By David Purdum / For the AJC
Griffin coach Steve DeVoursney says the football facilities have been a little cleaner this season. The language used by the team has been more respectful, and players have been more active in the community, often visiting local elementary schools and always handing out high fives to young Bears fans.
These are the things DeVoursney points to when asked why he believes his team was able to persevere through a bevy of early mistakes in a comeback road win over defending champion Sandy Creek. They are also the reasons DeVoursney believes his team has the ability to win the state championship.
“We’ve had talent in the past and do again this year, but what makes this team stand out is that we have a lot of high-character kids,” said DeVoursney. “I think the character of this team is the reason why we’re where we’re at.”
The team’s character and resiliency were on display in last week’s win at playoff-favorite Sandy Creek. Griffin rallied back from a 26-17 deficit with just over seven minutes to play against the Patriots. Quarterback Jaquez Parks shook off two early interceptions and orchestrated a pair of clutch fourth-quarter scoring drives. The senior, who has offers from Harvard and Air Force, completed 8 of 9 passes for 125 yards in the fourth quarter. Tight end/linebacker Jordan Colbert dropped a wide-open touchdown pass early in the game, but redeemed himself three minutes later with a 76-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“We never thought it was over until we were in the victory formation,” said DeVoursney, who has the Bears in position to reach the state championship game for the time since 1980.
Griffin hosts Wayne County on Friday in a AAAA semifinal loaded with talent. The Yellow Jackets blew past Alexander to earn a spot in the final four for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Wayne County features a pair of dynamic offensive weapons in quarterback Malique Jackson, who owns an offer from Florida State, and wide receiver Krenwick Sanders, who is committed to Wisconsin. Six-foot-four, 330-pound defensive tackle Jeremy Patterson, another Wisconsin-commitment, bolsters the Jackets’ defense.
Parks, who should go over 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in Friday’s game, has his fair share of weapons as well in receiver Christian Owens, a Georgia commitment, and versatile back DeVontae Freeman. But Parks might not have all his weapons Friday. The Griffin Daily News reported that Bears’ leading rusher Malik Miller fractured his leg and second-leading receiver Keyston Fuller injured his shoulder against Sandy Creek. Griffin kicker Tristen Mathis also was hurt in the win, which may prevent the Bears from keeping the ball away from Sanders on kick returns.
Will Marist need more balance?
Marist did not attempt a pass in its 30-8 win over Worth County in the 1989 state championship game. The War Eagles did it again last week, beating Burke County, 42-20, without throwing the football.
Marist rushed for 431 yards, averaging 8.5 yards on 51 attempts to advance to the AAAA semifinals against powerful Carrollton.
“There were two reasons why we were able to that last week,” said Marist coach Alan Chadwick. “We stayed ahead of the chains so we didn’t have to throw, and, secondly, the secondary was playing very loose and cautious and not really giving us the pass. We go into every game with a full plate of options, both run and pass, and a lot of it is just determined by what the defense is doing.”
Repeating the performance against a stacked Carrollton defense seems unlikely. The War Eagles will need to be more balanced against a stalwart Trojan defense, anchored by blue-chip tackle Dontavius Russell. Opponents are averaging 127.7 yards on the ground against Carrollton.
“It’s going to be a big challenge to try to run the ball on them,” said Chadwick. “It’s going to be a difficult chore. They’re big up front, hard to block and don’t make a lot of mistakes. They play such good technique. You see their tackle, when he starts to get double-teamed, he’s going down and powering it off so you can’t get any knock offs and push. Their linebackers don’t take themselves out of position very much at all. Their secondary reads flow, reads run and reads pass very well. Just very, very solid and technique-oriented. And they’re just so well-coached.”
These two teams met last season in the second round of the playoffs, with Marist winning, 43-27, in five overtimes.
New AAAA region allignments
|REGION 1||REGION 2|
|Bainbridge (all but FB)||Mary Persons|
|Thomas Co. Cen (all but FB)|
|REGION 3||REGION 4|
|Burke County||Eagles Landing|
|Wayne County||Henry County|
|Mt. Zion, Jonesboro|
|REGION 5||REGION 6|
|Pike County||Cross Keys|
|Woodward Academy||St. Pius X|
|REGION 7||REGION 8|
|Heritage, Catoosa||Johnson, Gainesville|
|Northwest Whitfield||Monroe Area|
|Southeast Whitfield||Stephens County|
Note: More good semifinal preview nuggets from the guys at GHSF Daily can be found here.