The No. 4 Westminster Wildcats (3-2, 2-0) will play host to the No. 2 Pace Academy Knights (4-1, 2-0) in a Region 5 game Friday night at Alfred E. Thompson stadium in Atlanta. This will be the first meeting between the two programs. Westminster is the highest-ranked team from Region 5, and Pace is second, so look for an electric atmosphere at kickoff.
This will mark the 23rd time that reigning state champions have faced each other. Last year, Pace won the Class AA title 42-21 against Fitzgerald, and Westminster defeated Blessed Trinity 38-31 in overtime in the Class AAA championship game.
"This is going to be a really good game from the standpoint that we both put ourselves in a really good position in the region, winning the first two games," said Westminster coach Gerry Romberg. "But, you know, it's just the next region game because they are all important, and they all count the same. But we would like to win this game to keep improving our position in the region. We have watched a lot of film on (Pace), and they are an outstanding football team. They are well-coached and they have a lot of playmakers, so we will have our hands full. But every week is a different challenge, and this week we just have to focus on ourselves and play our game and hopefully we can do enough at the end to give ourselves a chance to compete and win."
Westminster started its season slow, losing to Class AAA No. 3 Woodward Academy and top-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian, but the Wildcats have gained momentum in the past three games. Two weeks ago, the Wildcats easily defeated then No. 4 Cedar Grove, 42-21, after losing quarterback J.D. Falconer to an ankle injury. Backup quarterback Ward Croft handled business.
"Ward Croft is our junior backup quarterback and in the Cedar Grove game, in the second half, he really grew up," Romberg said. "You could see him mature and find his way, and he really transformed into a quarterback from one half to the next. So that was good to see."
Pace Academy was off last week, and that gave coach Chris Slade time to prepare his team.
"I have been telling people ever since we moved to Class AAA that we haven't done anything to earn the right to be in the same conversation with Westminster when it comes to the AAA classification," Slade said. "They set the standard, set the bar, won the state championship last year and are defending their title. They are where everyone else wants to be.
"I have always had a lot of respect for Gerry and his program. Even before I got into coaching I watched him from afar and always marveled in how well his team was disciplined and the structure and how organized his team always appeared. They're well-coached; they execute what they do very well. It is just going to be a great game and a big test for us. We are privileged to be on the field with them tomorrow night."
Here are a few other games to follow:
-- No. 1 GAC (5-1, 2-0) will travel to East Hall (2-4, 0-2) in a Region 7 game Friday night at East Hall Stadium. The two programs have not met since 2005, and GAC leads the series 4-0. Davis Mills, fully recovered from a preseason knee injury, will present a tough challenge for East Hall. Mills was 10-for-16 passing for 182 yards and two touchdowns last week against Fannin County.
-- No. 3 Peach County (4-1, 1-0) will host Central-Macon (5-1, 1-0) at Anderson Field in Fort Valley in a Region 4 game. The Trojans lead their region, but Central is not far behind. Peach County leads the series 10-2, and Central has not won against the Trojans since 1971.
-- No. 5 Calhoun (4-2, 1-0) will host Adairsville (2-3, 0-0) in a Region 6 game at Phil Reeves Stadium in Calhoun. The Yellow Jackets lead the series 17-9 against Adairsville and won 45-13 last season.
-- No. 6 Lovett (3-2, 1-1) will play host to Stone Mountain (1-4, 0-2) in a Region 5 game at Conley-Oakley Field Friday night. The two teams have not met since 1973, and Lovett leads the series 4-2.
-- No. 9 Cedar Grove (3-2, 1-1) will host Towers (2-3, 1-1) Friday night at Panthersville in Ellenwood in another Region 5 game. Cedar Grove leads the series 14-3-1 and easily moved past the Titans 35-8 last season.