Stephenson landed the first blow in the three-way race to the Region 6-AAAAA championship on Friday, knocking off 2011 state champion Tucker 13-6 and bringing the Tigers’ 20-game winning streak to a halt.
The fourth-ranked Jaguars (5-0, 5-0) can all but wrap up the region title with a victory on Oct. 26 against No. 3 M.L. King. However, Stephenson also has games remaining against playoff contenders Miller Grove and Mays, so it can’t afford to celebrate too long or look too far ahead.
No. 2 Tucker (5-1, 4-1) came into the game with the top offense in Class AAAAA, averaging 47.8 points per game, but did not get on the scoreboard against Stephenson until a fourth-quarter touchdown pass after Stephenson led 13-0. “To shut Tucker out for three and a half quarters is amazing,” Stephenson coach Ron Gartrell told the AJC’s Jeff Haws.
The Tigers must beat M.L. King on Nov. 2 and hope for a couple of Stephenson losses to have a shot at an outright region title, but a victory over M.L. King could pave the way for a three-way tie at the top.
Is Tucker out of it, or can the Tigers recover in time to beat M.L. King?
Here are some of the things we learned from Week 8 in Class AAAAA:
*All of a sudden, Mundy’s Mill is a playoff threat: The Tigers were 0-4 when they began subregion play last weekend, but they find themselves 2-0 and tied with Union Grove for first place in Region 4-AAAAA Division A after a 32-31 upset of Drew. Junior running back Rodney Smith rushed for 286 yards and four touchdowns (on runs of 56, 54, 29 and 26 yards) in the victory, according to the Clayton News Daily. Mundy’s Mill and Union Grove will play on Oct. 26 in a game that could decide the subregion title, which would bring with it a trip to the region championship game and an automatic berth in the state playoffs. Mundy’s Mill made its most recent playoff appearance in 2007 and went 7-33 over the next four seasons.
*It wasn’t a bad night to be an underdog: Stephenson and Mundy’s Mill weren’t the only teams to pull off upsets. Perhaps no game was more of a surprise than Harris County’s 21-17 victory over Bainbridge. Harris County improved to 2-4 overall and 1-0 in Region 1-AAAAA. Bainbridge, projected by some as the second-best team in the region behind Thomas County Central, fell into last place at 3-3, 0-2. … Richmond Hill was the only team in 3-AAAAA that was undefeated overall until it ran into Rick Tomberlin’s Effingham County team, which won its fourth consecutive game and is tied with Ware County for the region lead.
*Having a good offense wasn’t bad, either: Five AAAAA teams won on Friday despite giving up at least 30 points. The most notable was Rome, which beat North Paulding 57-56 in overtime in a 5-AAAAA game. Region leader East Paulding had an easier time in a 56-30 victory over Hiram. Other winners were Lakeside-Evans (37-35 over Houston County), Creekview (56-42 over Northview) and Mundy’s Mill.