Races tighten … Ola-L. Grove showdown
By this time, nearly every region in Class AAAAA has more or less identified its team to beat. But the push over the last month offers teams – many of them trying to end some sort of playoff drought – to remain viable in the playoff pursuit.
This is especially true in Region 3 and Region 4, where there are five or six teams who have a legitimate chance to make the postseason.
In Region 3, Riverdale has the lead at 2-0 in the region, with Whitewater, Starr’s Mill and Griffin all at 2-1 and Fayette County at 1-1. Even McIntosh (0-2) can’t be discounted.
In Region 4, Stockbridge has established itself as the team to beat by going 4-0 in the league. Woodland (4-1) and Jones County (3-1) are a close second, with Locust Grove and Ola in the hunt at 2-2.
Here’s a look at some of the more intriguing games this week:
Locust Grove at Ola: Barring an upset down the stretch, this looks like the game that could determine the final playoff spot in Region 4. Stockbridge and Woodland are a solid one-two and Jones County has already beaten Locust Grove.
Locust Grove (5-2, 3-2) features running back Caleb Huntley, who has rushed for 1,039 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s gained 100-plus yards in every game. Quarterback R.J. McDaniel had thrown for 615 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 270 yards and one touchdown.
Ola (3-3, 2-2) brings a balanced attack. Quarterback Bryce Lawrence has thrown for 721 yards and Chris Rodriguez has rushed for 879 yards and 14 touchdowns. Andrew Curry leads the defense with 57 tackles, two for loss and three sacks.
Locust Grove leads the series 4-0 and won 37-20 in 2015.
Griffin at Fayette County: Griffin (6-1) can severely damage Fayette County’s playoff hopes with a win. Fayette (3-2-1) is coming off a hard-fought 7-3 win over rival McIntosh and has played a tough non-league schedule to get ready.
Griffin features one of the state’s most explosive playmakers in quarterback Tylan Morton, who has thrown for 2,701 yards and 27 touchdowns and run for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Morton has a cadre of top receivers that will test the Fayette County defense.
Fayette County’s offense features quarterback Malcolm Easterwood and a running attack that includes Jalil Dabney, Trent Carrington and Cory Andrews. Karlen Samples, Noah Alford and Nathan Beamon lead the defense.
Griffin leads the series 20-5, although the two regional rivals haven’t played since 1999. They played every season from 1978-99 and met for the Region 6-AAAA championship in 1980, a game Griffin won en route to finishing second in the state.
Miller Grove vs. Southwest DeKalb (Godfrey Stadium): Both of these teams are in the playoff hunt in Region 5. Miller Grove (2-4, 0-1) was thumped by region leader Arabia Mountain last week. Southwest DeKalb (3-3, 1-0) smeared Chamblee a week ago and has yet to play Arabia Mountain. These two, along with Lithonia and Columbia are in the playoff mix.
Southwest DeKalb leads the series 8-2, but Miller Grove has won two of the last three games. Miller Grove prevailed 35-0 in 2015.
Carver at Riverwood: These two schools are in the competition to see who is most likely to finish second in Region 6 behind mighty Grady. Carver (4-2, 2-1) lost to Grady two weeks ago; Riverwood faces them in two weeks.
Riverwood’s defense will be called on to stop Carver quarterback Octavious Battle, who has thrown for 1,059 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 276 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Joquavious Marks has rushed for 374 yards, a 9.1-yard average.
Riverwood’s offense (3-3, 2-1) is led by quarterback Brennen Suttle and running back Tre Young.
The two schools have played only twice, with Carver winning both times. Carver won 27-7 in 2009.