Sports

November 11, 2013

Friday Night Rewind: Three for the playoffs

Big defensive stop pushes Christian Heritage

With another big defensive stop and another close win on the road, Christian Heritage’s football team is riding high heading into the Class A private school state playoffs.

Christian Heritage won 27-24 in overtime against Fellowship Christian in a Region 6-A crossover game Friday in Roswell. Other games involving local teams, Coahulla Creek lost 42-16 versus Adairsville, Dalton won the Region 7-4A title with a 24-10 victory versus Gilmer, Murray County lost 60-3 against Coosa, North Murray beat Gordon Central 42-14, Northwest Whitfield advanced to the Class 4A state playoffs with a 39-21 win against Pickens and Southeast Whitfield stumbled to the finish line with a 46-14 loss to Cass.

The Lions (8-2) are a lock for the Class A bracket, but the seeding won’t be decided until the power ratings are released Tuesday morning. Christian Heritage coach Preston Poag said his team could travel to face Darlington for the first round on Nov. 22.

That could be a chance for Christian Heritage to avenge an 18-14 loss earlier this season — the other loss was 35-28 against Class 2A playoff team Model.

“We’re about three plays away from being undefeated,” Poag said.

Against Fellowship Christian, quarterback Trevor Brown was 18 of 32 for 314 yards passing. He tossed three touchdowns — one each to Austin Lowe, Nich Bartley and Bryan Pierce.

Lowe had the game-winning, 25-yard run in overtime to conclude his 176-yard game on 15 carries. Bartley had six catches for 78 yards.

“We didn’t play our best game but we battled and won,” Poag said.

In a 24-20 win two weeks ago versus Trion, Christian Heritage’s defense made a game-clinching stop. In overtime against Fellowship Christian, the Lions’ defense stopped its opponents three times after 1st and goal from the 5-yard line, forcing a field goal and allowing Lowe’s touchdown to end the game.

“The big one was first and goal in overtime and we knocked them back three straight plays,” Poag said.

• Coahulla Creek entered its second season looking for improvement. The Colts didn’t find that in the win-loss column.

For a second straight year, Coahulla Creek finished 2-8.

One area the team struggled in was scoring points. Coahulla Creek’s offense managed 20 points or more just one time, a 35-9 win against Murray County to begin the schedule. In the Colts’ only other win, they scored just 14 points against winless Gordon Central. In three of the losses, Coahulla Creek was limited to a single-digit amount of points. The Colts finished with an average of 14.4 points per game.

This was on par with the 2012 season, where Coahulla Creek averaged 14.8 points. However, the Colts were shutout three times and limited to single digits six times.

On defense, Coahulla Creek saw heavy improvement on points allowed. In 2012, the Colts allowed 40 or more points in six games and allowed an average of 36.9 points per game. This season, they allowed an average of 31.1 points per game.

• Despite having won a region title over Gilmer, the Dalton players may not be in a celebrating mood at practice today after the Catamounts were flagged 13 times for 125 yards in Ellijay. And while coach Matt Land was disappointed in personal foul and pass interference flags, it was the more mundane penalties he wasn’t happy with at all.

“I am more upset about jumping offsides,” Land said. “There are no excuses for penalties. We will be correcting that before next Friday. But at the end of the day, there is a W on the board and a trophy in our case. We will learn something from this and get ready to go play in the playoffs.”

It was Dalton’s first region title since 2007. According to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association (ghsfha.com), this is the 10th region title since 1980 and just the second in the new millennium. This title came on the strength of an offense which scored touchdowns on its first three possessions and a defense that held Gilmer scoreless in the second half.

“Until last week, Gilmer was the No. 1 defense in our region. We knew we had a tough job in front of us,” Land said. “All year long, our defense has been the backbone when we were going through all of the different things with injuries and all of the different things. They have been steady. These defensive coaches have done an outstanding job of staying one step ahead of the opposition.”

The next opposition is Region 6 No. 4 seed Alexander, which will make the trip to Harmon Field on Friday in the first round.

• Murray County’s bright spot this season was a 14-12 win against Gordon Central. The victory snapped a 20-game losing streak and offered concrete evidence of improvement.

Still, there is a long way to go.

The Indians’ offense was shut out five times this season and limited to a single-digit amount of points in all but two games, the win versus Gordon Central and a 56-13 loss against Chattooga. Murray County seemed to play closer games earlier in the season, with the closest loss the first on the schedule, the 35-9 defeat against Coahulla Creek. The win came in the third game of the season, but the margins of defeat grew from there. The opening-week loss was the only other time aside from the win when the Indians allowed under 40 points to an opponent.

Compared to 2012, though, holding another team below that mark never happened.

• While North Murray’s season ended abruptly, coach David Gann was still impressed even after learning they wouldn’t be going to the postseason, due to Sonoraville winning over Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe to clinch the region’s final playoff spot.

“I’m so proud of them,” Gann said. “We started off with kind of a rebuilding year, and we had eighteen kids that started the season that had never played varsity football before. We put up a lot of points in those final four games and played really well down the stretch.”

In the team’s final four games of the year, the Mountaineers (4-6) scored 153 points and averaged 38.3 points per game, winning three of those games after starting the season 1-5.

One of the key cogs for the Mountaineers all season was sophomore running back Drake McCowan, who ended the season with an impressive 1,025 yards and 15 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Hinton McConkey gained 680 yards on 94 carries and four touchdowns while also throwing for 1,493 yards and 20 touchdowns against just five interceptions.

• Northwest coach Josh Robinson spoke highly of his starting running back, Jacob Webb, after recovering from two costly fumbles to surge in the second half.

“It’s unfortunate for him with the earlier events,” Robinson said, “because he’s a great kid. He does everything we ask. What you saw after that — a lot of kids would be pouting and moping — but he never doubts because he believes in the work he put in. He didn’t earn a spot until he was a senior.”

In the first quarter, already trailing Pickens 7-0, Northwest had a fourth-and-inches situation on the Dragons’ 18-yard line. Webb set up as the quarterback, planning to take a direct snap and charge forward behind his offensive line for the necessary inches and a first down. The snap was high — but catchable — and went right through Webb’s hands. He recovered the ball but was tackled for a 15-yard loss and a turnover on downs.

In the third quarter, trailing 7-6, Webb fumbled in Northwest territory. Pickens recovered and scored a touchdown on the short field, but Webb responded on the next drive with a 45-yard run. The Bruins scored, and Webb had a 32-yard run on the next drive, another one ending in a Northwest touchdown. He also caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Caleb Shiflett.

• Southeast Whitfield may feel like a presented opportunity was wasted with the three-game losing streak to end the season.

All season, the Raiders’ coaches and players wanted to win six games and accomplish the program’s first winning season since 1986. Entering the final three weeks, Southeast was 4-3 and not only had an opportunity at winning six games but also possibly reaching the Class 4A state bracket.

Still, this season was a large step forward for Southeast, which won as many games this year as the previous three years combined. This season’s results seemed to go the reverse of last season, coach Sean Gray’s first at Southeast. In 2012, the Raiders finished 2-8 and started the season with four consecutive losses but greatly improved as the year went on. This season, Southeast started with two straight wins and won three of its first five games, allowing 18 points or less in all but one game, but allowed at least 35 in four of the final five games.

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