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Football playoffs start Friday
Sandy Creek and Whitewater's football teams start their quests for state titles in football this Friday, while Landmark Christian and Our Lady of Mercy get another week to prepare. The matchups for Class A-Private will be set later this week.
Sandy Creek Patriots (10-0) vs. Eastside Eagles (7-3)
The Patriots have won every game they have played this season by 23 points or more. They faced five teams that made the state playoffs in their respective classifications and defeated each one, including Carrollton, which was ranked fourth in the state at that point in time. The Patriots are currently ranked number one and to stay there they will have to win out.
Sandy Creek has a potent and balanced offense. They have scored 459 points this season and are getting big runs from Eric Swinney, Delvin Weems and Maceo Brown, big catches from Demarre Kitt and Kyle Wilson and outstanding quarterback play and leadership from Cole Garvin. The defense has been so good that it could be looked at as a member of the offense as well, allowing 96 total points this season, taking away whole aspects of opponents’ game plans and forcing turnovers.
Cornerback Shaquille Wiggins has been tearing up the gridiron for the Sandy Creek Patriots. His side of the field is a no man’s zone and it is near impossible for receivers to have a chance. Quarterbacks stay wary as he already has a few interceptions despite missing a few games earlier due to consecutive concussions. Wiggins loves being able to shut offenses down, “I get to basically control one side of the field and lockdown other players on the opposing team,” said Wiggins.
Junior Khari Lain has shown his great tackling ability this season. He has over 42 solo tackles and over 20 assists. In addition he has two pick sixes, one blocked punt, and continuously provides a strong man up the middle. He is natural leader and helps bring balance to the game in high pressure situations. “I believe the strengths I bring to the team are my leadership skills, my confidence, and my ability to fear no opponents,” said Lain.
Lastly senior safety and captain Corey Griffin has led a strong Patriot backfield all season long. Like Wiggins he has a couple of interceptions and like Lain he also has a blocked punt. In addition he has over 30 solo tackles and 10 assists. He also serves on special teams where he is to go to tackler on the kick off team; the coaches have McMillin kick so that he can be the first down there.
These three form the” Patriot Triple Threat.”
Eastside, which was in Sandy Creek’s region the past two years, has scored a total of 332 points and allowed 182. The Patriots defeated the Eagles the last two years but last year’s game was close (13-10). All three of Eastside’s losses are to teams that made the playoffs in their respective classifications. However, they did beat Region 8-AAAA’s region champion, Monroe Area, 35-0, last week.
This game won’t be a cake walk and Sandy Creek coaches only need to remind the players of last season’s quarterfinal loss to show that nothing is guaranteed just because of their record or ranking.
The winner of this game meets the winner of Carver-Atlanta and Dalton next week.
Whitewater Wildcats (9-1) vs. Lee County Trojans (7-3)
When Whitewater took a 41-3 beating to start the 2012 season, some Whitewater fans may have been worried. The team did not panic. They used their week off to prepare for Mundy’s Mill, beat them 30-18, and never looked back. The Wildcats rattled off nine wins in a row, all but one of them by double digits, and looked exceptionally strong each week. Early on, the running game led by Kendall Conley was getting the job done, but over the season a passing attack evolved that gave the team balance. Conley still got massive amounts of yards and touchdowns. He finished the regular season with 1,475 yards and 26 touchdowns (is there really an argument for someone else to be the county’s player of the year?) but other players such as Christian Wafford, Jake Carlson and Trevor Morgan demand the attention of the opposing defenses and make Whitewater a dangerous team.
Let’s not forget the staunch defense that posted two shutouts, allowed seven points twice and over 20 points in a game only twice. They are opportunistic and do well against the run.The defense goes as senior Malik Harris goes, he is the anchor of the defense as he is always in the backfield and eating blocks. Senior Joey Renta and junior Colton Clemons lead the linebackers, they're all over the place in both run and pass coverage. Senior Malcolm Graham and sophomore Steve Covington lead the secondary that rarely give up passing yards, senior Jared Vincent and sophomore Christian Wafford also make plays on defense as specialists.
Yes, Lee County has three losses but they are all to Class AAAAA playoff teams and they were all by seven points or less. This isn’t an example of winning the region and getting the weakest team from a region to open the state playoffs. Lee County has not scored below 31 points this season and while they allowed 35 points or more in their losses every win was by a double digit margin. The Trojans have scored more points than Whitewater (450-343) but also allowed much more (252-140).
These two teams have never met. If momentum counts for anything, and most people would say it counts for at least a little, Whitewater has won nine in a row and Lee County has lost three of their last four. If the Wildcats can strike early, they will put themselves in a good position to move on.
The winner of this game takes on the winner of Glynn Academy and Jones County in the second round.
Sandy Creek senior Jacob Renie and Whitewater senior Kennington Smith assisted with this story.