In the case of Region 5-AAAA, it was complete happenstance that the schedule fell the way that it did, with powers Carrollton and Sandy Creek playing this week. Also, the Troup-LaGrange rivalry game and the Fayette County-Shaw matchup have playoff implications.
There are great high-stakes games all over the state this weekend. Cairo and Monroe-Albany clash for the top spot in Region 1. Unbeaten Chamblee plays host to No. 2 Marist and unbeaten Carver-Atlanta takes on once-beaten Grady in 6-AAAA. Stockbridge plays Locust Grove with the top seed in 4-AAAA Division A on the line. And in 8-AAAA, No. 6 Monroe Area plays at Chestatee with the region title on the line.
None of those carries the weight, or at least the story lines, that go along with No. 4 Carrollton’s visit to No. 1 Sandy Creek. It’s two top-five teams, a rematch from the 2010 AAA state championship game and an old-guard, long-time power (Carrollton) against what might be termed a nouveaux elite (Sandy Creek) with the 5-AAAA crown at stake.
“You try to keep the week as much the same as you can,” said Sandy Creek coach Chip Walker. “But everybody knows what’s at stake and who we’re playing.”
And it was, as both Walker and Carrollton Coach Rayvan Teague called it, the luck of the draw that the schedule fell that way.
“All the coaches just drew numbers and the numbers told you what your schedule was,” said Teague, who believes it’s fortunate his team didn’t see the Patriots earlier in the year. “When you’re playing a great team like that, it really doesn’t matter, but for us this year it’s better to have played late because we were so green to begin the year.”
Carrollton went into the season with the plan of having Wil Garrett and Will Hesterlee share time at quarterback, but Garrett broke his thumb in the preseason and was just released to resume football activity two weeks ago. So Hesterlee has taken the reins and after a 1-2 start has led the team to five straight wins. Key has been the emergence of running back Trey Chivers (pronounced as in shivers), who has run wild the last few weeks, including a four-touchdown performance against Alexander last week. Against Calhoun in the season’s third game, Chivers bolted for 264 rushing yards, 95 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
For Carrollton, Friday’s game is a chance at payback for the loss in the 2010 state final, a game Carrollton could have won; the Trojans turned the ball over three times deep in Sandy Creek territory and fell 14-7.
“I think they’re a whole lot better offensively than they were then,” Teague said. “I had to watch three different games to see them punt once or twice. Nobody’s really stopped them all year long. They’re so talented and they do a good job with them.”
On the other side, Sandy Creek has clicked offensively all year. QB Cole Garvin has thrown for 1,586 yards and 14 touchdowns and RB Eric Swinney has 801 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Demarre Kitt has caught 37 passes for 592 yards and six touchdowns while Kyle Wilson has 21 catches for 459 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think hopefully we are ready,” Walker said. “I don’t know that we’ve played a team as good as Carrollton, but then I don’t think they’ve played a team as good as us.”