Playoff Questions for East Cobb Schools
Can the Raiders win without Tyren Jones? Can Lassiter handle the pressure of being No. 1? Can Wheeler and Pope win on the road?
Many questions abound for the five East Cobb-area teams competing in Georgia High School Association state football playoffs that begin tonight.
That's why it's hard to pick one that stands out.
The banged-up Walton Raiders, who play host to Parkview at 7:30 tonight in the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs, may have to take on the Gwinnett powerhouse without Tyren Jones, who missed last week's game with Roswell.
Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo told The Marietta Daily Journal he's 99 percent sure the star running back won't take the field at Raider Valley because of a knee sprain.
While injured quarterback Parker McLeod is back after a five-game absence, a number of other players have been ruled out or are doubtful. Walton, which finished the regular season 7-3 after losing to Roswell, is last year's state runner-up.
But the Raiders are starting out against the only team to defeat state champion Grayson, and which boasts a stingy defense.
Brookwood at Lassiter, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
For the first time in school history, the Trojans are ranked No. 1 in the state, in the Class AAAAAA poll. But like Walton's game against Parkview, another Gwinnett team with a strong playoff track record is coming to Cobb.
Lassiter is 10-0 with its high-powered offense, led by quarterback Eddie Printz and receiver Willie Police, and an opportunistic defense that has come up big when needed (including its regular season win over Walton).
Three years ago, the Trojans were also undefeated, and reached the state quarterfinals.
Wheeler at Grayson, Friday, 8 p.m.
After just edging their way on a tiebreaker into what seemed an improbable playoff spot, the Wildcats get no favors in the bracket as they travel to defending state champion Grayson in another Class AAAAAA contest.
But for Wheeler, turning around a once-proud program might be the biggest accomplishment of all under coach Mike Collins. It's been just a few years since the Wildcats were winless in two consecutive seasons, followed by a one-win season.
They will have their hands full with a Grayson team that features top national recruiting prospect Robert Nkemdiche, whom Walton players and fans know all about.
Pope at Stephenson, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
The Greyhounds got off to a slow start, losing their first two games, but other than a clobbering at the hands of Kell, have been very impressive.
Pope will have to be that way again tomorrow night in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs at Halford Stadium in Clarkston.
Southwest DeKalb at Kell, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The Longhorns have had another strong season, and enter the Class AAAAA playoffs ranked No. 4. Their only loss has been to Lassiter, and their star players, Khalil Bell and Brendan Langley, are coming off strong games in last week's win over Forsyth Central.
Kell is facing a Southwest DeKalb team that is 7-3 and appears to be peaking, having won its last three games. Coach Derek Cook told the MDJ that his team's prolific offense figures to be facing a stiff defensive challenge tonight.