On the verge of perfection

By Anthony Rhoads

The North Clayton football team is on the verge of perfection.

If the Eagles beat Stone Mountain Saturday, they will complete a perfect regular season and clinch the Region 5-AAAA championship.

North Clayton has already secured a playoff spot, its first since 1998 and if the team wins Saturday, it will be the first time since 1993 that North Clayton has gone undefeated in the regular season.

"It feels good," North Clayton head coach Don Shockley said. "It's a nice feat especially with the kind of schedule we had. I feel like we played a tough schedule."

Shockley said one of the keys this year was winning the first two non-region games against Lovejoy and Riverdale. Those two victories gave the team confidence for the rest of the season.

"There were several games that built our character this year," Shockley said. "The Lovejoy game was a big game. That was a big win for us and told the kids we could play. Riverdale was big because it's Riverdale. Mays was a character builder because we were 14 points down and hadn't trailed all year but we came back."

North Clayton earned a spot in the playoffs last week with a victory over county and region rival Jonesboro.

"Jonesboro was a big game; it secured us a playoff spot," Shockley said. "We'll enjoy it and get ready for the next one."

Even though the No. 9-ranked Eagles have to be considered the favorites in Saturday's game, Shockley isn't looking ahead.

He said Stone Mountain is aggressive on defense and can make big plays on offense.

Some of the keys will be playing tough defense, playing solid special teams while cutting down turnovers and penalties.

"It's going to be a tremendous challenge for us," Shockley said.

Shockley added that while the team is certainly glad to make it to the playoffs, they're focusing on one game at a time.

"It's great," Shockley said. "When you make the playoffs there are only 32 teams left. We're kind of looking at it that our goal is to win the next game. If we win the next game, we'll be subregion and region champions."