Last year: Lassiter 34, Etowah 6
All-time series: Lassiter leads 10-8
Prediction: Lassiter 34, Etowah 21
The Region 5AAAAAA title will be won tonight.
The only question is whether the title will go to Etowah or Lassiter.
Etowah (7-2, 4-2) was the favorite for the championship midway through the season. The Eagles were off to a 6-0 start, while Lassiter (6-3, 5-1) used a narrow victory over Walton to gain some confidence following a loss to Woodstock.
But a lot has changed since.
The Eagles lost to Cherokee and Walton, while the Trojans strung together wins over Milton, Wheeler and Roswell to take over the top spot in the region standings.
Etowah now needs to win tonight to not only get that region title — the program’s fourth since 2006 — but secure a position in the state playoffs. A loss, combined with wins by Cherokee and Milton, would keep the Eagles out of the state playoffs for another year.
While it could be said that Etowah has more to play for, Lassiter coach Jep Irwin doesn’t see it that way. He would like to win what would be just the third region championship of the Trojans’ 32-season history.
“We feel like there is a whole lot to play for,” Irwin said. “To win our fifth game in a row would send us into the playoffs with some momentum, then to win for our seniors and senior night and finish the regular season strong. To finish the season 7-3 after starting 2-3 would be really good for us.”
Irwin said what makes Etowah dangerous is the way it can control the ball with its running game. Not only that, but the Eagles’ defense is challenging for opposing running backs.
“They are a big, strong, physical team,” Irwin said. “We are not the biggest team, so we are going to have to play really well to be able to move the football upfront.”
— By Emily Horos
Game: Roswell (4-5, 2-4) at Walton (5-4, 4-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Roswell 28, Walton 24
All-time series: Walton leads 14-11
Prediction: Walton 24, Roswell 13
With its playoff berth secure, Walton now hopes to go in the postseason on a winning streak and with a little momentum.
Tonight at Raider Valley in a Region 5AAAAAA matchup, the Raiders host Roswell in the regular-season finale.
Walton looks to end a trend of alternating wins and losses in its last four games. If the Raiders disrupt this cycle, they will also avenge last season’s four-point loss to the Hornets.
Last week, Walton had its best defensive performance of the season, forcing three first-half turnovers on the way to a 28-5 victory over Etowah.
“Defensively, 95 percent of our plays this year have been really good,” Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo said. “We had to cut big plays, and we cut big plays. That’s the defense we expect to have all year, and I think that’s the defense we’re going to have the rest of the season.”
Ryan Roegge returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown for a defense which allowed only four completions.
“They played exceptionally well on defense,” Etowah coach Dave Svehla said. “We haven’t really turned over the ball very much, and we did. You just can’t do that against Walton.”
K.K. Brooks rushed for 111 yards and two TDs on 26 carries, and Price Wilson threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Smith.
“We played really well, did a lot of good things and we beat a really good football team pretty handily,” Hidalgo said. “Hopefully, we can come back and have that same type of effort defensively for 48 minutes and carry that throughout the playoffs.”
— By Maurice Dixon
MDJ Sports Writer
Game: Cherokee (5-4, 3-3) at Wheeler (2-7, 0-6), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Wheeler 21, Cherokee 20
All-time series: Wheeler leads 24-7
Prediction: Cherokee 34, Wheeler 13
Simply, Cherokee needs to win tonight at Wheeler in order to have a shot at the state playoffs.
The Warriors (5-4, 3-3 Region 5AAAAAA) also need a little help, though. Specifically, they need Lassiter to beat Etowah and Milton to beat Woodstock to avoid a convoluted system of tiebreakers. If there is a three-way tie between Etowah, Cherokee and Milton, it could ultimately come down to winning percentage against other Class AAAAAA teams, of which Cherokee would be on the short end.
But first and foremost, the Warriors just need to take care of business tonight.
“If we are to come out on the winning side (tonight), then we will check the scoreboard and see where we stand.”
Shaw likes the position his team is in. Aside from not already being assured a playoff spot, he doesn’t see how things could be much more favorable.
Cherokee is going up against a Wheeler team that hasn’t won since the first week of September. The Wildcats also had to deal with the midseason dismissal of quarterback Elijah Staley, a two-sport star who had committed to play both football and basketball at Mississippi State.
“With the cards that we have been dealt for the final week, I think we have a pretty good hand,” Shaw said. “The bottom line is we have to worry about Wheeler and be ready to play.”
Shaw said it won’t be easy to get that sixth win. Wheeler, despite its poor record, has lost each of its last four region games by a touchdown or less. The Wildcats led late in their games with Walton and Woodstock.
“We know they are a good football team with some really explosive players,” Shaw said. “Coach Collins does a great job, so we will have our hands full. That is what we have tried to stress to the kids. We have to worry about ourselves, not what anyone else is doing.”
— By Emily Horos