Athletic Association has limited attendance to 33 percent of stadium capacity and all tickets must be purchased online on GoFan app.
The North Jackson-Good Hope winner plays the West Limestone-Hamilton winner in the second round. North Jackson would host a second-round game regardless of the opponent.
Friday’s game is the third all-time meeting between the Chiefs and Raiders. North Jackson and Good Hope were region foes during the 2014-15 season, with North Jackson winning both meetings.
It’s the 28th all-time playoff appearance for North Jackson, the most among Jackson County teams. North Jackson has missed the playoffs just four times since the school was formed by the consolidation of Bridgeport and Stevenson high schools in 1988.
North Jackson is hopeful to have the re-appearance of several players who have been missing from the lineup of late.
“We’re hoping to get some guys back,” Tygard said. “Johnny Gilliam, he’s been out (since the Week 7) and it would be big to have back. Maybe we’ll have several guys back out there. When we’re right, we can play with anybody. We’ve played a schedule — two 6A (Scottsboro and Fort Payne) and (5A No. 3) Pleasant Grove in the jamboree — that nobody in 4A has played. Now we’re only playing (against) 4As. That should help us.”
The Chiefs face a Good Hope team that is 28-6 the past three seasons. The Raiders finished second in Class 4A Region 6 behind No. __ Etowah, which handed Good Hope its lone loss, a 31-20 setback on Oct. 2. The Raiders posted wins this season over West Morgan 47-19, West Point 31-14, Ashville 47-13, Haleyville 27-24, Hanceville 34-13, Addison 49-15, Fultondale 31-17, Dora 1-0 (COVID-19 related forfeit) and Oneonta 34-7.
Good Hope, led by quarterback Tanner Malin and running back Colton Bagwell, are averaging 32.1 points per game while allowing just 15.3.
“They’re really good,” Tygard said of the Raiders. “The quarterback (Malin) is the best quarterback we’ve seen outside of maybe (Madison Academy’s Avery) Seaton. He’s a little guy, but he runs around like Johnny Football (former Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manzel) making plays. He can fly. The running back is a big guy, 6-1, 240 pounds, also plays defensive end.”
Tygard said Good Hope is roughly “80-85 percent run” on offense, adding that the Chiefs can’t let Good Hope get a lead “grind out the clock.”
Tygard said Good Hope only plays about 17 players, with most players starting on both offense and defense. He is hopeful the Chiefs’ offensive fast-paced tempo can wear on the Raiders.
“We need to play our style, play fast, and get about 75 plays (on offense),” he said.