If there’s a word to describe the reaction to Locust Grove’s 5-1, it’d have to be disbelief. Even with skilled players Cortez McDowell and Keenan Wise, the Wildcats really had nothing in their history to suggest they’d reel off a five-game winning streak and force their way into discussions about potential playoff teams in Region 4-AAAA.
“I’m on cloud nine,” said Locust Grove coach Clint Satterfield. “It’s a little bit beyond my expectations. I knew we were going to be better. It’s the fourth year of the school and a lot of these kids came in as ninth-graders.”
The fifth game was the real eye-opener. Down 31-0 late in the first half last week against a surging Dutchtown team, the Wildcats stormed back to win 40-37. One one span of six offensive plays in the third period, they scored three touchdowns. McDowell caught eight passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
Their lone loss, a 25-21 setback against county rival Union Grove, finished with the Wildcats on the two-yard line. So they’re a play away from being 6-0. That game is one of four that have been decided by a touchdown or less.
“I think we’ve got a chance to make some noise,” Satterfield said.
Ridgeland rolling: Speaking of noise, Ridgeland was exposed to off-field noise in August, when the Rossville school received a cease-and-desist letter from a civil rights group whose aim was to stop the Panthers from having team meals at churches.
The conflict hasn’t affected Ridgeland’s on-field performance. Behind what coach Mark Mariakis calls a strong and unified line, the Panthers have dominated five straight opponents since losing a shootout against Calhoun in their season opener. The Panthers are 4-1 and have scored at least 35 points in all five games.
“We have a nice combination of size and strength up there,” Mariakis said. “They’ve bought into what we’re trying to do and they’re doing it well.”
The latest conquest was perhaps the most eye-opening, a 48-21 win over Dalton a game in which AJC Super 11 player Vonn Bell touched the ball five times, scored four touchdowns and compiled 270 all-purpose yards.
“Last year we really didn’t use him a whole lot offensively, but we’ve gotten him involved more,” Mariakis said.
As for the civil rights complaint, Mariakis said the school system’s administration has dealt with it and allowed him to focus on football.
“Really our kids have not been affected by it at all. Our people have made a great effort to make sure all that didn’t happen,” he said. “It’s all been very positive, and I think that eased the minds of the kids. It just united everybody. They had a reason to stand up and bond community wide.”
Can unbeatens stay that way: There are five remaining unbeaten teams in AAAA – Sandy Creek, Chamblee, Carver-Atlanta, Washington and Monroe Area. Of those, Washington and Monroe Area face the stiffest tests this week. Washington faces 4-1 Grady at the Georgia Dome Saturday, while Monroe Area duels with 8-AAAA power Stephens County Friday night in Monroe.