So much for the undercard bouts, now Class AAAAA is ready for some championship-type action among its heavyweights. This week a pair of contenders will step into the ring against the champs. It could be the closest thing to playoff football that you’ll see until the first week in November.
Carrollton makes the trip to Rome, where the defending state champions await at Barron Stadium. Clarke Central will make the drive from Athens to Buford, where the state’s most successful team over the last decade awaits.
No. 4 Carrollton (4-0) will try to exact some revenge on No. 1 Rome (4-0), which burned the Trojans on a momentum-shifting trick play a year ago and went on to win 45-28. The victory gave Rome the Region 7 championship.
“It’s a big game, not only because it’s our next game, but it’s really important game in our region,” Carrollton coach Sean Calhoun said. “It’s really going to be a playoff-type atmosphere.”
Carrollton brings an experienced offense, led by quarterback Mark Wright, who has thrown for 901 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 212 and two TDs. The Trojans average 47.5 points and have scored no fewer than 41 in a game. But Rome will field one of the best defenses in the state, led by linebacker Adam Anderson and linemen Jamarcus Chatman and JaQon Griffin.
“Rome does such a good job in all three phases of the game,” Calhoun said. “They really do a fantastic job on special teams, which is such an overlooked phase of the game.
The Carrollton defense is much younger and continues to improve. They caused four fumbles last week against Woodland. “If we’re able to get one or two against Rome, that would be great,” Calhoun said.
The Rome offense has flourished behind the direction of quarterback Knox Kadum, who has thrown for 899 yards and eight touchdowns. Top runners include Jamious Griffin (365 yards, five TDs) and Jalynn Sikes (373 yards, five TDs), with Xavier Roberts (12 catches, four TDs) a game-breaking threat at receiver.
Unranked Clarke Central (3-1) will test No. 2 Buford (2-1) in a critical Region 8 match. It will be an opportunity for the Jaguars to measure their progress in coach David Perno’s second year of the rebuild.
Clarke Central lost its opener against Class AAAAAA No. 8 Winder-Barrow, but had nine starters out that night and turned the ball over five times. Since then the Gladiators have been rolling and have played with a running clock in each of the last two games.
“I know we’ll have to go the full 15 rounds this week,” Perno said “We need to make sure we make it a four-quarter game.” A year ago, the Gladiators hung around Buford until the third quarter, with the Wolves eventually pulling away for a 44-13 win.
“We had a tough time moving the ball on them last year,” Perno said. “We’ve just got to be efficient moving the ball in order to be successful and we’ve got to put points on the board.”
Clarke Central will need a steady hand from quarterback Jack Mangel, who has started nearly 30 games. In five games he’s thrown for 899 yards and eight touchdowns. Jonathan Sewell has rushed for 578 yards and three touchdowns and sophomore O’Brien Barnett has rushed for 261 yards and five touchdowns.
The Clarke defense will be tasked to stop the numerous game-breakers on the Buford roster, particularly Anthony Grant and Christian Turner, who can each turn a 4-yard gain into a game-breaker.
Other big games this week in Class AAAAA:
Griffin at Starr’s Mill: No. 7 Starr’s Mill (5-0) must establish their running game against Griffin’s experienced defense. The Panthers have multitude of talented backs, including Cole Gilley (355 yards, 10 TDs), Kalen Sims (400 yards, five TDs), Nick Brown (258 yards, three TDs), Mitchell Prowant (200 yards, two TDs) and even quarterback Joey Deluca (162 yards rushing, 267 passing).
Griffin (3-1) is fighting for survival after last week’s loss to Whitewater. The Bears allowed more points last week (40) than they had given up in the four previous games combined (30). Griffin won a 52-49 slugfest last season.
McIntosh at Fayette County: If McIntosh (5-0) wants to remain in the hunt for the Region 3 playoffs, the Chiefs will have to dispose of rival Fayette County (1-3). McIntosh has won two of the last three meetings and three of the last five, but Fayette County claimed a 7-3 win a year ago. Fayette County will need to slow McIntosh running back Bradley Ector, who ran for 190 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s homecoming win over Riverdale. Fayette County leads the series 23-8.
Whitewater at Morrow: Whitewater (3-2) could dash the hopes of upstart Morrow (3-2) this week. The Wildcats put the brakes on a two-game losing streak last week when they knocked off state-ranked Griffin 30-16. Behind quarterback Maddox Muller and running back Miles Montgomery, Whitewater reeled off 389 yards of offense last week. Morrow has lost two straight. The teams met for the first time last year and Whitewater won 39-0.
Kell at East Paulding: No 8 Kell (2-3) has won back-to-back games, but may have lost quarterback Evan Conley (800 yards passing, 8 TDs) last week with a hand injury. He left in the first quarter and did not return, leaving the Longhorns to depend on their stellar running attack led by Josiah Futral, who has rushed for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns. East Paulding (1-3) has played a daunting schedule and put a scare into No. 4 Carrollton two weeks ago. Kell leads the series 2-1 and won last year’s game 37-3.