Last year: McEachern 33, Hillgrove 30
All-time series: McEachern leads 2-1
Prediction: McEachern 41, Hillgrove 38
McEachern and Hillgrove are already in the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
However, playoff seedings out of Region 4AAAAAA will be at stake when these teams square off tonight at Cobb Energy/Hillgrove Stadium. The winner of this game will likely to seal the No. 2 spot behind North Cobb and host the first round of the playoffs, while the loser would have to settle for No. 3 and play on the road.
Both offenses have been explosive this season and this battle could come down to team that either scores in the final second of the fourth quarter or gets a last-second defensive stop.
McEachern certainly respects what Hillgrove can do on the offensive side of the ball, especially when it comes to throwing the ball. Elijah Ironside threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns in the Hawks’ 54-19 win over South Cobb and can get many receivers involved — Justin Denton, Richard Halimon, Emmanuel Beal and Omar Black — as well as running back Richardre Bagley, who rushed for 141 yards.
“They got a high-powered offense and Elijah is a heck of a player,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “They have talented receivers and those guys do nice in the pass game. They realty know what they’re doing.”
McEachern bounced back from its 28-26 loss to North Cobb with a convincing 54-13 win over Harrison last Friday, but turnovers and lack of discipline surfaced during the victory.
The Indians committed 25 penalties for 230 yards and threw two interceptions.
“We have to clean up the little things,” Hockman said. “We have to make sure we’re not getting penalties and plays called back. We’re been focusing on that quite a bit.”
But when quarterback Ty Clemons, running back Taj Griffin and receiver T.J. Rahming are clicking, McEachern is difficult to stop. The threesome are a major region why McEachern averages 40.8 points a game.
— By Adam Carrington
Game: Marietta (7-2, 5-2) at Harrison (5-4, 4-3), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Marietta 52, Harrison 14
All-time series: Harrison leads 7-4
Prediction: Marietta 35, Harrison 28
In what amounts to an elimination game, Harrison hosts Marietta tonight for a spot in the postseason at Cobleigh Stadium.
With three teams — North Cobb, McEachern and Hillgrove — tied atop the region standings with 6-1 records, only one playoff position remains, and either Marietta or Harrison will get it with a victory.
“This is what you play for,” Marietta coach Scott Burton said. “This is a playoff game. I know we always tell our kids that they will remember November, and here we sit with just a few teams left for the opportunity to continue to play. We know all the work and the grind comes down to a 48-minute opportunity. Can’t ask for more than that.”
Marietta, which has won five straight, knows what this position feels like. Over the past two seasons, the Blue Devils’ postseason fate has come down to the final game of the regular season. The stakes are a little higher this time around because a loss would send Marietta packing.
“We’ve been here before,” Burton said. “This is the third straight year of these kinds of moments for us. That certainly bodes well because we have a lot of kids who have played a lot of games. They understand that you have to be on an emotional high, and on the same token, you have to play the next play.”
Harrison hasn’t been in this situation since 2010, when it got a win over North Cobb in the regular season finale to qualify for the playoffs.
Like the Hoyas, Marietta will have to temper emotions to win.
Coaches prepare for those emotional challenges through practice.
“I think we have to do great job in practice of trying to prepare them for moments of difficulty,” Burton said. “We try to script adversity in practice. We try to do things throughout the week that expose them to those situations that might challenge them. Hopefully, with that, and combined with some of the veteran experience that we have from the kids that have been here before, that will be enough.”
— By Carlton D. White
Game: Campbell (4-5, 2-5) at North Cobb (7-2, 6-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: North Cobb 31, Campbell 0
All-time series: North Cobb leads 13-4
Prediction: North Cobb 35, Campbell 21
The playoff pendulum for North Cobb swings in one direction when the Warriors host Campbell tonight at Emery Sewell Stadium.
Win, and North Cobb takes home the Region 4AAAAAA championship — its first region title since 2007 and the fifth in program history. However, a loss could move the Warriors into an undetermined fate that has the potential to be decided by a tiebreaker.
“Win the game (tonight) and we won’t have to worry about anything,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “So that’s our goal. We want to play well and take care of what we need to do on the field.”
A North Cobb loss could leave the Warriors anywhere from the No. 2 seed to No. 4.
“I’m really hoping it doesn’t have to come down to tiebreakers,” Queen said.
According to Region 4AAAAAA chair and McEachern coach Kyle Hockman, the first tiebreaker would be based on point differential in games among the region playoff teams — the higher the differential, the higher a team’s region playoff seed. If there is still a tie among two teams, then head-to-head results would determine the seeding.
If point differential among playoff teams can’t decide it, then the region will use point differential among all region teams.
Campbell coach Harris Rainbow hasn’t spoken to his players about muddling up the region standings with a win over North Cobb. He’s been more focused on the team having fun in it’s final game.
“We just talked to our kids about it being the last week of the season and having fun and enjoying spending time with each other and being around our seniors,” he said. “Just trying to enjoy playing together just one more time.”
Campbell running back Mike Rogers, who has 1,644 rushing yards, likely won’t reach 2,000 yards this season because North Cobb’s defense is too tough, according to Rainbow.
“North Cobb has the best defense, probably, in our region,” he said. I’ll put them up against anybody in the state right now. They’re so good and so solid and so strong and so physical on all levels. They’re like a brick wall over there. We’re just hoping to go out there and move the football and get first downs. Just play as hard as we can.”
— By Carlton D. White
Game: Kennesaw Mountain (1-8, 0-7) at North Springs (1-8, 0-5)
Last year: Kennesaw Mountain 45, North Springs 0
All-time series: Kennesaw Mountain leads 1-0
Prediction: Kennesaw Mountain 34, North Springs 7
This wasn’t the kind of season Kennesaw Mountain envisioned after going 4-6 in 2012.
All the Mustangs can do at this point is end the season with some confidence and keep building for the future during the offseason.
“I look at our team, and from a wins and losses standpoint, we took a step back,” Kennesaw Mountain coach Andy Scott said. “But we’re doing all the little things right. Our middle school program has gotten stronger. We’re getting stronger in the weight room. It will take time. Our kids are very resilient. They come to practice every day and we’re trying consistently to improve.”
Injuries haven’t been kind to the Mustangs. Taariq Shabazz has played in only three games this season due to nagging injuries, Scott said, and he’s currently recovering from a torn bicep.
Offensively, Kennesaw Mountain will be without quarterback Nigel Hayes, who suffered a concussion last week in the Mustangs’ 34-21 loss to Pebblebrook last Friday. Dennis Bell will start in his place.
Mistakes also played a role in the Mustangs’ struggles. They haven’t tackled well defensively and the offense has had difficulty holding on to the football.
“It’s all a part of growing,” Scott said. “If you’re going to be successful in football, you have to make other teams beat you instead of you beating yourself. Look at our region, it’s tremendous. We have to make these (region) teams beat us.”
The Mustangs will go up against an improved North Springs team that recorded its first on-the-field win — a 35-34 win over Hapeville Charter — since the 2008 season finale.
“If we can get defensive stops and not turn the ball over, we can come away with a win,” Scott said.
— By Adam Carrington
Game: Pebblebrook (3-6, 1-6) at South Cobb (2-7, 2-5), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: South Cobb 42, Pebblebrook 14
All-time series: South Cobb leads 18-17
Prediction: Pebblebrook 35, South Cobb 28
One of the oldest rivalries in Cobb County, Pebblebrook and South Cobb first faced each other back in 1966, and have played one another periodically since 1974. The teams battled every year from 1974 to 2001.
It’s been a close and competitive rivalry over the years, with the Eagles leading the series 18-17, having won the last five games.
“In my first two years as an assistant coach, this game came down to the final playoff spot from the region,” Pebblebrook coach Tommy Macon said. “So, for me, this game has always been a rivalry game. We’re not playing for the playoffs this time. Now, we’re both playing for pride.”
While the outcome of the game won’t have an effect on playoff scenarios, it should have an effect on the atmosphere. For the past three seasons, Pebblebrook and South Cobb entertained fans of the rivalry by playing the game on Saturday. However, the game didn’t evoke the same emotion as it did in previous Friday night battles.
“The past couple of years, we’ve played the game on Saturday, but the turnouts haven’t been as good,” Macon said. “Our principal wanted to give Friday a try and hope for a better turnout.”
South Cobb coach Michael Youngblood is in his first year of the rivalry. He hasn’t noticed any real difference in attitude among the populace at the school, but he knows that could change quickly as today’s game draws near.
“The crowds are typically really big for rivalry games,” Youngblood said. “I’ve been in them before and they’re all about the same with the intensity of the players and build up and excitement towards the game.
“It’s about bragging rights for the next 364 days. I know the kids are excited and the community is excited, so we’re looking forward to it.”
The move back to Friday night was largely a financial move for both schools.
“It’s a big gate for the programs,” Youngblood said. “When I came in, the game was already scheduled for Friday. I knew they played on Saturday the past couple of years, but I wanted the game on Friday to have a good atmosphere and to help make money for the schools.
“I want the community to have a good time like they would on any Friday night football game.”
— By Carlton D. White