After making a run to the Class AAAAAA state semifinals last season, the Warriors are on the verge of making the state quarterfinals in back-to-back years for the first time.
It will be a tough task, but if No. 9 North Cobb (9-2) can defeat No. 5 Colquitt County (9-2) at Emory Sewell Stadium tonight, the Warriors will guarantee themselves a home contest next week against either Peachtree Ridge or Dacula.
But first they have to take care of the Packers.
“This has been a great week of practice,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “There’s a lot of great chemistry going on. We’re excited about hosting one of the best programs in the state.”
The Warriors have had their moments of success during their 56-year history, but so far, they have never been able to carry it over for back-to-back seasons.
In 1959, coach Albert Matthews led North Cobb to the Class C state title game, but the Warriors missed the playoffs the following season.
Coach Roscoe Carden led a 12-1 campaign in 1979, which included a state quarterfinal appearance, but that was followed by a 6-5 season in 1980.
In 2007, Queen’s second season as coach, the Warriors were 10-1, won a region title and were ranked No. 1 heading into the playoffs. They followed it with a 5-5 season in 2008 after graduating 29 seniors, including Matt Roark, who went on to play for Kentucky.
All of those follow-up misses in previous years have helped to make this year more exciting.
By getting nine wins, this North Cobb team has already cemented itself as the one with the most total wins over a two-year period (20). It is also the first time the program has made it at least to the second round of the playoffs in back-to-back years.
But after going 11-3 last season, the Warriors were faced with another rebuilding year. They lost nine starters off the defensive unit, including three all-state players — Shaun Daniels and Hakeem Sawyer at linebacker and defensive lineman Eghosa Agbonghae.
If that wasn’t enough, the offense lost a pair of all-state players in wide receiver Xavier Borishade and kicker A.J. Bourdin, as well as much of the offensive line.
As it turned out, it wasn’t much of problem for the Warriors after all.
Last year’s offense averaged 41.7 points a game. This year, that number is only 36, but while the offense may be slightly less explosive, the defense has exceeded all expectations. Last year the Warriors allowed 20 points a game. This year, that number is 14.
“Great programs build on that success,” Queen said. “The kids watched the seniors last year handle themselves and prepare themselves for the playoffs, and their success comes from having been there before.”
While most of North Cobb’s 2012 team graduated, the few that came back for this season may had been the best players on the field during their playoff run.
That started with Class AAAAAA all-state quarterback Tyler Queen.
An Auburn commitment and still only a junior, Queen is closing in on 2,000 yards passing and has 21 touchdowns to just six interceptions. He also has 427 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
“Their quarterback is outstanding,” Colquitt County coach Rush Propst said. “He brings everything to the table — size, speed and mobility. Auburn wouldn’t take him if he wasn’t a threat.”
J’Vonte Herrod returned and has run for 1,170 yards and 14 touchdowns. North Carolina commitment Cameron Albright has been the leader on defense at safety, and has helped out on offense as one of Queen’s favorite receivers. The same could also be said for Latrell Gibbs, who had four interceptions against Harrison and returned two of them for touchdowns.
While the returning starters were expected to lead the team, the quick learning curve of the newcomers could have North Cobb in position for another big season in 2014.
Freshman linebacker Chandler Wooten has 63 tackles and sophomore defensive lineman Scottie Cartledge has 50. Junior receivers Deon Dodd and Devin Granville have combined for 22 catches, 498 yards and four touchdowns. They, along with Queen will set the foundation.
“People talk about rebuilding,” Shane Queen said. “Great programs reload. Kids aren’t going to accept being young. They prepare themselves each week like they were supposed to and that’s how we’ve been successful.”