Game: Marietta (6-2, 4-2) at North Cobb (7-1, 6-0), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: North Cobb 45, Marietta 32
All-time series: Marietta leads 15-14
Prediction: North Cobb 31, Marietta 24
With only two starters returning on defense — Cameron Albright and Latrell Gibbs — from last year’s Class AAAAAA state semifinal team, North Cobb has overachieved on the defensive side of the ball.
The defense have played a major role in putting the Warriors in good position to win their fourth region championship in the program’s 55-year history, and its first since 2007.
After allowing 28 points to Walton in their only loss of the season, the Warriors have allowed an average of only 14 points a game since.
After pulling out a 28-26 victory over then-No. 2 McEachern two weeks ago, North Cobb will be hosting another explosive offense in Marietta, a solid candidate for one of four state playoff spots out of Region 4AAAAAA.
Coach Shane Queen said his revamped defense’s biggest strength is preparation and bailing out the offense.
“It’s all about preparation, I feel like,” Queen said. “They watch a ton of film, so they know what they need to do (tonight) and what to expect.”
“Marietta is one of the top scoring offenses in the state of Georgia. They have a ton of talent and they bring the weapons onto the field. They will spread you out and make plays.”
— By Adam Carrington
Game: McEachern (7-1, 5-1) at Harrison (5-3, 4-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: McEachern 61, Harrison 21
All-time series: McEachern leads 12-7
Prediction: McEachern 41, Harrison 20
McEachern used its bye week to go back to the basics of football after the Indians suffered a heartbreaking 28-26 loss to North Cobb on Oct. 18.
Now they have to beat a much improved Harrison team tonight and Hillgrove at home in the regular season finale to at least finish in the top two of Region 4AAAAAA.
“I think we’ve taken (our week off) the right way,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “The kids are focused on wanting to get better. We got outcoached and outplayed (against North Cobb). It was a wakeup call and we focused on the fundamentals and the simple things to get better.”
Harrison is known to chew clock with its running game behind quarterback Lorenzo Nunez. If the Indians want to win, they would have to slow down Nunez.
McEachern has the best 1-2 punch in Cobb County when it comes to compiling sacks. Henry Famurewa has 12 sacks, McKenzie Billinglea is right behind with 11 and both could make it a long night for Harrison.
— By Adam Carrington
Game: Pebblebrook (2-6, 0-6) at Kennesaw Mountain (1-7, 0-7), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Kennesaw Mountain 35, Pebblebrook 14
All-time series: Pebblebrook leads 3-2
Prediction: Pebblebrook 35, Kennesaw Mountain 28
Pebblebrook and Kennesaw Mountain share a common goal entering tonight’s Region 4AAAAAA clash at Cobb Energy/Mustang Stadium.
Both teams are out to snap a long losing streak and they’re both looking to pick up their first region win.
The season has been particularly difficult for Pebblebrook, which opened the year with a surprising seven-point victory at Southwest DeKalb and a home win against Mountain View. Since then, the Falcons have gone winless over the past six games.
“There’s a chance in front of us,” Pebblebrook coach Tommy Macon said. “It’s not necessarily our best chance, because anything can happen. However, there is a chance we can take advantage of a situation against a team that is in a similar position that we’re in.”
Kennesaw Mountain is also seeking a strong finish to the season, but like Pebblebrook, wins are difficult to come by in a very tough region. Three teams — North Cobb, Hillgrove and McEachern — are currently ranked among the top 10 Class AAAAAA squads in the state. Marietta was also ranked at one point.
“It’s a very difficult schedule,” said Kennesaw Mountain coach Andy Scott, who is in his second season at the helm. “And when you’re trying to build a program, it’s tough to get past those upper-echelon teams in your region. The teams we’re trying to emulate.”
— By Carlton D. White
Game: Hillgrove (7-1, 5-1) at South Cobb (2-6, 2-4), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Hillgrove 37, South Cobb 14
All-time series: Hillgrove leads 2-1
Prediction: Hillgrove 42, South Cobb 28
Emanuel Beal was a key contributor to Wheeler’s success last season. As the Wildcats’ leading receiver, Beal caught 43 passes for 855 yards and seven touchdowns, helping Wheeler to a 6-5 record and the team’s first postseason showing since 2006.
It took six games before Beal would make another appearance under the lights on a Friday. He was on the field for two plays against North Cobb on Oct. 11, but in a different uniform as the 6-foot-1, 200-pound playmaker saw action for Hillgrove in its loss to the Warriors.
Since then, Beal has been a part of four more plays — two each in games against Kennesaw Mountain and Harrison — as he slowly gets acclimated back onto the field.
“He was ineligible for us for the first couple of games and got to play for the first time against North Cobb,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. “He’s an athlete and we’re glad to have him. He has some speed and obviously did some good things for Wheeler when he was there. He’ll help us out in the passing game.”
Beal’s emergence as a receiving threat has already paid dividends for Hillgrove. He had one reception — a 90-yard touchdown in the third quarter — in the Hawks’ 40-24 victory over Harrison on Oct. 25.
A senior, Beal ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.
“He has a learning curve to get through, so we’re easing him back into things,” Ironside said. “His ability will definitely help us in the short term and the long term as he gets use to our signals and plays and the tempo with how we do things.”
Beal’s speed, versatility and route running make him a great addition to the Hillgrove roster as the team moves forward towards the postseason. So far, he’s mostly been used as a slot receiver, but he’s able to play anywhere on the field.
“The difference between him and our other guys is his speed,” Ironside said. “He’s a strong kid and he can run. The two kids we have on the outside have been playing well there, so it’s tough to take them out. That’s why Beal’s been in the slot.
“But he can do it all, there’s no doubt about that.”
— By Carlton D. White
Game: Lassiter (5-3, 5-1) at Roswell (4-4, 2-3), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Lassiter 28, Roswell 14
All-time series: Roswell leads series 14-9
Prediction: Lassiter 21, Roswell 14
Lassiter has been well fortified at quarterback the last several years, with eventual Division I signees Hutson Mason (Georgia) and Eddie Printz (Missouri) leading the offense.
The Trojans’ good fortune at quarterback has continued with the arrival of Will Anderson.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior transferred from Wesleyan and has picked up where Mason and Printz have left off — completing 136 of 224 passes for 1,862 yards and 19 touchdowns to lead the Trojans (5-3, 4-1) to a share of the Region 5AAAAAA lead with Etowah.
For Lassiter coach Jep Irwin, Anderson — who leads Cobb County in passing, and is among the top passers in the state — has been a big plus for the Trojans.
“He’s played very well for us,” Irwin said. “He’s played seven of our eight games, and he’s played very well. At the start of the year, he was learning a new system, playing AAAAAA ball for the first time, and he
didn’t have a lot of experience at receiver. So when our receivers got some experience and our offense started clicking, he’s played really, really well. ”
— By Greg Oshust
MDJ Sports Writer
Game: Walton (4-4, 3-2) at Etowah (7-1, 4-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Walton 21, Etowah 16
All-time series: Walton leads 7-2
Prediction: Etowah 34, Walton 28
The playoffs start a couple of weeks early for Etowah and Walton, which meet tonight in a Region 5AAAAAA game
While Etowah has already assured itself a spot in the state playoffs, it’s still playing for a region title. Wins tonight against Walton and next week at Lassiter would make the Eagles a region champ for the first time since 2010.
As for Walton (4-4, 3-2), it needs to win tonight and next week against Roswell in order to help itself out of a logjam for third place.
All of the region implications have led to a playoff atmosphere in the locker room of both teams.
“They are all playoff games now,” Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo said.
The football hasn’t bounced Walton’s way too many times this season — both literally and figuratively. The Raiders have struggled to force turnovers on defense, while ending up on the losing end of some unfortunate plays.
“It’s been a crazy year for us this year,” Hidalgo said. “We haven’t gotten any turnovers when we are on defense, and we just haven’t had a lot of luck. We have to be able to go and create those big plays and hopefully create some turnovers to help us win some games against good teams.”
— By Emily Horos
Game: Wheeler (2-6, 0-5) at Woodstock (2-6, 1-4), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Wheeler 31, Woodstock 9
All-time series: Woodstock leads 5-4
Prediction: Wheeler 35, Woodstock 28
Wheeler and Woodstock enter tonight’s Region 5AAAAAA game at the Wolverine Den under similar circumstances.
Both teams are trying to end losing streaks, with Wheeler looking to stop a six-game slide and Woodstock out to finish a three-game skid.
Another notable similarity is how close the teams have been to having different seasons.
Wheeler has lost each of its last three games by a touchdown or less — a combined 17 points.
Woodstock has also dropped each of its last three contests by seven points or less — a combined 18 points. In fact, the Wolverines have been within seven points over each of their last five games.
“I really hate it for our kids,” Wheeler coach Mike Collins said. “They’ve played extremely hard our last three games. And really, our season in general can come down to about five or six plays. If we had five or six plays go the other way, we’d really be looking at making a run for a home playoff game.”
The Wildcats’ motivation for turning their season around likely stems from the play of sophomore quarterback Ryles Kirkland.
Since taking over for dismissed starter Elijah Staley during Wheeler’s loss to Milton on Sept. 27, Kirkland has performed well, keeping the Wildcats in every contest.
Having played its last three games on the road, Woodstock is returning home for the first time in over a month.
— By Carlton D. White