Alas, it is the last full week of Georgia high school football. It goes by so quickly, doesn’t it?
The regular season wraps up in Newton County Friday for non-playoff qualifying squads.
Make sure you pick up this Sunday’s print edition of The Covington News to read our season-ending recap about how Alcovy coach Chris Edgar, and several of his players saw his first season at the helm as a success in certain ways. But before we start talking about end of the year stuff, we’ve still got some gridiron action to talk about in this week’s Previews and Predictions.
All three county schools are in action Friday, and we’ll start the dissection with Alcovy first.
Greenbrier at Alcovy
The Records: Greenbrier (5-4, 0-4 in Region 3-AAAAAA). Alcovy (4-5-1, 0-4). Both teams are tied for fifth place in the region.
The Matchup: With both of these squads eliminated from postseason play, this becomes a Super Bowl of sorts for Greenbrier and Alcovy. The Tigers don’t want their Senior Night to end on a sour note. Even though a win doesn’t give Alcovy a shot at the playoffs, it can give the Tigers tremendous momentum heading into winter conditioning in December, which coach Chris Edgar is already gearing up for. Both teams have struggled down the stretch after hot starts. Greenbrier opened its season 5-0, and showed a penchant for stingy defense, until it got into region play and lost four straight. Same with Alcovy. The Tigers started off with an impressive 4-1 mark before injuries and region opponents who were bigger in the trenches showed up. Both teams are fighting to avoid a winless region mark, so there’s lots of pride to play for here.
The Playmakers: You don’t have to take a long gaze at Alcovy to find out the Tigers have playmakers, starting with the do-it-all senior Koby Perry. Perry leads the team in all-purpose yardage, and is a spark plug on both sides of the ball. But quarterbacks Quindrelin Hammonds, a junior, and sophomore Cameron Anderson have gotten better as they’ve gotten older. And if Andrae and Adrian Robinson are healthy in the backfield, Alcovy can be provide and effective offensive attack, particularly with the ground game. Ironically, Greenbrier looks strikingly similar to Alcovy offensively, in that they like to run the ball, and have employed a two-platoon system at quarterback with senior Caleb Clark and junior Hayden Harrison. The difference is that most of the Wolfpack’s rushing production comes from one guy instead of a committee. Sophomore Jonquavous Brown has 1,009 yards on 160 carries and nine touchdowns for the season.
The Prediction: It’s lazy thinking to believe that since Alcovy — or Greenbrier, for that matter — is eliminated from playoff contention, they have nothing to play for. On the contrary. The Tigers were bouncing around, hitting hard and playing with energy with practice this week, and I think they have something more to prove regarding this season, and will use this game to make that final 2016 statement. Score Prediction: Alcovy 27, Greenbrier 13.
Eastside at North Clayton
The Records: Eastside (6-2-1, 4-1 in Region 4-AAAA). North Clayton (5-4, 3-2). Eastside is second in region standings while North Clayton is third.
The Matchup: Game of the week, hands down, simply due to the stakes. Both teams are likely headed to the playoffs. I say likely because, while Eastside is in win or lose, a North Clayton loss coupled with Luella and Salem wins could eliminate North Clayton from the postseason. But on the flip side, whoever wins this “Battle of the Eagles” will take possession of second place in the region and host a first round playoff game next week. North Clayton has excelled under first year coach and North Clayton alum Cap Burnett, IV. Burnett, who starred at linebacker for Georgia and has a brother, Morgan, playing for the Green Bay Packers, has brought the old swagger back to the Eagles’ program. Meanwhile, Eastside is hungry for a chance to extend past the first round of the playoffs after missing postseason play altogether last year. Needless to say, there’s a lot to play for here for both teams.
The Playmakers: Eastside flexed its muscles last week in a surprisingly lopsided 49-14 win against Salem. And so it’s been for most of the month with the Eagles. Wide receiver Josh Sims had a big game last week, along with the usual steady play of quarterback Austin Holloway. But the wildcard was the performance of sophomore tailback Taylor Carter who rushed for 105 yards on just 11 carries with three touchdowns as Eastside rolled up 229 rushing yards last week. North Clayton’s got a pair of talented rushers too, in James Monroe and Jaiquan Earls. The pair combined for 300 rushing yards and five scores in a 38-0 win over Henry County last week. The strength of Eastside’s defense is its secondary, led by Eric Stokes, fresh off receiving his UGA offer. For North Clayton it’s the defensive line anchored by Sonny Anderson and YaYa Diaby.
The Prediction: While both teams have great skill position talent and are led by solid, young coaching staffs, look for the experience factor to kick in a bit for Eastside. Coach Troy Hoff and his staff scheme opponents as good as anyone, and the steady hand of a senior signal caller in Holloway should bode well in a hostile environment. In fact Eastside’s entire senior class has provided unflappable leadership all season long. I think that’ll be the difference in a very close, competitive game. Score Prediction: Eastside 38, North Clayton 28
Newton at Rockdale County
The Records: Newton (5-3-1, 2-2 in Region 8-AAAAAAAA). Rockdale County (2-7, 0-4). Newton is fourth in the region, while Rockdale is last.
The Matchup: You know what they say about rivalry games — throw the records out. Those where Newton coach Terrence Banks’ exact sentiments when discussing his team’s task of not overlooking last place Rockdale as the Rams progress to the postseason. “For whatever reason, Rockdale County always plays us down to the wire,” Banks said earlier in the week. “We know they’ll give us their best shot. Newton has a 26-18-3 record all time against the Bulldogs. And while the Rams have won two of the last three against Rockdale, only one of those games has been lopsided — that would be last year’s 42-0 Newton romp. Before that, Rockdale lost 29-26 in 2014 and nipped the Rams 28-21 in overtime during the 2013 season.
The Playmakers: It will be an arduous task to say the least for Rockdale to stop Newton playmakers like J.J. Holloman and Jaquan Henderson. Both were featured at tailback in the zone read during Newton’s 30-0 win over Shiloh last week. The new wrinkle helped the Rams bounce back from anemic offensive performances in their previous three games. Kentavis Terrell, Adarius Thomas and quarterback Myron Middlebrooks will no doubt appreciate the help their two extra backfield mates will bring to the offense. Meanwhile, despite Rockdale’s record, the Bulldogs aren’t exactly punchless, particularly on offense. They’re averaging over 130 rushing yards per game and a collective 5.3 yards per carry while employing a three-headed monster attack featuring junior Cortez Faulkner (437 yards and two touchdowns), senior Jamichael Baldwin (304 yards and two scores) and sophomore Jordan Rogers (271 yards and a score). Rockdale put up 53 points in a season opening win against Berkmar and had decent showings against better teams such as Heritage and South Gwinnett.
The Prediction: If not careful, this could be a trap game for Newton, as there’s really nothing to play for beyond rivalry bragging rights. But Banks is hoping that his team will take this opportunity to build up some momentum for a first round playoff game next week. Also, there’s a chance that Newton, with a win and Archer (vs. Shiloh) and South Gwinnett (vs. No. 3 Grayson) losses, can slide into second place in the region. Rockdale will keep it close, but the Rams will pull away. Score Prediction: Newton 41, Rockdale 21.