By David Purdum / For the AJC
Alexander hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1997. But, after a 4-2 start that includes region wins over LaGrange and Shaw, the Cougars are very much in the hunt this season. “I think our team has confidence,” said coach Matthew Combs. “They’re definitely walking around the hallways, around the community feeling like they have a shot. But we’re taking it one game at a time.”
That confidence will be tested severely the next two weeks. Alexander is at defending state champion and top-ranked Sandy Creek on Friday and then hosts No. 2 Carrollton next week. The Cougars have never beaten Sandy Creek or Carrollton.
“If we’re talking about going to the playoffs, playing the best two teams is the best way to prepare for it,” said Combs. “Everyone has complained about playing in the toughest region in the state, but it doesn’t matter. Everybody has to play a schedule. It’s a great opportunity for us.”
Even if Alexander comes up short against those two juggernauts, Combs’ senior-laded team still will have a shot to earn a playoff bid with winnable games against Columbus and Fayette County to wrap up the season. Alexander beat both of those teams last season.
“We’re thinking about Sandy Creek,” said Combs. “They’ve got the name. We’re Alexander, with no name. We want to go out there and give them our best shot and, at the end of the game, see what we can do.”
Alexander’s best shot likely includes a heavy dose of junior running back Mikell Lands-Davis, who rushed for 312 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s win over LaGrange. Lands-Davis has rushed for 1,125 yards and 12 touchdowns in the Cougars’ spread attack, but has yet to receive an official offer, Combs said.
At 6-0, 215 pounds, Lands-Davis boasts a combination of power and agility. What separates him in Combs’ eyes is his football IQ.
“You can throw all the tags on this young man,” said Combs of his star back. “A lot of coaches come across players who are great athletes, but don’t have all the other attributes. He’s got it all. He comes back and watches film throughout the week, then comes to me and says, ‘Coach, you know we can run this against them.’ He’s scouting his linebackers, he’s scouting the D-line, and he’s out there motivating our O-line.”
Turnaround: After back-to-back 1-9 seasons, Eagle’s Landing has raced out to a 5-2 start. The Golden Eagles have never won more than six games in a season and have had only two winning seasons and one playoff berth in their program’s 22-year history. Eagle’s Landing (5-2, 1-1 4-AAAA Div. A) travels to Woodland (Stockbridge) on Friday.
Region 6-AAAA Division A logjam: Four teams sit at 1-1 in Region 6-AAAA’s Division A: Chamblee, Columbia, Lithonia and Stone Mountain. Only two of the four will reach the region play-in round. All four teams are looking up at Marist, the favorite to grab the top seed out of the division. Columbia, which knocked off Chamblee last week, plays host to Lithonia on Saturday at Avondale Stadium. Stone Mountain and Chamblee meet Friday at Avondale Stadium. Stone Mountain and Chamblee still have to play Marist, which hosts winless Redan on Friday.
Region 1-AAAA notable: Westover (4-2, 3-0), the only unbeaten team in Region 1-AAAA play, hosts second-place Americus-Sumter (3-3, 2-1 1-AAAA) on Friday. The last two meetings have been decided by a total of four points, with each team winning once.
Region 2-AAAA notable: After last week’s bye, Region 2 returns to action tonight. Mary Persons and Veterans are both 3-0 in region play. Mary Persons hosts Rutland on Friday; Veterans is at Perry. Mary Persons hosts Veterans on Nov. 1.