NCC

Ryan Pruitt and the North Cobb Christian offense will try to keep its momentum when they host George Walton in the opening round of the Class A private playoffs tonight.

Game: George Walton Academy (6-4), at North Cobb Christian (7-3), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: First meeting

All-time series: First meeting

Prediction: North Cobb Christian 30, George Walton Academy 14

Not having a bye in the first round of the Class A state private school bracket makes for a longer road toward a state championship.

North Cobb Christian is not concerned with that.

Coach Mark Hollars said the Eagles are blessed they get to play at home in the first round against George Walton Academy.

North Cobb Christian is not dwelling on potential opponents they could see later on. Hollars’ motto to his team this week is, “to play your best football and enjoy the experience.”

George Walton plays a similar brand of football. Like the Eagles, George Walton likes to establish the run out of the Wing-T.

“We have a lot of similar kids, similar beliefs and it should be a good game,” Hollars said. “We’re playing a mirror image of ourselves. (George Walton) is going to be a tough opponent for us. They are in a good region like we are. Both teams are going to be prepared because of the tough schedules we have played.”

North Cobb Christian faced adversity late in the regular season when it lost to Christian Heritage and Darlington in back-to-back games. Darlington and Christian Heritage ended up the top two teams out of Region 6A(A).

After bouncing back with a 52-10 win over Walker in the region play-in game last week, the Eagles have momentum going into the postseason.

“We lost to two 9-1 teams so there’s nothing to be disappointed about,” Hollars said. “A lot of young kids have stepped up, and kids are getting better every week. That’s the important thing. They understand each Friday night that they have to be ready to go.”

Preparing for a team that has a similar style of play, the players are likely to know what to expect. Hollars said the Eagles will have to be physical in all three phases of the game. Winning the turnover battle is also important as well as executing on special teams.

“It will also be important that we stop the run and make them do things that they don’t want to do,” Hollars said.

— By Adam Carrington

Game: Mount Paran Christian (5-4) at Aquinas (8-2), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Mount Paran 34, Aquinas 14 (Dec. 5, 2014)

All-time series: Tied 1-1

Prediction: Aquinas 27, Mount Paran 21

After sneaking into the playoffs with a 27-7 win over Trion in the last game of the regular season, Mount Paran will travel to Aquinas to take on the second place team out of Region 7A (B) in the first round of the state playoffs.

Mount Paran claimed the 23rd spot in the GHSA power ratings after its win over a Trion team in the same ranking in the Class A Public rankings. With the top eight teams earning a first round bye, the Eagles were matched up with No. 10 Aquinas.

Mount Paran comes into the playoffs with momentum after winning its last two games of the regular season. Aquinas is in the exact opposite situation, starting its season 8-0 before dropping its last two contests heading into the playoffs.

The two quarterbacks will each be the focus of their team’s respective offensive gameplans. For Mount Paran, Princeton commit Niko Vangarelli represents a true dual threat, both passing and rushing for over 1,000 yards this season.

Aquinas’ starter James Shlegel is just as dangerous as Vangarelli on the ground. He has rushed for 870 yards on the season to lead the Fightin’ Irish, averaging 7.2 yards per carry and scoring seven touchdowns. The biggest difference between the teams is in the passing game, where Aquinas has attempted only 73 passes all season and gained only 478 yards through the air.

Schlegel is joined by Ashlon Williams Jr. and Darius Stone in the Fightin’ Irish backfield, a duo that has combined to rush for 1,087 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

Three other players, including the only player with double-digit catches on the season, Joseph Welch, have over 100 yards rushing for Aquinas. Welch has only ten catches, but averages 26.3 yards per reception.

Defensively, the Fightin’ Irish have forced 18 turnovers through their first ten games. Ball security will need to be a priority for Vangarelli and the Mount Paran offense in a hostile environment against an opportunistic defense.

The two teams are playing for a chance to move on and play Darlington in the second round, a team whose 9-1 record earned it the seventh seed in the Class A Private state playoffs. Mount Paran last played Darlington in 2016 and won a close game 24-22.

— By Marshall White

MDJ Sports Writer

Game: Brookstone (6-4) at Whitefield Academy (7-3), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Brookstone 21, Whitefield 6, (Aug. 31, 2007)

All-time series: Brookstone leads 2-0

Prediction: Whitefield Academy 28, Brookstone 21

Whitefield Academy faced a Wing-T offense a couple of weeks ago against eventual Region 6A champion Fellowship Christian, and results didn’t go in its favor.

The Wolfpack had to settle for a 31-9 loss to the Paladins.

Whitefield gets a second chance when Brookstone comes to visit tonight in the first round of the Class A state private school playoffs.

Coach Coleman Joiner said the coaching staff had a solid game plan to contain Fellowship Christian’s Wing T but may have overcomplicated things.

This week, Whitefield has kept Wing-T preparations simple.

“It’s not as new as it was two weeks ago,” Joiner said. “We simplified our game plan so we can allow our guys to play fast. We’re putting together a plan that should allow them to do that.”

For the simplified plan to work, the Wolfpack will need a big game from Jaquez Dew at middle linebacker. Myles Redding continues to play well in the secondary after forcing two turnovers against Christian Heritage, and sophomore Cole Long continues to make an impact.

The one downside for Whitefield could be a lack of momentum or confidence after entering the state playoffs with two straight losses to Fellowship and Christian Heritage.

But Joiner said the team is looking at the bigger picture.

“Obviously, there is a little disappointment after the last two weeks,” Joiner said. “We have to remember that played two of the top eight teams in the state. At the same time, we are also preparing for the playoffs. There is no other way that we want to prepare for the playoffs than to play two of the top teams in the state.”

A long term goal for Whitefield Academy is to advance to the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history. The Wolfpack made it to the second round of the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2007 and 2008 and again in 2017.

Should the Wolfpack fall short, they are capable of doing it soon. Their last losing season came in 2016 and have been to the state playoffs every year since.

— By Adam Carrington

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