Two Atlanta-based Class AAA football programs with championship pedigrees take the spotlight Friday, when Cedar Grove travels to Pace Academy for a key Region 5 matchup.
Cedar Grove (6-0, 3-0) won the state championship last season. A rebuilding Pace Academy (2-3, 2-1) won the Class AA title in 2015.
“We are just trying to get ready now,” Cedar Grove coach Jimmy Smith said. “Hopefully we can play well, compete and have a chance to win the game at the end.”
The Saints are coming off a 34-0 victory against Towers and could cruise to a flawless region finish if they can make it through this game with a victory. Cedar Grove is the heavy favorite, but a Pace victory would pull the 5-AAA race even closer.
“It will just be another big challenge for us,” said Pace Academy head coach Chris Slade. “Cedar Grove is one of the best, if not the best, team in Class AAA. We will have our hands full. They have pretty much run through our region and dealt with Westminster and Lovett pretty easily.”
Cedar Grove defeated Lovett 41-14 on Sept. 15 and Westminster 41-10 on Sept. 22. The Saints have not been challenged this season, outscoring opponents 220-44 with shutouts against Columbia (33-0) and Towers (34-0).
“The guys had a great week of practice,” Smith said. “It’s just the same weight we put on each game. Region games are a bit more important to me, but the guys, I keep them focused on each game.”
The key for Pace: To draw on the experience from its tough opening schedule against Class AAAAAAA West Forsyth and Class AA No. 2 Hapeville Charter.
“Well, for us, every game is a big game,” Slade said. “We just want to go out there and play the best we can to give ourselves a chance to win. It is a monumental task for us. This is why I schedule the toughest non-region games I can schedule to start the year. That way when we meet the Cedar Groves of the world, we are used to the physicality and the speed.”
Here are some other games worth monitoring:
No. 2 Peach County (5-1, 2-0) vs. Rutland (Region 4) – The Trojans shut out Rutland last year (45-0) and this year should not be any different.
No. 3 Greater Atlanta Christian (6-1, 3-0) at Lumpkin County (Region 7) – The Spartans handled Lumpkin in a rout last year (49-21) on the way to the Region 7 title. This season should not be any different.
No. 4 Calhoun (6-1, 2-0) will rest this week before hosting Sonoraville on Oct. 20. (Region 6-South)
No. 5 Jenkins (6-0, 3-0) vs. Groves (Region 3, Thursday) -- Last year, Jenkins defeated Groves (44-6) and the Warriors will be expecting a similar outcome this season.
No. 6 Crisp (4-1, 0-0) at Monroe (First region game for the Cougars in five-team Region 1-AAA) – Last year’s game was closer than Crisp would have liked at 28-14. The Cougars can make a statement in Region 1 with a big win here.
No. 7 Bremen (6-0, 1-0) vs. Haralson County (Region 6-South) – Bremen was not challenged last year (31-0) on the way to a 7-5 finish. This year, the Blue Devils are 6-0 and should expect another region win vs. Haralson.
No. 8 Monroe Area (7-0, 2-0) at Morgan County (Region 8) – The Purple Hurricanes will be seeking revenge after a 28-0 loss last year. This season, Morgan is 5-1 and could pose a threat to Monroe Area’s flawless record.
No. 9 Lovett (3-3, 2-1) at Redan (Region 5) – Lovett won last year (46-26) and should expect a similar result vs. the 2-4, 1-2 Raiders.
No. 10 Westminster (2-4, 2-1) vs. McNair (Region 5) – The Wildcats defeated McNair (55-6) last season. Westminster is coming off a 15-14 upset victory over Pace Academy last week and could be looking to stretch its offensive legs against McNair.