Game: North Paulding (7-1, 7-1) at Allatoona (7-1, 7-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Allatoona 56, North Paulding 27
All-time series: Allatoona leads 3-2
Prediction: Allatoona 28, North Paulding 21
According to Allatoona coach Gary Varner, ninth-ranked North Paulding was considered the favorite to win the Region 5AAAAA championship this season.
If it hadn’t been for a 41-30 loss to New Manchester in the Wolfpack’s second game of the season, 10th-ranked Allatoona would likely be the last team standing in the way of the title for North Paulding.
Turns out, that’s still the case.
Allatoona will host North Paulding on Friday in a critical matchup that could not only determine the Region 5AAAAA champion, but also whether or not the Buccaneers get a first-round home playoff game in a couple of weeks.
The winner will get the edge in that decision due to winning the head-to-head matchup. A loss likely means starting the playoffs on the road.
Varner likes the fact that the game will be at Buccaneer Stadium.
“I like playing at home,” he said. “But, I don’t think it will affect the way North Paulding comes to play. I like that it’s at home and in front of our fans and our community and stuff. I also like that, if the weather’s bad, the field won’t be a factor.”
A North Paulding win would likely hand the region championship over to the Wolfpack. North Paulding’s final game is against 4-4 Villa Rica, and the Wolfpack have already defeated region co-leader South Paulding (7-1).
“It’s a big game and we’re excited to go play it,” North Paulding coach Scott Jones said. “Our first goal this season was to make the playoffs. We did that last year for the first time in school history, so we’re trying to pave the road for continued success in the future.
“The kids are excited about this opportunity.”
Allatoona still has East Paulding (5-3) on the schedule, so beating the Wolfpack likely hands the No. 2 seed over to the Buccaneers. South Paulding, which already defeated Allatoona, finishes off against Paulding County and Lithia Springs which are a combined 2-15 on the season.
— By Carlton D. White
Game: Kell (8-0, 3-0) at Pope (3-5, 2-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Kell 31, Pope 3
All-time series: Kell leads 8-1
Prediction: Kell 35, Pope 14
Kell hasn’t had many close games this season, and based upon its history against Pope, the trend may continue.
Overall, the No. 3 Longhorns (8-0, 3-0) have won the previous eight matchups against the Greyhounds (3-5, 2-1) and the last three encounters have been by an average margin of 33-10.
“We match up well against them,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “We’ve had a lot of team speed over the years and they’ve got a lot of size so the speed has had the advantage over the size.”
Defense has been the difference as well.
“Last year, we just had a fast start and kind of kept it rolling,” Cook said. “But we’ve played good defense against them, too. I think the main thing is that we’ve been able to hold them, keep them off the field and that just gives us more opportunities offensively to score. Hopefully, we will be able to continue to do that.”
For this to happen, Cook believes his defense can’t afford to gamble.
“Coach Matt Kemper does a really good job offensively making defenses be very disciplined,” Cook said. “It’s not your traditional option-style offense, but its still option based. You’ve got to have your responsibilities in order or they will gash you with the big the play.”
— By Maurice Dixon
MDJ Sports Writer
Game: Osborne at Sprayberry, 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Sprayberry 23, Osborne 17
All-time series: Sprayberry leads 14-10
Prediction: Sprayberry 24, Osborne 17
With two games left in the regular season, Sprayberry and Osborne have reached the crossroads of their seasons. The winner of Friday’s contest will face Creekview next week in a Region 7AAAAA play-in game for a spot in the state playoffs while the losing team will see its postseason hopes end for good.
“We’re treating this contest like an elimination game,” Osborne coach Xarvia Smith said. “Making the playoffs would be the greatest thing for our program and the Osborne community in 20 years. It’s up to the players to go out and get the win.”
Sprayberry coach Billy Shackelford see’s the situation the same way.
“Any time you have something riding on one game, it creates urgency,” Shackelford said. “We’re used to making the playoffs and getting into the postseason this year would show the resilience of our program.”
Osborne (2-6, 0-3) comes into the contest on a four-game losing streak. Quarterback Craig Robinson has become one of the top dual-threat signal-callers in Cobb County, rushing for 767 yards along with 1,012 passing yards and six touchdowns on the year, and he will have to have a big game.
“We’ll have to run the ball with our offensive line controlling the game while continuing to move down the field, scoring touchdowns in the red zone,” Smith said.
Sprayberry (1-7, 0-3) has also dropped its last four contests.
“We will have to be productive running the ball on first and second downs on offense to avoid long third down plays,” Shackelford said. “Our defense has to make tackles on first contact against the Osborne runners and put their offense in bad positions.”
The teams share similar traits as both squads average less than 20 points per game on offense while struggling on defense, with Sprayberry (39.1) and Osborne (31.4) having difficulty stopping their opponents as well.
Sprayberry has made the postseason four of the last six seasons while Osborne seeks to make the playoffs for the first time since 1994.
— By Marcel Pourtout
MDJ Sports Writer
Game: Mount Paran Christian (6-2, 3-1) at Walker (4-4, 1-3), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Walker 20, Mount Paran 3
All-time series: Mount Paran leads 2-1
Prediction: Mount Paran 35, Walker 14
Mount Paran Christian and Walker are both coming off losses last week. The Eagles dropped a close 28-24 contest at home to Mount Pisgah Christian in a battle for the Region 6A (B) lead. Meanwhile, the Wolverines fell 28-6 at Whitefield Academy.
Both teams will be looking to get back to their winning ways, and they’ll be doing it for completely different reasons.
The Eagles, who are ranked 10th in the lastest Georgia Sports Writers Association poll, are also fifth in the most recent Class A power ratings used to determine the seeding in the playoffs. While a loss might not drop Mount Paran from one of the top 16 spots, it could damage the Eagles’ seeding chances and have them playing a less favorable first round matchup in a couple of weeks.
For Walker, which is rated 24th in the power ratings, a win over a highly rated opponent such as Mount Paran could be used as a possible springboard into postseason consideration.
Mount Paran Christian has been dealing with its setback to the Patriots and has been moving on this week.
“We talked about it on Monday,” coach Mitch Jordan said. “It was a tough loss for the kids and coaches. We watched the film and saw we were close. We could have put the game away, and just didn’t make plays.
“We know we still have a lot to play for. It’s the not the region championship, so now we just have to focus on one game at a time, getting to the postseason and seeing what we can do there.”
In order for Walker to give itself a chance Friday, it must get an offense that has been struggling all season into a rhythm. The Wolverines have scored 10 points or less four times this season.
“We continue to struggle more on the offensive side of the ball,” Walker coach John East said. “I think our defense has played pretty solidly all year, but we’re still trying to find our best combinations and we’ve been reaching a little bit. But, I think we have some talented kids, and hopefully we’ll be able to put it all together this week.”
— By Carlton D. White
Game: Whitefield Academy (3-5, 1-3) at King’s Ridge Christian (3-5, 1-3), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Whitefield Academy 21, King’s Ridge 10
All-time series: Whitefield Academy leads 1-0
Prediction: Whitefield 17, King’s Ridge 9
No player has been more reliable this season for Whitefield Academy than senior running back and linebacker Sky Dupree.
So far, this season, Dupree has shown he can do nearly anything on the field.
Right now, he has the coaching staff debating whether he’s a better offensive player or defensive player.
Defensively, Dupree’s leading the team with 78 tackles. He also has three tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries and a sack. Offensively, Dupree’s second on the team with 317 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Receiving, he has 150 yards on 20 catches. He’s also scored four 2-point conversions.
Dupree recovered a blocked punt against Walker and took it all the way back to the one. Whitefield scored its first touchdown on the next play.
“He’s contagious, people see his unselfishness and he does a lot of things to set teammates up for success,” Whitefield coach Jimmy Fields said. “He helps make players around him better.”
Dupree is a big reason Whitefield is looking to end its season strong and put itself in the best position for its Region 6A (B) play-in game.
The Wolfpack started its final charge with a 28-6 win over Walker last week.
It was Whitefield’s first subregion victory and it is looking to carry that momentum on the trip to King’s Ridge on Friday.
“We’re trying to fight the standings,” Fields said. “Every quarter counts. Every quarter against King’s Ridge counts. We have to stay hungry.”
— By Adam Carrington
Game: North Cobb Christian (1-7) at St. Francis (7-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: St. Francis 34, North Cobb Christian 25
All-time series: St. Francis leads 2-1
Prediction: St. Francis 30, North Cobb Christian 7
North Cobb Christian’s 42-7 loss to Lakeview Academy last week could have been closer than it was.
The Eagles moved the ball well between the 20s in the first half but just couldn’t score, and they found themselves trailing 28-7 at the half.
North Cobb Christian’s three-touchdown deficit at the half was also the result of giving up big running plays on defense.
The Eagles will face a similar team in St. Francis, which runs the option and is big on the defensive line.
“They are a good football team,” North Cobb Christian coach Scott Ryle said. “They are a big team. We have to stay disciplined, get to our assignments and do all the little things that will make us effective.”
With North Cobb Christian relying much on its running game, the Eagles can’t afford to play behind the chains.
Chandler Moeller is expected to play a major part in the backfield after leaving the game last week with a minor injury.
He had 84 yards on 23 carries against Lakeview before leaving the game.
Moeller has been a solid replacement for David Brittingham, who went down with a knee injury against Towns County two weeks ago.
— By Adam Carrington