When watching Southwest DeKalb, you feel like you are watching an all-star team.
How loaded are the Panthers? They lost their workhorse at running back after three quarters last Friday, and put in a pair of backups who refused to let the offense skip a beat. This wasn’t against any team, but Marist, which played in last year’s state championship game and returned one of the best defenses around.
After watching many of the state’s elite Class AAAAA teams for most of the season, I’d put Southwest’s talent up against any team in Georgia. Here is a quick breakdown of the Southwest DeKalb all-stars:
Ken Malcome, RB: He is the straw that stirs the drink. He’s the team leader, and face of SWD. He’s also the state’s No. 1 tailback, and proved it with 182 yards rushing, including a 74-yard touchdown run, vs. Marist in three quarters. Malcome is strong (legs like tree trunks), fast, and powerful (loves contact). He runs strong between the tackles, and also had burst of speed to outrun the secondary. His only apparent weakness is when he runs East-West rather than North-South, while not much is known about his hands in the passing game. He is one of the few high school running backs who projects to play either tailback and fullback in college. He’s the state’s No. 1 RB (committed to UGA), followed by No. 2 Charles Perkins of Collins Hill (Georgia Tech), and No. 3 Mack Brown of M.L. King (Florida).
T.J. Stripling, DE: He’s the P-word, i.e. potential. He’s 6-6, 215 pounds. His enormous range of potential is a lot like two of the state’s top players from last year — Oconee County QB Zach Mettensberger (freshman at UGA) and North Clayton’s Emmanuel Dieke (freshman at Georgia Tech): Striping could either never play a down in college or end up being a first-round pick in the NFL. This year at Southwest DeKalb, Stripling is able to get by on pure athleticism, rarely using any technique or leverage. He is overly aggressive coming off the edge, and sometimes gets back there as quickly as the snap, to the dismay of quarterbacks. However, opposing teams have also learned it is best to run directly at Stripling. He often loses containment, and if you can get past his long reach, then it’s an automatic 6-7 yards. It is very dangerous to run away from Stripling, as he has explosive backside pursuit with his long strides. He has an imposing frame in high school, but will likely need to gain 15-25 pounds before playing in college.
Jonathan Mincy, DB: The Auburn-bound senior appears to be the total package. He’s got the quickness and speed, along with the best instincts on the all-star team for always being in the right place at the right time. He has good hips, but is rarely in the backpedal. He takes a lot of chances on pass plays, and looks more like a wide receiver on defense than a cornerback. He is most dangerous when he has the ball in his hands, either on an interception return, special teams, or spot duty at running back. Against Marist, he had a spectacular TD run, sprinting to the right, coming to a complete stop, then accelerating in the opposite direction to the end zone. Would not be surprised if other SEC schools tried to change his mind about Auburn before signing day.
Marques Dixon, WR-DB: It is baffling why Southwest DeKalb doesn’t give more offensive touches to Dixon. On a team of all-stars, he is the most explosive player, proven by his 85-yard kickoff return vs. M.L. King, along with a 43-yard run vs. Marist to set up the clinching score. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. He has speed, quickness, elusiveness and incredible vision. If Southwest DeKalb has “Mr. Inside and Outside,” it would be Malcome and Dixon.
Steven Coates, QB: It has not been a good year for Coates, who missed several games after suffering an ankle injury in the season-opener vs. M.L. King. He also reportedly got into trouble for senior silliness at school. Coates had his first chance to really showcase his skills vs. Marist, but left a negative impression with his show-boating on a 1-yard TD that somehow was not penalized. He also made poor decisions by throwing the ball into coverage, but that perhaps was out of eagerness to make big plays after being gone so long. He has all the tools to be a good high school quarterback, and will be counted on heavily down the stretch. He just needs to take a deep breath and be the leader he can be.
Buck Godfrey, coach: When Malcome went down with leg cramps in the third quarter vs. Marist, Malcome tried to return several minutes later. Unlike many other coaches I’ve seen in this situation, Godfrey ordered Malcome to the bench. This was SWD’s biggest game of the season to the date, deciding inside track to the region championship and No. 1 playoff seed, and the Panthers had to close without Malcome. Of course, the decision was made easier with the sensational play of replacements Dixon and Mincy. But it was still a gutsy call by the veteran coach. Godfrey will still have to figure out something about the kicking game, which is the team’s most glaring weakness. And many wonder why Godfrey doesn’t put Malcome, Mincy, and Dixon in the offensive backfield at the same time with a Wildcat or option formation. Godfrey provides confidence and leadership, telling the team that it would still win the state championship only minutes after losing to M.L. King.
Finally, we’ve talked a lot about the state’s largest classification (AAAAA). Now let’s talk about the next one down, Class AAAA.
Which team do you think will win the state championship in Class AAAA? Griffin? Marist? Westside-Macon? Tucker? Southwest DeKalb? Please state your case below and back it with your reasons.