Game: North Gwinnett at McEachern, Saturday, 8:45 p.m.
Last year: North Gwinnett 27, McEachern 21
All-time series: Series tied at 1
Prediction: McEachern 28, North Gwinnett 24
TV/Radio: SPSO/92.9 FM
While there are no high stakes involving McEachern’s meeting with North Gwinnett at Walter Cantrell Stadium on Saturday at the Corky Kell Classic, the No. 1 Indians are looking for a little retribution.
The No. 4 Bulldogs beat the Indians 27-21 on the same field in the Class AAAAAA state semifinals last season.
“They definitely want to send a message that we are better than last year, something along those lines,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “But in reality, with it not being a playoff game, it doesn’t have a big factor. But this is the first game of the year, and regardless of who it is, it is big. But there’s a little salt in the wounds.”
McEachern has no injuries to speak of going into the first week of the season. All the packages in the three-phases of the game have been installed.
And many of last year’s weapons are intact, including Oregon-bound running back Taj Griffin, wide receiver T.J. Rahming (Duke) and offensive lineman Chuma Edoga (Southern California).
Junior Julian Rochester, who has received offers from Auburn, Clemson, Florida and Georgia, among others, will lead a defensive line that’s been one of Class AAAAAA’s strongest in recent years. He finished the 2013 season with 114 tackles and 10 sacks.
North Gwinnett has just three returning starters on offense, and the Bulldogs have just one returning offensive lineman in Mitch Hyatt, but the Clemson commitment is touted as one of the best in the nation.
McEachern may have a tough time offensively with seven North Gwinnett defenders returning, including Anree Saint-Amour, who has 20 offers from Division I schools.
Quarterback Bailey Hockman, who led McEachern to three playoff wins as a freshman last year, could have a challenging sophomore debut.
“It’s going to be an interesting first game,” Kyle Hockman said. “It was a battle down to the end last year.”