Both teams will have the same goal in mind when they meet at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night in Douglasville, win and host a first-round Class AAA state playoff game.
For the Lions (5-4, 4-2 Region 4-AAA), it is yet another big game in a season that started at the University of West Georgia. For the Panthers (5-3, 4-1), it is a chance to improve their winning streak and get a tough win over a quality opponent.
Coming into a game with home-field implications, the Panthers can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win on Friday, while Central needs a victory on Friday and then have first-place Callaway beat Rockmart next week should the Yellow Jackets also win Friday.
Both team were in must win situations last week, and neither disappointed.
The Panthers routed region opponent Haralson 68-19, breaking a school record for most points in a single game. Central took down Jackson in a 35-0 shutout. Both wins clinched state playoff berths and now the battle for home-field will ensue.
Callaway has all but wrapped up first place in the region, with a perfect 5-0 record, 7-1 overall.
Both teams are very similar and will be led by elite running backs.
The Panthers will be led by Tre Mitchell, who again rushed for 100-plus yards last week despite missing playing time late in the game. He has over 1,300 yards for the season so far, with two games to go.
Central will be led by running back Jayleen Terry, who rushed for 129 yards and a TD on 22 carries last week against Jackson.
Offensively, the game could come down to the quarterback who makes the least mistakes. Chapel Hill’s QB Brett Roberts, who had a breakout game two weeks ago against BEST Academy, throwing for a pair of TD’s. Roberts has had an up and down season as he takes on more responsibilities in the offense.
Central has a young QB in sophomore Wesley Long, who can threaten with his feet, and scored two running TD’s against Jackson last Friday.
“They are an option style offense,” Pastrick said. “I am impressed with they physicality and their quickness. They show a lot of effort.”
Chapel Hill’s offense has improved dramatically over the year, even if it hasn’t been as fast as Pastrick would have liked.
“I thought it would take a little while, but I was hoping it would have been earlier in the season when we started to click,” he said. “We have started to clicking over the last three games, but we still have a long way to go.”
Pastrick did mention that is is happy with the way the offensive line has been able to pick up the zone.
Defensively, both Chapel Hill and Central run a stack, something that the Panthers have just went too, two weeks ago.
“It is definitely better suited for the type of kids we have,” said Pastrick.
Both programs are in very similar situation with their coaches as well, though Central is a little farther long.
As a program that is in its second year under coach Grant Chesnut trying to put a winless season in 2010 behind them, the Lions are also a young team. The Central coach noted that during this season, eight sophomores and a freshman have started for him, including the quarterback, fullback and other key positions. With a young group, the expectations have been downplayed, but not with this much on the line this Friday night.
Chapel Hill also has a young group under first year head coach Geoff Pastrick. Pastrick took over a team that won the region championship in 2011, but lost many seniors from that squad due to graduation. He is now in a rebuilding mode, looking to mold young talent in a new system, but also win immediately.
The positive of having such a young roster for both teams has been the continual growth the teams has shown throughout the year. It does, however, also create a little bit of a roller-coaster situation for the coaching staffs.
Lately, the young staff and new scheme have been paying off for Pastrick and Chapel Hill. The team has its first winning streak of the season, after betting Douglass, BEST, and Haralson, all region opponent.
This week’s match-up between the two schools will have lasting implications for the rest of the season and possibly next season as well. Momentum is built by winning big games, and the chance to host a state game is unquestionably a big advantage.
Both teams will bring their “A” game Friday night. - Contributed by Jordan Hofeditz / Times-Georgian