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Five local teams prepare to begin second season

By Jeffery Armstrong

Five high school football teams in the Southern Crescent have qualified for the state playoffs and all will follow the long-standing mantra: win or go home.

Three teams n North Clayton, Lovejoy and Eagle's Landing Christian Academy in McDonough ? will host playoff games on Friday while Mt. Zion and Riverdale will have to hit the road for their contests.

According the Georgia High School Association, all playoff games will cost $8.

North Clayton had the best record of all the playoff teams, finishing 10-0 and winning the Region 5-AAAA championship. Wideout Dirk Engram and quarterback Morgan Burnett had breakout years this season, helping the Eagles to their undefeated mark. Engram actually scored at least one touchdown in five straight games down the stretch.

"It's a new season now," said North Clayton head coach Don Shockley. "I can't wait to get it started."

Shockley and his No. 2 seed North Clayton Eagles will get the state playoff ball rolling Friday against the Northwest Whitfield Bruins of Region 7-AAAA at Tara Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

The Lovejoy Wildcats won seven of their last eight games to go from 0-2 to 7-3 on the season. Despite that nice streak, Lovejoy needed a Newnan win over East Coweta to secure its second straight Region 4-AAAAA crown.

Lovejoy took off when quarterback Mario Fannin came back from injury early in the season. Fannin and the Wildcats will host the Redan Raiders of Region 2-AAAAA Friday at Twelve Oaks Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

The Riverdale Raiders may have their work cut out for them, but the team and head coach Nick Davis look forward to the challenge of facing the Starr's Mill Panthers Friday at Panther Stadium in Fayetteville.

A good start in Region 2-AAAAA play put Riverdale in playoff contention early, but the Raiders lost two games down the stretch that could've allowed them to host a playoff game. Now the Raiders, the No. 3 seed, have to travel to a hostile environment and face a Panthers team that has four running backs that can do damage in a game.

Senior Kyle McCreary and junior Antonio Scott are the main weapons at running back for the Panthers, the No. 2 seed from Region 4-AAAAA. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

The Mt. Zion Bulldogs will travel a long way to face their playoff opponent. Mt. Zion heads to Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. (near Rossville, Tenn.) to face the Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe Warriors of Region 7-AAAA. The No. 3 seed Bulldogs have had standout play from running backs Rashad Cunningham and Aubrey Dorsey early and multi-purpose backs Jamaal Clark and Derek Slaughter late. Players like Keon Montgomery and Darryl Tolbert have also helped the team during its playoff run and look to add to head coach Jackie Green's 100 career victories.

Eagle's Landing Christian Academy's first year in the GHSA has been outstanding. The Chargers came within a half of winning the Region 5-A title, but clinched the second seed thanks to great play from guys like Cole Springer, Russ Cooper, Tim Waters, Kerk Murray and a host of others.

ELCA will host the Hancock Central Bulldogs of Region 7-A at 7:30 p.m.