Sprayberry reached the first round of the Georgia High School Association state playoffs after posting a 5-5 regular season record, then got clobbered by eventual Class AAAA champion Tucker in the first round.
Wheeler was 2-3 in mid-season, then fell to a 4-6 finish when it hit the fat end of the schedule, including lopsided losses to Lassiter and Walton, semifinalists and finalists in Class AAAAA, respectively.
That's still a major improvement for the Wildcats, who had been 1-29 from 2008-2010.
The East Cobb rivals will meet in a non-region game at starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday seeking some positive early momentum.
The Yellow Jackets feature an experienced defense, anchored by senior linebacker Atuan Johnson, an all-region honorable mention pick last year. Running back Corey Cooper is only 5-foot-2 but ran for more than 700 yards to earn all-region first-team honors for Sprayberry.
For Wheeler coach Mike Collins, focusing on consistent improvement, rather than "numbers and wins and losses," continues to be his mission as he enters his third season on the job.
Despite their rugged schedule, the Wildcats did make the tangible strides he was looking for. With junior quarterback and two-sport star Elijah Staley, Wheeler has a dynamic offensive option that will test Sprayberry.
Staley is getting plenty of recruiting attention in basketball, but he's also received from Vanderbilt and is being pursued by other SEC and major college football programs.
Since GHSA realignment didn't affect East Cobb schools, Wheeler and Sprayberry will still be challenged to reach the post-season.
In Region 7B-AAAAA, Sprayberry will once again have to deal with playoff teams Kell, ranked No. 10 in Class AAAAA in pre-season, and Pope.
In Region 5-AAAAAA, Wheeler remains clustered with Walton and Lassiter, which are ranked 4th and 5th in the state, respectively, in pre-season polls, as well as Etowah and Woodstock.
Wheeler Parking Information
Wheeler fans are asked to park at East Cobb Middle School because of limited space on the Wheeler campus due to ongoing school construction. They should enter the stadium beside the cafeteria and use the main ticket booth.
Sprayberry fans should park in the parking area behind the stadium. There is a a ticket gate near the tennis courts located next to that lot. If the parking lot is full, park at East Cobb Middle School.