Region time for Grangers, Tigers
Published 2:09 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2017
By Kevin Eckleberry
LAGRANGE – Here’s the reality.
When it comes to the discussion of what Class AAAA region is the best in the state, there isn’t much room for argument.
That debate begins, and ends, with Region 5-AAAA.
It’s a region that features a Cartersville team that has won back-to-back state championships and hasn’t lost a game since 2014.
The region also boasts two other unbeaten teams, including the Troup Tigers, who have a quarterback in Montez Crowe who before last week’s games had thrown for more yards than anyone in the state.
The region’s other perfect team is a resurgent Cedartown squad that is 4-0 and has scored 180 points, and Sandy Creek is 3-1 and has been ranked in the top five the whole season, although will likely change with last week’s loss to an unbeaten Starr’s Mill squad.
Chapel Hill, Troup’s opponent this week, is off to a solid 3-1 start, and Central-Carroll is 2-2 after going winless a year ago.
The LaGrange Grangers are 0-4, but they’re an inexperienced squad that will get better as the season goes along.
So, what all that means is that the next six weeks should be an awful lot of fun as the region’s seven teams fight for the four invitations to the state playoffs.
The region schedule begins this week with some interesting games.
Chapel Hill and Troup, two of the region’s playoff teams from a year ago, will meet on Friday night in Douglasville.
A much-improved Central-Carroll team will visit Callaway Stadium on Friday night to face a LaGrange team ready for a fresh start after its struggles in non-region play.
The most intriguing matchup of the week has Cedartown visiting Cartersville.
That game boasts two of the state’s most explosive teams.
Cedartown is averaging 45 points per game, while Cartersville is scoring 41 points a game.
Sandy Creek is off this week before its showdown at Troup next week.
Here’s a look at each of the region’s teams, and what they did during the non-region portion of their schedules:
The Purple Hurricanes have played a challenging schedule, but it hasn’t mattered.
Cartersville hasn’t lost since falling to Buford in the state semifinals in 2014, and its winning streak is now at 34 after beating Westlake 38-5 on Sept. 8.
Cartersville is led by quarterback Trevor Lawrence, a Clemson commit who is one of the nation’s most highly-regarded players.
Cartersville is a whole lot more than Lawrence, though.
Lawrence is surrounded by play-makers on offense, including running back Rico Frye, who has 12 rushing touchdowns this season.
Cartersville’s defense gave up 45 points in a win over Bartram Trail, but that unit hasn’t given up more than 14 points in any other game.
Cartersville is led by head coach Joey King, who has an extraordinary record of 46-2 since taking over in 2014.
It is a complete team led by arguably the country’s best quarterback, so finding a way to dispatch the Purple Hurricanes is going to be a monumental challenge for the other six teams in the region.
Cartersville, for all its offensive weapons, is not that highest-scoring team in Region 5-AAAA.
That honor belongs to Cedartown, which hasn’t scored fewer than 34 points per game and is coming off an impressive 42-10 win over Pepperell on Sept. 8.
Cedartown’s explosive offense is led by quarterback Trevon Wofford, a senior who is thriving in his third season as a starter.
In the Pepperell game, Wofford completed 13-of-16 passes for 169 yards and four touchdowns, while running back Tony Mathis had 119 yards on 14 carries.
Doyle Kelley, the team’s first-year head coach, is proud of the way the players have adapted to a new system.
“The guys have really bought into what we’re doing, and I think because they have grown in maturity we can do a lot more with them than what they could do in the past,” Kelley told the Cedartown Standard.
Sandy Creek fell from the ranks of unbeaten with a 21-6 loss to Starr’s Mill last week, and head coach Brett Garvin promised that the two weeks between that loss and the region opener against Troup wouldn’t be easy ones for the players.
“We’ve got two weeks,” Garvin said. “Things are going to change. These kids are not going to like it very much, but it’s fixing to get real uncomfortable for them.”
Sandy Creek’s defense has been a strength all season, and two of the team’s three wins were by shutout.
Sandy Creek’s most impressive win came in Week 2 when it beat Class AAAAAA foe Allatoona 23-17.
Late in the game, Allatoona had a handful of opportunities to take the lead, but Sandy Creek’s defense kept making stops.
Sandy Creek’s offense is led by sophomore quarterback Matthew Williams, who threw an 85-yard touchdown pass to Judah Johnson against Allatoona.
Jordan Clark ran for 153 yards with two touchdowns against Allatoona.
It was a tough 2016 season for Central-Carroll, which struggled to a winless season under first-year head coach Larry Kesler.
Darius Smiley was brought in to replace Kesler, and he has helped turn things around.
Central dropped its first game, but it won two in a row before losing to Heard County last week.
After falling behind 42-0 in the second half against Heard County, Central-Carroll hung tough before losing 42-21.
The Lions have run for 744 yards in four games, with senior Malcolm Brown has been running strong with 353 yards and four touchdowns.
Quarterback Landon Schulenburg threw a pair of touchdown passes against Heard County.
Chapel Hill has scored at least 21 points in each of its games, and it gets it done with a balanced offense.
Quarterback KJ Burton has been solid, and he had three touchdowns, two passing and one rushing, in a 35-6 win over Fayette County.
In a win over Lithia Springs, Burton had three rushing touchdowns, and Joshua Milfort ran for 105 yards.
Chapel Hill’s defense has been solid as well, with the exception of a 56-21 loss to Starr’s Mill.
Against Lithia Springs, Cameron McClain had 11 tackles.
It’s been a tough road so far for the Grangers, who are 0-4, and they’ve been outscored 149-10 in those games.
LaGrange did some positive signs in a 42-10 loss to East Coweta in its most recent game.
For the first time this season, the Grangers put points on the board, with Max Rainey making a field goal and Jakoby Smith throwing a touchdown pass to Amad Ogletree.
Defensively, there have been bright spots for the Grangers.
In the season opener against unbeaten and second-ranked Callaway, LaGrange’s defense delivered a strong performance in the 26-0 loss.
The Tigers have been one of the state’s most prolific offensive teams this season, with senior quarterback Montez Crowe averaging more than 300 yards per game.
Crowe has been getting the ball to some gifted receivers, including junior Jamari Thrash, who had a 200-yard game with a pair of touchdowns in a 62-10 win over Lamar County.
Kobe Hudson, Mark-Anthony Dixon, Ja’Rell Smith and tight end Kenly Bridwell are also weapons in the passing game, and Tyree Carlisle has been getting it done in the running game.
The defense struggled a bit in the opener against Hardaway, but in the past three games, the first-team defense has given up just 10 points.
Troup has won 12 of its past 13 regular-season games.