Last year: Did not play
All-time series: First meeting
Prediction: Darlington 24, Whitefield Academy 7
A victory over Darlington at home Friday would mean that Whitefield has turned the corner.
“It could be huge,” Whitefield coach Jimmy Fields said. “Darlington is a very good football team. They are well-deserved of their rankings. They had an outstanding year. They are a talented football team and a well-coached football team. It could mean a lot for Whitefield when it comes to the playoffs.”
The Wolfpack are seeking a reversal in fortunes after being plagued with injuries early in the season. The injuries played a part in Whitefield’s 2-5 start, but the Wolfpack have since won two in a row, and there is a chance that they can earn a spot in the state playoffs.
Whitefield enters the game No. 18 in the Class A private school power rankings. Darlington is fifth. If the Wolfpack pull off the upset, it should provide more than enough points to make the 16-team playoff field.
Whitefield had just one offensive turnover in its wins over Walker and King’s Ridge Christian. Defensively, the Wolfpack held Walker to just 111 total yards.
“The most impressive thing is that we’re playing with poise,” Fields said. “You got to limit the big play (against Darlington) and play with poise on defense. And we don’t want to turn the ball over to good football teams.”
Although King’s Ridge scored more than 40 points in Whitefield’s 44-41 win last Friday, Fields said his defense played one of its better games. Ajani Kerr scored on an interception return in the middle of the second quarter, and Alex Manning recovered a fumble on Whitefield’s own 8-yard line and returned it for a touchdown early in the second half.
Fields said the Tigers had roughly 400 yards of offense against Our Lady of Mercy last Friday in their 31-28 win and a quarterback that can both throw and run the football. He also complimented their skilled players.
“I don’t know if you can stop them,” Fields said. “I’s about slowing them down a bit.”
— By Adam Carrington
Game: Trion (5-3, 2-2) at Mount Paran Christian (7-2, 4-1)
Last meeting: Mount Paran Christian 31, Trion 12 (Sept. 20)
All-time series: Series tied 2-2
Prediction: Mount Paran 20, Trion 10
With the state playoffs seedings on the line, Mount Paran Christian will be facing a similar opponent, one the Eagles have already beaten 31-12 on Sept. 20 in a non-region game.
Their Class A standings based on the power ranking system will be based on how the Eagles perform in their second meeting of the year against the Bulldogs. Heading into Friday’s game, Mount Paran is fourth in the private school power rankings, while Trion sits at No. 12 in the public school ranks.
The advantage for the Eagles is that they know Trion well. But they may also have to be ready for any adjustments the Bulldogs might make as a result of losing earlier this season.
“It’s tough to play somebody twice, especially a good team like Trion,” Mount Paran coach Mitch Jordan said. “You don’t know if they will change things up offensively and defensively based on the last game. We will do our best, based on the film exchange and be prepared to adjust if they throw any wrinkles at us.”
Emoni Williams chewed Trion up for 188 yards of total offense and two touchdowns, which means it’s highly likely he’s high on Trion’s radar. If Williams is contained, the Eagles will need a contingency plan.
That plan would include running back Dorian Walker, who has 882 yards on 149 carries and 16 touchdowns this season. Taylor Trammell has 476 yards on 70 carries and four touchdowns, and quarterback Jake Allen has 1,258 passing yards with 11 touchdowns and just one interception.
Mount Paran Christian is a far cry from last season when it was 3-7. The Eagles are quicker, more secure in holding on to the football and are relatively injury-free as opposed to last year.
The Eagles will find out if their speed advantage can overcome a Trion team that’s got bigger size and strength.
“If they don’t have the biggest offensive line in the state, they’re close to it,” Jordan said.
— By Adam Carrington
Game: Clarkston (3-5-1) at North Cobb Christian (1-8), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Clarkston 54, North Cobb Christian 14
All-time series: Clarkston leads 1-0
Prediction: Clarkston 49, North Cobb Christian 14
North Cobb Christian hosts Clarkston Friday to finish out the regular season.
The contest is a return game for the Angoras, who hosted the Eagles last year in the final game of the season. Clarkston, a Class AAAAA school in DeKalb County, didn’t play down to the Class A level of North Cobb Christian last season, and Eagles coach Scott Ryle doesn’t expect that to change this year.
Wrapping up his first season at the helm, what Ryle does expect to see is his players continuing to play hard and grow from the experience.
“I had some discussions with the seniors going into this last game,” Ryle said. “They understand that what they did this year with this team is helping to lay the foundation for the future. I’m proud of these seniors for showing the young guys how to do things.”
Among Ryle’s eight-man senior class, only three had played football before this season. The senior class — Trevor Hourigan, Drew Higdon, Zach Bollinger, Casey Brown, Zach Pruitt, James Lusk, Trevor Martin and John Towne — has had its work cut out for it.
“We didn’t have the numbers we needed, but we we played as well as we could with what we had,” Ryle said. “We’ve had a history with that in the past of not having a lot of guys on the roster, so I’m glad these guys decided to come out and got something out of this experience.
“The wins and losses will come. I’m just proud these kids stayed with it, learned and performed well.”
Over its past three games, North Cobb Christian has averaged 10.3 points while allowing 47.7. A victory over a higher-classification team that is putting up 21.2 points per game will be difficult for the Eagles, so Ryle will be looking for the same effort he’s seen all season from his players going into the final game.
“I want this for the seniors,” he said. “I want them and the whole team to focus on completing the task and finishing the season strong.”
— By Carlton D. White