With two of the most storied programs in the Peach State set to square off next Friday in Atlanta, perhaps the only thing one could complain about is the fact that it’s ONLY a second-round game. But it is what it is — and there is quite a bit, when it comes to substance and a history of success.
There will be a combined 1,262 wins, 54 region and conference titles and nine state championships between the programs, not to mention 516 career victories between Marist head coach Alan Chadwick and Carrollton’s Rayvan Teague, when the War Eagles and Trojans meet at Hughes-Spalding Stadium for the right to move on to Game 13.
Chadwick, who won his 300th career game earlier this year, has only faced Carrollton once during his 28 years as the War Eagle head man, suffering a 43-6 loss to the Trojans in a region playoff encounter in 1993. Teague, who earned victory No. 200 of his career this season, has never played Marist.
Carrollton owns a 3-1 lead in the all-time series, though three of the four games were played in the 1920s.
Needless to say, both programs are tradition-rich and it should be an electric atmosphere for two rabid fan bases come Friday.
“It’s going to be reminiscent of that St. Pius game in the second round [in 2010]. That game right there could potentially propel one of us to the finals. It’s a shame that you have to have that matchup in the second round, but sometimes it happens,” Teague said.
Marist (10-1), which is celebrating its 100th year of football this season, is the top seed from Region 6 and ranked No. 2 in the Class AAAA. The War Eagles’ only loss was a 21-17 setback to Thomas County Central — the No. 10 team in Class AAAAA — on Sept. 7. Marist throttled fourth-seeded Gilmer on Friday night, 56-0, getting a combined three touchdowns from quarterback Myles Willis, who ran for an 83-yard score and threw for two more out of the War Eagles’ triple-option attack.
Teague said Marist runs as close to a flawless offense as it gets.
“They’re not going to make any mistakes. They run that option to perfection and we’ll have our hands full. I think that they are soundly the second-best team in the state. They’ve been playing in a higher classification against good folks. They’re battle-tested. I know they have five kids that have been starting since they were sophomores. For them, that’s unusual. They’re very much a senior team and a seasoned team. So it’ll be quite a challenge,” Teague said.
Marist, which has been playing in Class AAAA since 2000, faced a Wing-T team on Friday night in Gilmer, albeit one that doesn’t have all the weapons Carrollton will bring to the table on Friday. The War Eagles allowed just 87 yards of total offense against the Bobcats in the opening-round rout.
“Their defense is just lockdown. I mean, they have a great defensive unit. Big, strong and they played the Wing-T this week. So they had two weeks to practice against us,” Teague said.
And after facing Sandy Creek, the No. 1 team in the state — not to mention the No. 1 team in Class AA, Calhoun — already during the regular season, the Trojans (8-3) will try to carry the momentum from Friday’s 40-7 opening-round win over Stephens County into Atlanta and pull the upset in the round of 16.
“I think if we come out with a good gameplan and execute well, I think it will all come together and hopefully get a win. But Marist is a good team. We’ve played them in years before in the JV season and stuff like that. It’s been a while since we played them in varsity, so it’s going to be a dogfight,” noted Carrollton defensive end B.J. Addison.
And with the Thanksgiving holiday falling during the week, Teague said the Trojans will stick to their regular after-school practice schedule on Monday and Tuesday, then hold a morning practice on Wednesday, take Thursday off and get a light practice in on Friday, eat and depart for Atlanta.
Lions Reflect, Move Forward
While it will undoubtedly sting for a while, the Central High School football team’s heartbreaking, 33-27 overtime loss at Pierce County in the opening round of the Class AAA state playoffs still serves as a major step forward for the program and Grant Chesnut.
The second-year Lion coach said his team came a long way from fall camp to the final play of the year in Blackshear against the top-seeded Bears (10-1).
And a near six-hour bus ride back to Carrollton late Friday night and into the early-morning hours on Saturday definitely gave Chesnut plenty of time to reflect on the season that was — a 5-6 campaign two years removed from an 0-10 season and the program’s first state playoff berth since 2008.
“Absolutely. Our kids played very well [Friday] night. To get on a bus and drive six hours or so and get off and perform like we did, it was just a big step for our program,” Chesnut said. “It’s a big step for our program, and we’re very excited about our future. We’ve got the bulk of them as juniors returning next year, so that experience and the playoff experience will hopefully help carry us forward.”
Chesnut said it was a combination of youthful talent emerging, along with strong leadership developing from the senior class that made this season a special one.
“I think the amount of young players who had the opportunity to play a lot this year and seeing them mature was a lot of fun. Our seniors, you know, they had been somewhat in the shadows of a good group of leaders that graduated the year before. And to see them assume the role of leadership and just see how they grew as young men and leaders on our football team, I think it really made it a special year for a lot of those guys,” Chesnut said.
Braves Run Over Rabun
The Heard County High School football team carried its magical regular-season ride on into the postseason on Friday night, as the top-seeded and sixth-ranked Braves (11-0) had their way with visiting Rabun County in the 56-29 victory, ending a streak of five straight first-round Class AA playoff exits.
Heard rushed for 490 yards in the runaway win, while also picking up 145 yards through the air for a 635-yard explosion at Staples Stadium.
The Braves received some stellar individual efforts from Ta Freeland (183 rushing yards, 2 TDs), Duranta Dunson (172 rushing yards, 2 TDs) and Jonathan Hunt (5-of-8 for 145 yards and 3 TDs), and the exciting thing for HC coach Tim Barron is they’ll all be back next year.
“Those guys had to play last year and it was tough on them at times — more mentally than physically. The experience they gained by playing all those games last year that you think they’re above being underclassmen and those things,” Barron said.
And while the skill guys continued to do their part on Friday, Barron said the leadership displayed by the senior class — which tied a school-record by recording its 11th win — has laid the foundation for the squad’s success.
“We’ve got a handful of just blue-collar seniors that just do their job. They’re the catalyst behind everything. They’re the ones that drive us to work hard in the weight room, drive us to work hard when practices are tough. It’s that leadership from those guys that a lot of people don’t know about, but we know about their character and their work ethic. They set a great example for those underclassmen, and that’s big,” Barron said.
That senior class will now look to do something no Heard County team has done in program history, and that’s reaching Game 13 next week with a win over second-seeded Greater Atlanta Christian (8-3) after the Spartans knocked off Model, 35-6, on Friday.
Red Devils Bow Out
The Bowdon High School football team got its first taste of the Class AA state playoffs on Friday night, and it didn’t treat the young Red Devils (8-3) too kindly.
Bowdon dug itself in a huge first-half hole before eventually falling, 66-28, at second-seeded Washington-Wilkes.
And while it wasn’t the game the Red Devils envisioned, Bowdon returns all of its skill players from this year’s third-place team, which has plenty of motivation moving forward.
Times-Georgian Sports Reporter Jordan Hofeditz contributed to this story.