After two straight seasons of making the postseason, the Stanhope Elmore football team is looking to take the next step in becoming a contender in Class 6A. The Mustangs took control of their own destiny in the Region 3 last season and were one win away from its first region championship since 2004 but a blowout loss to Opelika ended those dreams in Week 8.
Stanhope finished the season with a 6-5 record after losing in the first round of the playoffs to extend its postseason losing streak to five games. The Mustangs have not won a playoff game since 2010.
While the team has its eyes set on getting that playoff victory, there are several important regular season games to worry about first. And it all starts with play against region opponents.
Week 3 at Calera Eagles
Things will not come easy early in the season for the Mustangs as this matchup will mark their third consecutive road game. Calera is currently without a head coach and finished last season with a 1-9 record but this win is not going to be as easy as it looks on paper.
Stanhope will be coming off a matchup with Benjamin Russell in a game which is expected to be one of the most physical battles of the season. The Mustangs will have just one week to prepare for a big Calera front seven which includes four-star defensive tackle and Alabama commit Jayson Jones.
The Mustangs will still enter this game with expectations of a win but no region trip will be easy this season. Grabbing a win on the road in this region could be the difference in getting a home game in the playoffs or going back on the road for the first round.
Week 6 at Wetumpka Indians
This matchup has a lot to live up to after being one of the best games of the year across the entire state last season. Stanhope stopped a three-game losing streak to Wetumpka with a late defense touchdown to temporarily climb to the top of the region standings in October.
There is no doubt the Indians will be out for revenge and they will not be relinquishing their claim as two-time defending region champions without a fight. If the Mustangs want to take the next step as a program, it starts with taking advantage of big games against one of the best teams in the south over the last two seasons.
Stanhope has two non-region games prior to this matchup so while winning those games will still be a goal, using those weeks to prepare for Wetumpka may be a side mission. If the Mustangs want to win the region this year, this game feels like a must-win.
Week 8 vs. Opelika Bulldogs
Stanhope will be on the opposite side of this revenge game as the Mustangs look to make up for their embarrassing performance last season in Opelika. The team had a chance to win the region but lost 59-21, the program’s biggest defeat since 2005.
The Bulldogs lost a bulk of its talent from last season but they still boast one of the deepest rosters in the region and they have built that through a tough schedule. Stanhope drew the short end of the straw to play Opelika on the back end of the regular season, giving the Bulldogs a chance to continuously improve before traveling to Foshee-Henderson Stadium.
This could easily be a top-10 matchup by the time Week 8 rolls around which will make it a much-watch game for any high school football fan in the state of Alabama. Plus, this could once again be the game which determines the Class 6A Region 3 champion so keep this one on your radar.