Playoffs start with play-in games
by MDJ staff reports
November 06, 2013 11:18 PM | 2990 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kell’s Keith Hampton and the rest of the second-ranked Longhorns’ need to find a way to beat Cambridge on Friday to secure a perfect regular season and, more importantly, a spot in the Class AAAAA playoffs.
Kell’s Keith Hampton and the rest of the second-ranked Longhorns’ need to find a way to beat Cambridge on Friday to secure a perfect regular season and, more importantly, a spot in the Class AAAAA playoffs.
Game: Kell (9-0, 6-0) at Cambridge (3-6, 2-3), 7:30 p.m.

Last year: First meeting

All-time series: First meeting

Prediction: Kell 42, Cambridge 14

A victory by Kell in its Region 7AAAAA play-in game with Cambridge on Friday would give it a berth in the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

It would also give the Longhorns something they have accomplished only once before — a perfect regular-season record.

With a win, Kell would finish the regular season with a 10-0 mark for the first time since 2010, when it marched to the Class AAAA quarterfinals and finished with a 12-1 record.

“It’s a great accomplishment to be able to do something like that,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “This group of seniors, this will be the second time in their careers that they did it — they were freshmen when they did it the first time. Guys like Taylor Henkle were starters on that team, so for him to be able to do that — I’m happy for him.”

However, Cook added that earning the state playoff spot with a win is the bigger priority than achieving a perfect regular-season record. Kell must beat Cambridge in the play-in game or it will be the Bears, not the Longhorns, moving on to the playoffs.

“It’s more important later on down the line, I think, then it is right now to be 10-0. I think, as those guys get older, they can appreciate that accomplishment a little more. Now, it’s just the next thing we’re trying to get done. It’s more about being

1-0 this week than it is being 10-0 right now. Because being focused on being undefeated from the big picture, we lose sight of being undefeated this week and that’s what’s most important is to go out this Friday and being undefeated on Friday night.”

The Longhorns will be facing a Cambridge team that is the fourth seed from the opposite subregion and is trying to reach the state playoffs in only its second year of existence.

— By Greg Oshust

MDJ Sports Writer

Game: East Paulding (6-3, 6-3) at Allatoona (7-2, 7-2), 7:30 p.m.

Last year: East Paulding 25, Allatoona 7

All-time series: East Paulding leads 1-0

Prediction: Allatoona 31, East Paulding 24

With the start of the playoffs one week away, Allatoona has the security of knowing that it will be a part of the postseason for the fourth consecutive season.

However, due to their 62-46 loss to North Paulding last week, the Buccaneers’ chances of winning the Region 5AAAAA championship have vanished and a victory over East Paulding at home Friday night is needed to avoid the lowest seed out of the region and a possible first-round playoff matchup at Kell, the consensus No. 2 team in Class AAAAA.

“We didn’t play well last week and don’t want to enter the playoffs on a down note,” Allatoona head coach Gary Varner said. “We have to have positive energy against East Paulding and be more concerned about playing better than who we’ll face in the playoffs.”

The Bucs will once again rely offensively on all-state candidate Josh Bettistea, who leads Cobb County in rushing with 1,699 yards, and touchdowns with 25. He ran for 187 yards against North Paulding, while fellow running back Russell Halimon finished with 172.

D.J. Ezell had nine catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns as well.

The Bucs will have a challenge against the Raiders, who have given up a region-low 13 points per contest.

“East Paulding may have the best defense in the region and are physical up front,” Varner said. “We had three turnovers against North Paulding and we’ll have to minimize them as well.”

Allatoona’s defense has been sturdy as well, allowing only 18 points per game. However, after allowing 62 points in last week’s contest, the coaching staff has made adjustments leading up to Friday’s game.

“We have to put the defense in good spots,” Varner said. “We’re making sure as a staff that the players understand the alignments and assignments they have on the field.”

— By Marcel Pourtout

MDJ Sports Writer

Game: Osborne (2-7, 0-4) at Forsyth Central (1-8, 1-4), 7:30 p.m.

Last year: First meeting

All-time series: First meeting

Prediction: Osborne 35, Forsyth Central 28

Osborne doesn’t want to miss out on another opportunity.

Last week, the Cardinals had a chance to play for a potential playoff spot out of Region 7AAAAA, but they dropped a

34-28 decision at Sprayberry. Osborne also lost out on earning its third win of the season.

On Friday, the Cardinals visit Forsyth Central in a region crossover game to complete their regular season. While the year hasn’t lived up to expectations, a win over the Bulldogs would be a satisfying way to head into the offseason.

“It would be good for the program to get three wins,” Osborne coach Xarvia Smith said. “Osborne hasn’t won that many games in about three or four years.

“We blew an opportunity at Sprayberry, but that doesn’t mean this week’s game isn’t meaningful. Three wins would be an improvement for this program, and I’m thankful we have the opportunity ahead of us to get it.”

Osborne last won three games in a season back in 2009, and since taking over the program in 2011, Smith has guided the Cardinals to two victories in each of the last three years.

Picking up win No. 3 won’t be easy. Osborne has not only dropped five straight games entering Friday’s matchup, it’s lost players along the way.

For the past couple of weeks, Smith and his staff have coached roughly 40 athletes — down from 60 at the start of the season — and a few more players quit the team this week, leaving Osborne with 28 players suiting up Friday.

“I don’t know why they quit,” Smith said. “To me, it just shows a lack of character.”

If the Cardinals beat Forsyth Central, there won’t a lot of players around to celebrate the accomplishment in the offseason.

“This is a transient program and we lose and gain kids all the time,” Smith said. “I don’t know if winning the game will help with the offseason because we just don’t have that continuity here.

“So we’ll have our hands full against Forsyth Central. I’ve had young guys playing the last three weeks, and they’ve played hard. If these 28 kids continue to do that, we’ll be alright.”

Quarterback Craig Robinson is one of those young players who has stepped up. He already has 1,176 passing, and is only 38 away from 1,000 rushing yards.

“Craig and (McEachern’s Ty Clemson’s) would be the only quarterbacks in the county to do that,” Smith said. “That would be something.”

— By Carlton D. White

Game: Sprayberry (2-7, 1-3) at Creekview (7-2, 5-0), 7:30 p.m.

Last year: First meeting

All-time series: First meeting

Prediction: Creekview 34, Sprayberry 14

Creekview has everything to lose, and Sprayberry everything to gain, as the teams meet Friday to decide which one will be going to the Class AAAAA state playoffs and which will pack up its equipment for the winter.

Creekview went undefeated in its subregion, while Sprayberry got the one win it needed to avoid being left out of the play-in games.

Sprayberry coach Billy Shackelford said his team is excited about the possibility of reaching the playoffs.

“We have got something to play for,” he said. “The winner goes to the playoffs and the loser puts their equipment up. Any time you have got something to play for, that’s a good thing, and that’s where we are at. We had a good week of practice and the kids are excited about playing another football game.”

Creekview coach Terry Crowder is on the other side of the coin. He feels that, after sweeping through their subregion, the Grizzlies should have already earned a playoff spot.

“You work your rear off all season, and that’s why I don’t like these play-in games,” Crowder said. “I feel like we have earned our right to get in the playoffs, and we have to play a play-in game against a team that maybe hasn’t earned that right. I don’t know it very much, but it is what it is, and we have to play a good ballgame on Friday night.”

Creekview has found success this season by not beating itself. The Grizzlies have forced turnovers — particularly interceptions — while minimizing their own miscues.

The defense has made 21 interceptions, returning six of them for touchdowns. Connor Dulmage leads the group with seven picks, Dawson Ewers and Chandler Wold have five each, Austin Murphy has a pair and Ben Odennell and Terry Williams each have one.

The story has been similar for fumbles. The Grizzlies have forced four, while recovering six.

“They are solid across the board,” Shackelford said. “They haven’t beaten themselves. If you look at their scores, they have found a way to win. They aren’t blowing people out, but they are making plays when they need to. They aren’t beating themselves and that is half the game right there. You have to truly go after them and beat them.”

— By Emily Horos

Game: Pope (3-6, 2-2) at Sequoyah (7-2, 4-1), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Pope 31, Sequoyah 28 (Oct. 28, 2005)

All-time series: Series tied 4-4

Prediction: Sequoyah 40, Pope 20

Both Pope and Sequoyah are done caring about their overall records.

They no longer matter.

In a play-in game Friday where the two halves of Region 7AAAAA cross over to play one another, Pope will head to Skip Pope Stadium to face Sequoyah in what amounts to an elimination game.

The winner gets a spot in the Class AAAAA state playoffs. The loser will be done playing, no matter what its record is.

Pope, the No. 3 seed out of the southern subregion, became younger than expected as a result of a few key players from last year’s playoff team not returning this season.

After enduring growing pains, Greyhounds coach Matt Kemper said his players have made improvements in the second half of the season. What stands out the most is Pope’s ability to cut down on turnovers and generate more offensive yards. It mustered 424 yards in a 52-26 loss to Kell last Friday.

But Pope knows it will be facing its biggest test of the year when it steps on the field at Sequoyah.

“We drew a heck of a football team, and we’re playing at their place,” Kemper said.

Pope’s defense has the daunting task of trying to contain Sequoyah’s ground attack. The Chiefs are effective in running around the edge, through the middle and misdirection.

Jake Garner surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for Sequoyah in its 36-11 win over Cambridge to help the Chiefs secure the No. 2 seed from the northern subregion. He’s now at 1,080 yards on the season, on 143 carries and eight touchdowns.

Sequoyah has others who can carry the football, including quarterback Lex Lauletta, who has 713 yards and eight touchdowns. He also has eight passing touchdowns to go with his 579 passing yards.

The duo of Garner and Lauletta will be a daunting challenge for Pope’s defense, which has given up close to 40 points a game.

“They run like a freight train coming at you,” Kemper said. “They’re solid up front. This is a senior group that has started for two to three years. They are physical and can execute well. We’re going to have our hands full. We have to find a way to get stops because they don’t hurt themselves.”

— By Adam Carrington

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