The Alexander Cougars figured to be one of the most improved teams in Region 5-AAAA this season.
The Cougars only won two games a year ago, but they closed the season with back-to-back wins, and with a lot of talented players returning, expectations were a lot higher heading into a new season.
So far, those expectations have been met.
The Cougars (4-3 overall) have already doubled their win total from a year ago, and at 2-2 in the region they’re firmly in the playoff hunt.
The Cougars’ most impressive performance may have come in a loss, though.
Facing top-ranked Sandy Creek last week, Alexander held the lead in the fourth quarter before losing 52-42.
With sensational running back Mikell Lands-Davis leading the way, the Cougars have scored 27 or more points in five of their seven games.
One of the teams that was able to handle Alexander was Troup, which won 37-10 at Callaway Stadium on Sept. 26.
The Cougars won their next two games, including a 33-19 victory over Alexander, before losing a shootout against Sandy Creek.
With three weeks remaining in the regular season, Alexander is a definitely playoff contender.
Alexander and Troup are tied for the fourth spot in the region, although Troup has the tie-breaker edge because of its head-to-head win.
“They’re a good football team,” Troup head coach Lynn Kendall said. “I think we sometimes have a tendency to gauge teams by what they were last year. That’s not a good thing to do.”
Alexander has another huge challenge on Friday when it plays Carrollton, but it closes the season against Columbus and Fayette County, who have one region win between them.
Sandy Creek and Carrollton, predictably, have been the region’s front-runners all season.
The two teams have held down the top two spots in the various Class AAAA polls all season, and they are both 4-0 in the region.
While Sandy Creek showed a bit of vulnerability in last week’s narrow win over Alexander, Carrollton hasn’t come close to being tested in the region.
The Trojans haven’t scored fewer than 49 points in a region game, and they’ve outscored their four region opponents 204-33.
Carrollton will host Sandy Creek on Nov. 1.
While Sandy Creek hasn’t been winning quite as impressively as Carrollton, it continues to find a way to win.
The Patriots haven’t lost a regular-season game since the 2009 season opener, and they’ve won three state titles in the past four years.
“When they get off the bus, they have an expectation to win, and they do,” LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said.
LaGrange is just a game behind Carrollton and Sandy Creek, but it has the toughest part of its schedule coming up.
LaGrange closes the season against Sandy Creek, Troup and Carrollton.
Troup, meanwhile, has already played Sandy Creek and Carrollton as it heads into its closing stretch against Fayette County, LaGrange and Shaw.
If Troup wins out, it will be in the playoffs.
At the bottom of the region, Fayette County and Columbus are both playing out the string.
Here are the region standings heading into this week’s games, with overall record first, followed by region record.
Carrollton - 7-0, 4-0
Sandy Creek - 6-0-1, 4-0
LaGrange - 3-4, 3-1
Troup - 3-4, 2-2
Alexander - 4-3, 2-2
Fayette County - 1-6, 1-3
Columbus - 1-6, 0-4
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
Fayette County at Troup, 7:30 p.m.
LaGrange at Sandy Creek, 7:30 p.m.
Carrollton at Alexander, 7:30 p.m.
Shaw at Columbus, 7:30 p.m.