CHANNEL 2 SPORTS ZONE GAME OF THE WEEK: ALPHARETTA AT BROOKWOOD
The Georgia high school football state playoffs begin tonight and that means some of the finest football talent in the state will be put to the test against each other.
I’m heading over to Snellville tonight to cover the Class AAAAA opener between Alpharetta and Brookwood in the “Channel 2 Sports Zone Friday Game of the Week” (7:30 p.m., Charter 126/Comcast 248; 1 a.m. WSB-2). That game is a perfect example of elite talent being pitted against each other early in the playoffs.
The No. 1-seeded Broncos (9-1) feature a couple of the best players in Gwinnett County. They are led by spectacular two-way star Andre Sims, a longtime Michigan State commitment. Sims starts at both split end and cornerback. And while his offensive numbers are down from last season when he led the county with 921 yards and 16 touchdowns on 55 catches (Brookwood is running the ball more this season), he remains a constant scoring threat (515 yards, 4 TDs). Meanwhile, he has shut down opponents on his side of the field on defense.
Other offensive players I’ll be paying particular attention to for the Broncos include senior QB Ben McLane (1,485 yards passing), junior RB Nick Tompkins (1,236 yards rushing, 14 TDs) and tackle Blake Fussell (6-2, 285-pound Air Force commit).
On defense, I can’t wait to see Brookwood’s Cameron Lynch in action. The 5-11, 220-pound linebacker leads Gwinnett County in tackles (127) for the second consecutive year. He also leads the county in sacks (16) this season. But the kid is an all-around impressive individual. He has a 3.76 GPA in advanced placement coursework and scored an outstanding 4 out of 5 on the AP physics exam. He has long been committed to Syracuse but continues to be recruited by numerous schools.
Any notion that the Broncos are in for a first-round breeze, however, is quickly dispelled by coach Mark Crews. In Alpharetta, Brookwood has drawn an extremely dangerous opening opponent.
The fourth-seeded Raiders (6-4) are led by an under-recruited, dual-threat quarterback named Mikhail Abdul-Saboor. I’ve come to call Abdul-Saboor “Little Cam” after Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton. He’s considerably smaller than the Tigers’ Heisman Trophy frontrunner (5-10, 210) but poses a similar challenge for opposing defenses. He enters the game with 2,668 yards of total offense, including 1,738 passing, and has accounted for 32 touchdowns, 16 passing and 16 rushing.
Abdul-Saboor’s unique talents were on full display last Friday when busted loose for three rushing touchdowns — including two of more than 40 yards — in a dominant 29-13 upset victory over North Forsyth that knocked it out of the top seed in the region. It’s no coincidence that Abdul-Saboor was out with a high-ankle sprain during the Raiders’ three-game losing streak in early October.
“He’s a great running quarterback who is very elusive but throws the ball well,” Crew said. “They’re a scary bunch.”
Alpharetta also features one of the best sophomore play-makers in Atlanta. Wide receiver Carlos Burse (6-3, 195) has 27 catches for 581 yards and seven touchdowns. He scored three TDs in the matter of nine minutes in a 20-point win at Centenniel two weeks ago.
“My kids are excited,” said Alpharetta coach Jason Dukes, a four-year starter on the offensive line at Georgia Tech in the 1990s. “The students are excited, the faculty is excited, the custodians are excited. Our kids believe now if we execute we can contend with anyone. We think we’re a hard nut to crack for anyone.”
The Raiders have believers in Brookwood, which should know better than anybody what can happen in the state playoffs. The Broncos knocked off undefeated and top-seeded McEachern in the first round last year.
“I just remind them of what happened last year, so that resonates,” Crews said. “We know we’ve got to be ready.”
I will be, too.