State playoffs start this Friday for four local football teams

Tue, 11/13/2007 - 2:04pm
By: Kevin Wandra

The lights this Friday night will shine a little brighter as the GHSA state football playoffs begin.

Four local teams will take the field with thoughts of a state championship dancing in their heads and a long road ahead of all of them.

For most of the local teams, the playoffs are nothing new. Landmark Christian is there practically every year, although this year, for the first time in over five years, it is not in the playoffs as a No. 1 seed. Sandy Creek is another perennial playoff contender, but it's the only local team to be playing in somebody else’s backyard. Whitewater has made the state playoffs for the second year in a row, once again as a two seed, and it's getting used to playing in the second season.

The new kids on the block, so to speak, are the Fayette County Tigers, representing the oldest football program in the county. The Tigers completed a perfect regular season and are hoping to win their first state playoff game in school history. The team hasn’t made the postseason since 1997.

Everybody comes to play in the playoffs, and there are no cupcake games. The rule now is win or go home, and these four teams are hoping to keep their seasons going just a little bit longer.

Fayette County Tigers (10-0, 8-0 in Region 2-AAAA) vs. Baldwin Braves (8-1, 5-1 in Region 4B-AAAA)

Fourth-ranked Fayette, the top seed from Region 2-AAAA, last made the state playoffs in 1997. It has outscored its opponents 291-85. It had Region 2-AAAA’s highest-scoring offense (29.1 points per game) and the stingiest defense (8.5 points per game) in the regular season. Its offense is led by two of the top players in the state, quarterback Brandon Boykin, who has verbally committed to Georgia, and fullback Matt Daniels, who has verbally committed to Duke.

Boykin, the leader of Fayette’s option offense, does most of his damage with his legs; once he breaks into the open field, he’s difficult to catch because of his game-breaking speed and running skills. Daniels has the power and toughness to run between the tackles and the speed and shiftiness to pick up yards outside the tackles.

Wingback Tim Pettaway, wide receiver Terrow Davis and tight end Barack Little are three other offensive weapons for Fayette.

Fayette’s defense has been carried all year by its deep and talented linebacking corps — Devontae Partridge, Evan Reid, Darrin Fields, Edward Bexley, Josh Parker and Shemar Fletcher. Fayette’s linebackers are quick and possess sideline-to-sideline tackling ability. Its secondary, one of the best in the state, features athletic cornerbacks Boykin and Cuincy Carruthers and big-hitting safety Daniels.

Seventh-ranked Baldwin, the No. 4 seed from 4-AAAA, has outscored its opponents 245-109, and its only loss this season has come against Region 4B-AAAA’s top team, undefeated Northside, Warner Robins, 31-0. The Braves have won their last four games.

Baldwin’s top players are quarterback Wayne Williams, who has thrown nine touchdown passes in his last three games, running back Mario Ford, who is averaging more than 100 yards per game, wide receiver Arsenio Glenn, who has caught seven touchdown passes in the last three games, cornerback JB Brown, safety Bennie Milline, defensive tackle Darius French and linebackers Marcus Robinson and Corcio Hawkins.

Baldwin’s base offense is run out of the I-formation, and defensively, it employs a 4-3 scheme.

“Baldwin will be a big test for us,” Fayette coach Tommy Webb said. “They have good size and are real physical on both sides of the ball. We expect it to be a tough, physical game.”

Should Fayette win, it would be its first postseason victory in school history.

Sandy Creek Patriots (6-4, 5-2 in Region 6-AAA) at Hart County Bulldogs (8-1-1, 5-1 in Region 8-AAA)

Creek, the No. 3 seed from Region 6-AAA, is on a two-game winning streak, and it has won four out of its last five games and six out of its last eight. The Patriots have outscored their opponents 246-147. A mainstay of Creek’s season has been its defense, which has yielded 14.7 points per game. Linebackers Matt Solomon and Zack Hilton are the heart and soul of Creek’s defense. Both are active and instinctive and have the strength to plug holes inside and the speed to track down ballcarriers outside the tackles. Defensive end Jeremy Holt, cornerbacks Josh Holt and Jordan Griffin and safety Russell Bonner are also key members of a well-rounded Creek defense.

Creek’s offense is led by one of the top wide receivers in the state, Braxton Lane, who has sure hands, blazing speed and exceptional after-the-catch skills. Lane is hands down quarterback Rio Johnson’s favorite, and most reliable, target. Creek also possesses a potent running back tandem in Ragion Neal and Josh Williams, both of whom have been productive.

Eighth-ranked Hart County, the No. 2 seed from Region 8-AAA, has dominated its competition, outscoring its opponents 243-73. Its only loss came against an undefeated team, second-ranked Stephens County, 20-7, two weeks ago. Its tie came against unranked Clarke Central, 21-21. Hart County’s offense is averaging 24.3 points per game, and its defense is allowing only 7.3 points per game.

“Hart County is probably the most athletic team we will have faced,” Creek coach Chip Walker said. “They are a traditional state power.”
Hart County has a dynamic quarterback, Kurvin Curry, and tailback Ren Teasley, who’s on his way toward a 1,000-yard season.

“Hart County likes to run out of the I-formation and the spread,” Walker said. “They have a really athletic quarterback [Curry] and a good tailback [Teasley].”

Hart County has athleticism and speed on defense.

“They are very athletic on defense, and they can run to the football,” Walker said. “They play multiple fronts, mixing the 4-3 with the 4-4.”

The strength of Hart County’s defense is its secondary. Rod Harland (4.5 40) and Fred Stowers (4.4 40) give Hart County one of the quickest defensive back tandems in Region 8-AAA.

This will be the first-ever game between Creek and Hart County.

Landmark Christian War Eagles (6-4, 4-1 in Region 5-A) vs. Lincoln County Red Devils (9-1, 6-1 in Region 7-A)

Landmark, the No. 2 seed from Region 5-A, faces a difficult test in the first round, facing two-time defending state champion Lincoln County, the No. 3 seed from Region 7-AAA. The War Eagles have outscored their opponents 337-218.

The War Eagles have one of the most most explosive tandems in the state in dual-threat quarterback Tanner Bryant and running back Walter Lenard, and they are the two primary reasons Landmark has averaged 33.7 points per game.

Landmark will face a stingy Lincoln County defense, one that has allowed only 7.2 points per game. Red Devils defensive tackles Ronell Ferguson and Tony Wells, both seniors, are big and strong, with the ability to collapse the pocket and penetrate into the backfield.

Landmark’s defense is led by linebacker Andrew Glaize, a tackling machine, and defensive back Blake Wyatt, the leader of the War Eagles’ secondary. The War Eagles’ defense will face a Lincoln County offense that has scored 31.4 points per game and is anchored by senior linemen Garrett Matthews and Daniel Morris.

Sixth-ranked Lincoln County’s only loss this season came in a close game, 12-6 to region rival Twiggs County.

The last time Landmark and Lincoln County played, in 2002, Lincoln County won, 21-0, in the state playoffs.

Whitewater Wildcats (8-2, 7-1 in Region 2-AAAA) vs. Lovejoy Wildcats (5-5, 4-2 in Region 4-AAAA).

Red-hot Whitewater, the No. 2 seed from Region 2-AAAA, is riding a seven-game winning streak into the state playoffs. Lovejoy, the No. 3 seed from Region 4-AAAA, enters the playoffs on a three-game winning streak. It was an impressive turnaround for Lovejoy, which lost its first four games to open the season.

“Early on, Lovejoy seemed to have some problems this season,” Whitewater coach Amos McCreary said. “They seemed to have solved all those problems. Right now, Lovejoy is playing as well as anybody.”

Whitewater has outscored its opponents 206-100. Its Wing-T offense is centered around underrated wingbacks Thomas Frierson and Austin Faulkner and bruising fullback Collin Wooddy. Frierson, in particular, has been exceptional during Whitewater’s winning streak, consistently finding the end zone.

Lovejoy’s defense, led by linebacker Braelin Watson and defensive back Michael Greene, will have its hands full stopping Whitewater’s backfield trio.

Whitewater’s defense has been solid all year. Linebackers Zac Mann, Ryan Hidalgo, defensive end Thomas Richard, defensive tackle J.C. Jennings, safety Kevin Fleming and cornerback Chris Asbury lead a unit that is physical and has allowed only 10 points per game.

Lovejoy’s pass-happy offense will attempt to stretch the field with quarterback Kyle Lacy. Lacy’s favorite target is tall wide receiver T.J. Brown. Running backs Tim Jackson and Spencer Jackson give the offense balance. They run behind a massive offensive line that has opened gaping holes during Lovejoy’s winning streak.

“Lovejoy is very physical, and they’re huge,” McCreary said. “I think for us to win, we’ll have to play a very physical game.”

Lovejoy has outscored it opponents 216-159.

Whitewater and Lovejoy have never faced each

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