There are several games to focus on during Week 2 of the high school football season, but one game that sticks out is steeped in a friendly rivalry atmosphere: No. 6 Westminster at No. 2 Greater Atlanta Christian at the Spartan Sport Complex in Norcross.
“We are looking forward to Game 2,” GAC coach Tim Hardy said. “We are playing a team that won the state title two years ago and were a quarterfinal team last year. They are a physical team. Coach Romberg does a fantastic job, they're well-coached.”
Since 2002, the two programs have met 11 times, with GAC holding a 7-4 lead in the series and a 4-0 winning-streak since 2011. The teams did not play in 2014-15.
“We have a good friendly rivalry going,” Hardy said. “We have played a bunch of times over the years, and we enjoy playing each other. We are excited about getting after it with those guys.”
GAC answered any lingering questions as to the quality of its offense last week under the quarterback leadership of Josh Rose. In the 46-14 victory against No. 9 Lovett, Rose was 11-of-14 passing for 176 yards and four touchdowns. Kyler McMichael, an AJC Super 11 selection, had 96 rushing yards on 15 carries, but had two fumbles. McMichael played more on defense last week than he did in any game last season.
“I wouldn’t reflect anything negative on the fumbles,” Hardy said. “The biggest thing I believe about offensive football is that you need to be multi-dimensional. You need to have the ability to adjust and adapt to do what you need to do in a given game. I think Kyler ran the ball hard and did better as the game went on. The only thing that is different, really is that Kyler played virtually every snap on defense, whereas last year he was kind of a spot player. So, specifically about him, that changes things up just a bit.”
Westminster, who lost to Class AAAA No. 2 Blessed Trinity 28-0 last week, is aware of the task at hand.
“This is as good of a GAC team I’ve seen,” Westminster coach Gerry Romberg said. “They have obviously been outstanding. There are no weaknesses on either side of the ball. Rose is a hell of a player. He can run and throw it. He is outstanding. Nothing against Davis Mills, but this kid is great. He can run the ball, he can throw it, he is accurate, and he can lead the team. I think they're stronger, to tell you the truth.”
The Wildcats, who won the 2015 Class AAA state championship, graduated star running back Zay Malcome last season, and his absence was felt in the Week 1 loss, which marked the first shutout for Westminster in 42 games, a school record.
“My Friday evening is not looking so good,” Romberg said. “We have to face probably the best team in the state, outside of Peach County, possibly, in GAC.”
And speaking of Peach ...
Let’s hop on I-75 south to Warner Robins where Houston County will face No. 1 Peach County Trojans at Freedom Field.
Peach County did not open last week, but were impressive in a 13-10 scrimmage victory against Class AAAAAA No. 10 Northside-Warner Robins in early August. Peach coach Chad Campbell saw signs of good things, but he knows there is more to work on.
“I thought we played hard and got after it,” Campbell said. “But of course, there are a lot of things to fix. But the kids played hard. I am still not satisfied, but who knows, maybe I’ll never be satisfied.”
Peach faces a drastically different Houston County team than the Jake Fromm-led Bears of 2016.
“You don’t come across a player like (Jake Fromm) but once in your career,” Campbell said. “Maybe if you are lucky, twice. But I think that their mindset is a little different. I think that they're trying to instill a different type of attitude. They want to run the football, and they want to be tough up front. Defensively, they are doing the same. Offensively, I think they're trying to be a little bit tougher.”
The Bears opened their season with a 42-3 loss to Jones County in the Metro PCS Corky Kell Classic at Mercer University on Aug. 17. But the loss was put into perspective by Campbell.
“To be honest, the score was kind of lopsided the other night,” Campbell said. “They gave up long explosive plays (against Jones County). They had so many long touchdowns against them that didn’t take long. They got inside the red-zone themselves four times and got three points. So the score was a little bit lopsided, but Houston County did move the football and they did have success running the football. They just gave up too many big plays and didn’t do anything with the ball in the red zone. But those are things that can be fixed. We are not overlooking them by any stretch, and I think they have a good football team.”
Other top games:
-- Class AAAAAA No. 4 Dalton at No. 4 Calhoun; 7:30 p.m. Friday . Dalton won 28-13 last season.
-- No. 3 Cedar Grove vs. Class AAAAAA Southwest DeKalb; 7:30 p.m. Friday . Southwest DeKalb won 21-20 last season.
-- No. 5 Crisp County at Class AAAA Americus-Sumter; 7:30 p.m. Friday . Crisp won 31-14 last season.