Locals abound for Division II title hopeful
by Carlton D. White
December 20, 2013 12:48 AM | 1486 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Several former Cobb County football players are having a holiday season to remember.

That’s because they will be part of a Lenoir-Rhyne team vying for the NCAA Division II championship Saturday.

Having won 13 in a row since a season-opening loss, the Bears will play Northwest Missouri State (14-0) in Florence, Ala.

Some of the Cobb County products have played significant roles for Lenoir-Rhyne, a Hickory, N.C., school playing for a national title for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Former McEachern standout C.J. Cody is one of those players seeing significant minutes. The 6-foot, 170-pound redshirt freshman is a reserve free safety and also plays on special teams.

“To be a part of this game is really exciting,” Cody said. “I’ve never had an experience like this before. I wasn’t in state championship games in high school, and to be here playing for a national championship is unbelievable. I’m blessed to be here. It’ll be exciting to help get the win for my team.”

Cody, who has 12 tackles and one pass breakup in 11 games, is one of nine Cobb County natives on the Bears’ roster.

“It’s really cool to have so many guys I played against on my team” Cody said. “I never thought they’d be rivals and then teammates. It’s nice to have the opportunity to be with them and experience this.”

Also at Lenoir-Rhyne are former Allatoona teammates Quinten James and Calvin Howard, former Hillgrove standouts Doug Ellis, Justin Haney and Placid Ajoku, Whitefield Academy’s Jacob Southerland, Marietta’s Collis Clark and McEachern’s Victor Brannan.

Cody is listed as the primary backup at his position for Saturday’s game, as are Brannan (wide receiver), Southerland (guard), James, Clark (cornerback), Ajoku (defensive end) and Ellis (outside linebacker).

“Every game this season has been exciting,” Cody said. “We’ve had some good battles, and we’ve all come together as a team. We’re excited to be here and to get this win. We don’t want this to end.”

Clark, a 5-11, 170-pound redshirt sophomore, said he’s seen the Bears come together as a team as the season’s gone on.

“This whole season has been crazy,” said Clark, who has made six tackles in eight games. “After we lost that first game, we’ve been on a roll. The unity that this team has is great. We’re going to compete Saturday with the same intensity that got us this far. We’re not done yet. We’re coming for it.”

Clark also enjoys the fact that he gets to share these moments with players he once battled against in high school.

“We had our rivalries with them and learned to be competitive,” he said,” but now we compete with and for each other to achieve the same goal. We had our differences in the past, but now we’re a unit.

“To do this with people I grew up with means a lot to me, and to do this for our area is great. I don’t know why so many of us have been drawn here, but it seems like a good thing that’s going on.”

Lenoir-Rhyne will have its hands full against Northwest Missouri State. The Bearcats are making their record eighth trip to the Division II championship, having won titles in 1998, ’99 and 2009.

Saturday’s game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 11 a.m.
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