I can tell you from experience, it’s actually pretty hard to “Beat Bran.” Mr. Strickland has one of those weird, maniacal abilities to juggle a million responsibilities at once and still come out on top of all them — designing the paper, covering prep football, taking care of the new 80-pound Labrador retriever in his life.
It’s always easy to tell when your (and my) favorite Sports guy is functioning on high: His office at The Star is a mess. On the desk, there are page proofs, Little Caesar’s pizza boxes filled with half-eaten slices, notebooks covered in his chicken-scratch handwriting. On the floor, old bags of potato chips, more page proofs, and maybe an old stain from when the dog was a puppy.
It’s the typical “organized chaos” that many creative people need to thrive.
So you know Bran’s in trouble — you know you’ve got your opportunity to beat him — when his desk is clean(er). If he’s taken the time to tidy up, it’s because he’s — for once — too tired or too frustrated to deal with the juggling routine with his same frenzied efficiency.
Head’s up, people: Bran’s desk is cleanish (if you don’t count the nine Coke cans). Take his picks below with a grain of salt. Choose your own wisely. It’s time for the beating to really begin.
Piedmont at White Plains: Piedmont’s 7-0 win over second-ranked Leeds keeps the picking formula for this Bulldog team the same — don’t stray from a good thing. … Piedmont 42, White Plains 17.
Saks at Glencoe: Did you see where Hokes Bluff beat Glencoe? Bran did see that. Before, this one might have been shoved to the toss-up category, but something is clearly wrong with the Yellow Jackets. And after beating Alexandria, something is clearly right with Saks. … Saks 21, Glencoe 14.
Falkville at Donoho: An undefeated team rolls into town for the Falcons, whose goals were modest at the beginning of the season. They should be readjusted a little bit, but Falkville only provides a non-region reprieve before the meat of the region schedule is heaped onto plate for the next two Fridays … Falkville 21, Donoho 20.
Alexandria at Munford: Both teams are coming off losses, but different kinds. Munford was mauled at the hands of juggernaut Clay Central. Alexandria took one on the chin on homecoming. It’s really anybody’s game … Munford 21, Alexandria 20.
Cleveland at Weaver: The Bearcats have nicks and bruises and are just all-around beaten up. But good teams push through, and this is a good team … Weaver 24, Cleveland 21.
Lee-Huntsville at Oxford: The Yellow Jackets are looking better and better every week. Lee-Huntsville has looked worse ever since its season-opening win. … Oxford 42, Lee 14.
Cleburne County at Hokes Bluff: Cleburne County is making something of a turnaround. And Hokes Bluff might be, too, after getting its first win of the season against Glencoe. A week ago, this would have been a lock for the surging Tigers, but with Hokes Bluff’s upset — not to mention the location of the game — this could get a little interesting. … Cleburne County 28, Hokes Bluff 21.
Collinsville at Cedar Bluff: It’s a battle of the unbeatens. Cedar Bluff gets a little payback for last year’s close loss … Cedar Bluff 26, Collinsville 20.
No need to outsource the following picks. These could be made with a blindfold like one of those outsourced assembly lines. No disrespect, just sayin’.
Gaylesville 28, Jacksonville Christian 7.
Wellborn 28, Ohatchee 7.
Fultondale 28, Pleasant Valley 7.
Ragland 28, Appalachian 7.
Clay Central 48, Childersburg 7.
Woodland 28, Ranburne 7.
Spring Garden 28, Woodville 7.
Lincoln 28, Cherokee County 7.
Handley 28, Elmore County 7.
Randolph County 28, Montgomery Academy 7.
Notasulga 28, TC Central 7.
Star Assistant Metro Editor Cameron Steele contributed to this story.