Allatoona vs Gainesville in Friday night football action during first round of playoffs

Dante Marshall and Allatoona will make their first trip to Stephenson to face the perennial playoff power in the second round of the playoffs.

Game: Allatoona (8-2-1) at Stephenson (10-1), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: First meeting

All-time series: First meeting

Prediction: Allatoona 21, Stephenson 20

After taking care of business at home last week in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs, Region 6AAAAAA runner-up Allatoona is on the road for a second round matchup at Region 4AAAAAA champion Stephenson tonight at Hallford Stadium in Clarkston.

The fifth-ranked Buccaneers dominated visiting Gainesville last week 49-7 to post their fourth consecutive victory and advance to the second round of the playoffs for the sixth straight season. A win over the sixth-ranked Jaguars would mark a return trip to the quarterfinals for Allatoona for the second time in three seasons.

“I guess it just shows we’ve been consistent,” Allatoona coach Gary Varner said about his team’s sixth straight second round appearance. “We haven’t been great over the years, but we’ve been good enough to generate some consistency in the program. And that’s not just on the kids. It’s on the coaching staff, the community, the administration and everybody.

“We get great support from the student body, the parents and just everyone involved in the program. It’s a program win, not just a team win, and I think all that contributes to us being able to have some success in the playoffs.”

It was Allatoona’s defense that led the way to the Buccaneers’ first-round win. Leading 14-0 at halftime, the unit caused three turnovers which completely turned the game around for the home team.

“Overall, I think we were really good in all three phases of the game,” Varner said. “But, our defense really made the difference. Scores can be deceiving, and we scored off some big turnovers in the second half to put the game out of reach. Those three defensive plays changed everything for us.”

Allatoona will likely need the same kind of defensive presence against Stephenson tonight with the Jaguars averaging 30.9 points per game. Stephenson has won eight in a row following a loss in its region opener. It’s the only game in which the Jaguars were held to single digits.

Defensively, the Jaguars hadn’t allowed a team to score 20-or more points all season until Bradwell Institute posted 20 last week in a 27-point loss.

Stephenson has three shut outs on the year and has held seven teams to single digits in scoring. Varner sees the Jaguars’ defense as the strength of their team.

“Defensively, they’re strong up front,” he said. “They have a bid defensive line and that’s really physical and they’re strong on the back end with their defensive backs, so they’re really talented on defense.

“Offensively, they run the ball well. They have a big back who’s about 215 pounds who’s their hammer and another guy who’s like their home run hitter who can go all the way.

“It’s not surprising they’re a successful team. They played really well in their region, and they’re definitely a match up concern for us.”

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