Friday advance: How good is Marist?

By David Purdum / For the AJC

Marist will be returning to the playoffs for the 31st consecutive season. A win over Carver on Friday would give the War Eagles the No. 1 seed out of Region 6-AAAA and their 23rd region championship.

But how good is this Marist team? Right now, Marist is the team AAAA coaches mention just after naming their top state championship contenders. Marist is the team “you can never count out,” they say. But, from a reporter who hasn’t seen Marist this season, just how good are the War Eagles?

For the first time in coach Alan Chadwick’s 29-year career, Marist lost back-to-back games, falling to Thomas County Central and Lovett in Weeks 2 and 3. The War Eagles dropped from No. 4 all the way out of the AJC rankings. They rolled through region play with little difficulty, putting together six straight dominating wins against overmatched competition. Marist outscored region opponents 233-25 in the kind of games in which starters had to be taken out in the second half and scoreboards had to be managed as best as possible.

The blowouts caused a dilemma for Chadwick and his staff.  His team needed to improve, but not at the expense of embarrassing an opponent.

“That’s been a challenge,” said Chadwick. “We feel like we’ve prepared ourselves well through our intensity in practice. We’ve scrimmaged ones on ones (starters vs. starters) pretty regularly throughout the season. But it’s still a concern. We haven’t faced a real good, quality competition, and we’re concerned about what may happen when we do start to face some adversity.”

An athletic Carver team will be the best test the War Eagles have faced since September. But Marist has owned this series, winning three straight, including last season’s 42-14 rout. Regardless, the level of competition will be increasing each week from this point. Chadwick believes the two early losses showed him the adjustments that needed to be made in order for his team to step up come playoff time.

“You hate to say there’s such a thing as a good loss, but the losses to Thomas County and Lovett were good losses,” Chadwick said in a Thursday phone interview. “They helped us evaluate who and what we are. We made some changes.”

Most of the changes were personnel-based, allowing players like senior halfback Matt Perez and senior lineman Derek Homrich to emerge as leading contributors. Quarterback Chase Martenson has improved weekly, and defensive back Trey Oates has developed into a lock-down cover guy, who always draws the opponent’s biggest weapon.

Chadwick also made a change in his substitution philosophy. “We’re seeing more spread, no-huddle, fast-paced teams,” he said. “So we felt like we needed to focus more on depth and getting more guys in there playing faster and harder.”

As the War Eagles’ prepare to take on Carver, before heading to the playoffs, Chadwick, like other coaches, includes his team in his list of contenders, just not at the very top.

“We’re right there in that second group,” he said.

The Unbeatens: Three teams are looking to cap undefeated regular seasons this week. No. 1 Sandy Creek (8-0-1) is at Columbus. The Patriots have won 41 consecutive region games and haven’t lost in the regular season since Week 1 of the 2009 season. No. 2 Griffin (9-0) hosts Woodland (Stockbridge). A win would give the Bears the top-seed out of Region 4-AAAA. No. 3 Monroe Area hosts Eastside. Eastside beat the Purple Hurricanes, 35-0, last season. Monroe Area has already locked up the top seed out of Region 8-AAAA.

Last chance: Two winless teams meet Saturday at Avondale Stadium, where 0-9 South Atlanta faces 0-9 Redan. South Atlanta has lost 16 consecutive games overall, including a 24-18 defeat to Redan to end last season. Dougherty (0-9) and Spalding (0-9) also are looking to avoid winless seasons this week.

Good news: Cedartown senior defensive back Caleb Ely is expected to make a full recovery from the head injury he suffered in last week’s game against Gilmer. Ely collapsed on the sidelines late in the third quarter and was taken to the hospital, where he underwent surgery to alleviate swelling in his brain. Ely was moved out of intensive care this week and plans on returning home early next week, according to his mother, Malindy Ely.

Playoffs at stake: Americus-Sumter visits Crisp County on Friday, with the winner claiming the fourth seed out of Region 1-AAAA. … In Region 5-AAAA, Alexander can clinch its first trip to the playoffs since 1997 with a win over Fayette County.

News: Donnie Branch, who coordinated three state championship defenses before becoming LaGrange’s head coach in 2011, has resigned. He will coach LaGrange’s final regular-season game Friday night at Carrollton. Scoop Todd Holcomb has more.

15 comments Add your comment

Go Trojans!

November 7th, 2013
1:39 pm

Great news about that young man from Cedartown! Glad to read that!

Sportsnut

November 7th, 2013
2:35 pm

Very good news about Caleb. My prayers are still coming.

WarEagle

November 7th, 2013
3:12 pm

Guess we’ll see on Friday. Feel free to join us, David.

5AReg6Fan

November 7th, 2013
4:36 pm

Good luck to Marist in closing the 4A region 6 title. Two old foes, battle to close out their respective region 6 titles – Marist & Tucker.

“WE ARE TUCKER” – Currently 9-0 & #1 in the REGION – The Tigers have been RELEASED!!!

REGION 6, the best in GA 2013 5A Football……

Just a Fan

November 7th, 2013
7:21 pm

Count on Marist being tough as always. They may nor win the State Crown but will take out a contender or two during the playoffs.Disiplineed!

bear_backer

November 8th, 2013
2:12 am

Bold prediction here: Griffin will get to the third round, then meet their demise against Sandy Creek, but the game will be TONS better than the miserable debacle Carrollton run up against the Patriots. Of course I hope Griffin wins out, but in all honesty, they have not played anyone all year. Region 4 AAAA is hella-weak. The Bears are good though, no doubt, but they have not really been tested. The only game that was even interesting was against Stockbridge, (when Devoursney got booted), but the Bears Hammered Stockbridge like John Henry running late for a date. GO BEARS!!

Trojan94

November 8th, 2013
3:56 am

bear backer why would you sell your team short? anything can happen in the playoffs!….also one game doesn’t tell carrollton’s whole season, sandy creek came in with razor sharp focus after being called 13 point underdogs last week. They came and took it to carrollton that my friend is a mark of a champion the patriots are the team to beat for sure. BUT carrollton can play a lot better than what you seen last week. Do not count the Trojans out in the playoffs

manblk22

November 8th, 2013
7:12 am

Trojan 94 I have a question. Will teague be there on the sidelines during the playoffs? If so , carrollton’s done. In order for my beloved Trojans advance. Teague has to be in another country or universe. The Trojan nation is feed up. Enough is enough. AAAA will be interesting this year in the playoffs. LET THE REAL COACHING BEGIN.

Trojan94

November 8th, 2013
9:42 am

@ manblk22 Man he really made carrollton look bad last week. I know some people don’t like to hear blame the coach but in our case when it comes to big game freezes up bad. but we have a chance not many team on this side of the bracket can beat a team with this talent when its used properly . But like I said in the playoffs anything can happen.

Just a Fan

November 8th, 2013
9:46 am

Bear Backer-I agree with you that Griffin has not been tested. Carrollton had beaten some good teams along the way with ease but SC was a different story-it could happen to Griffin as well-only the games will tell. Winner of Griffin-SC should be state favorite.

bear_backer

November 8th, 2013
5:11 pm

@Trojan94 – I hear ya bud, and understand that my tone may seem a tad negative toward my beloved alma-mater. My heart is with the Bears for sure, but being an abject realist, my gut and many years of experience seeing Griffin falter in the playoffs lead me to believe otherwise. This is once case where past performance can indeed predict future results. (too bad the stock market does not work like that or I would be on easy street). The only way I see Sandy Creek losing is if they beat themselves, and the way they are coached and the amount of focus they exude is rare for a high school football team on ANY level, not just AAAA. Hats off to them for all that. Something in the water over in Tyrone? Who the hell knows, all they do is win year in and year out. Sandy Creek alumni, parents and fans will all tell you its because the kids have played together for so long, but jealous others will tell you they are cheating somehow. When they do eventually get knocked from their lofty perch, it will be something for someone to be proud of for sure. GO BEARS.

Old Bear

November 9th, 2013
3:19 pm

I have to disagree with bear_backer on his appraisal of Griffin. Where is it failure in the playoffs to make the state semis 3 of the previous 8 seasons? Only one team can win the state championship in each classification, and I happen to think that finishing in the top 4 is an accomplishment that merits a better description than “faltering”. Could they have won the title in any of those seasons? Sure, but they they ended up better than expected in each of those seasons. Recent history – the last 3 years – hasn’t been as kind, but the Bears have made the state playoffs 13 consecutive seasons, and have advanced past the first round 7 times since 2004. The region isn’t as weak as perceived, either, as Stockbridge advanced to the 3rd round last year and are expected to move beyond the first round year again this year. Sandy Creek is a great team, but Griffin has beaten some quality teams during their playoff runs (Ware County, Southwest DeKalb, and even Sandy Creek (granted, the Sandy Creek win came before their recent run of success, but they were a team to be reckoned with even then). Some of the playoff losses were to the eventual state champions. And some of the playoff losses to “quality” teams were squeakers – Statesboro (twice), and Sandy Creek come to mind. There have been some stumbles and a couple of bad losses, but nearly every team in the state would have to admit to that.

I’m disappointed every year that the Bears don’t win the state championship, but that doesn’t mean that the team failed. More often, it translates to my own personal high expectations of the team. I believe if you ask around the state, you would hear Griffin being praised as a consistently excellent team in their classification. I also believe a look at the past years’ rankings would bear that out.

My intent isn’t to call out bear_backer, because I think he/she has the same love for her alma mater that I do. We just have a difference in perspective. I look forward to capping off one of the Bears’ most successful regular seasons in their history with a state title. Then again, I always look forward to ending the season at the top. I don’t think it’s unrealistic most years, either.

Just a Fan

November 9th, 2013
4:32 pm

Bear Backer-the playoff bracket quadrant that griffin is in is the strongest appearing of the 4. Griffins second round opponent looks to be Statesboro-a team that might have been the best in the most competetive region in the state(upset 7-6 in a rainstorm).Griffin has a 9-1 team in round 3;Carrollton has a 9-1 team in round 1 that whose only loss was by 3 points to the region 7 champs.The good? news for Griffin is that whichever team wins that quadrant should have a trip to the dome. With Statesboro,Sandy Creek and Griffin in the mix the winner will have earned it.

Just a Fan

November 9th, 2013
4:33 pm

Sorry-I meant a 9-1 team in round 2.

Bear_Backer

November 11th, 2013
1:23 am

ok Old Bear – that’s more than fair. ( I-m a HIM by the way, former player for Griffin also back in the Dowis days!) Anyway, I do want them to win it all, and that is the reason for my rant. You are correct in your assertion that the Mighty Bears have been a top-tier team in the state for many years. I am proud when I hear people talking about them. I went to the Sandy Creek – Carrollton game in Carrollton, and wore my Griffin garb. Everyone who noticed it had nothing but admiration for Griffin, including when I visited the Sandy Creek side. Now there is some knowledgeable fans across this great state I tell you, and when complete strangers come up and tell my how they remember the likes of Willie Gault, Jessie Tuggle and those Clemons boys among many others, well it does my heart mighty proud to say I am a former Griffin Bear player. Once a Bear, Always a Bear, so high five to you Old Bear and Bless you and your family. I concur with you when I say Good luck and safe blessings to all players. GO BEARS!!!