The Longhorns (9-1) will step on the field riding a seven-game winning streak during which they are averaging 38 points a game.
“The running game has picked up considerably over the last several weeks,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “Our offensive line is blocking well. Of course, our running backs are hitting the holes and doing the right things.”
Thanks to three rushing touchdowns by Khalil Bell and another by Brendan Langley, the Longhorns captured their second region title in three years with a 53-21 victory over Forsyth Central last Friday.
However, Cook realizes his offense getting into the end zone that often could be much tougher tonight in Kell’s matchup with the Panthers.
“Not to say anything negative about the teams we’ve been playing but as you get into the playoffs defenses get better,” said Cook, whose team has never faced Southwest DeKalb. “It will be a challenge to continue to score that many points and do those things against a higher level of competition, which is what you face in the playoffs.”
The Panthers are a perennial playoff team, and they have won a pair of state titles. The last championship came in 1995, when future Georgia quarterback Quincy Carter led them to victory.
This year, Southwest DeKalb (7-3) finished the regular season on a three-game winning streak.
“They have two distinctly different packages they would like to run, but they would like to stay under center and hand the ball off and pound you all night,” Cook said.
Clayton Davenport rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns and Malik Wright added 105 yards in Southwest DeKalb’s 33-12 win over Dunwoody last Friday.
“Coach (Buck) Godfrey has been there forever,” Cook said. “He’s very well-respected and rightfully so. He’s done tremendous things down there in his time as the head coach. He continues to be successful.”
In 2010, the Longhorns also won the region championship, but Cook believes that team’s offense was just as good, but in a different way.
“We had bigger, more physical, running backs on that team with Brian Randolph, Jordan Chambers and Chris Gaines,” Cook said. “Those guys were 200-plus-pound kids. The guys we got now are smaller guys, but they are fast.”
“The receivers are similar,” Cook said. “We had some taller guys in that group with Hunter Marshall and Devon Williams. With this group, you got Brendan Langley, Quincy Mauger and Taylor Henkle who are very athletic and are able to go up and catch the high ball.”
The 2010 team won 12 straight games and advanced to the Class AAAA quarterfinals. Last season, Kell’s playoff run ended in the second round.
“We hope that we are peaking at the right time of the year,” Cook said. “Moving into the playoffs you want to be playing your best football.”