After historic win, tough road remains for Stockbridge

From Staff Reports

There was no lack of excitement after Stockbridge's 49-0 victory over Jackson on Friday in a Region 4-AAA game that ended the Tigers' 27-year playoff drought.

Before Stockbridge left the field after the game, principal Eric Watson gave a rousing post-game speech. The Tigers locker room was filled with the cacophony of players celebrating.

But with Stockbridge's playoff berth secure, it doesn't get any easier for the Tigers (6-3, 5-2 Region 4-AAA). The Tigers' next two opponents are arguably in the best teams in Class AAA.

Stockbridge finishes its regular season Friday when it hosts Sandy Creek. The Fighting Patriots are 9-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class AAA; last season, Sandy Creek won the Class AAAA championship.

When the playoffs begin in two weeks, Stockbridge will likely travel to play Peach County. The Trojans are 9-0, ranked No. 1 in Class AAA and are the reigning Class AAA champs.

"Our guys got to understand that it doesn't get any easier," Stockbridge coach Kevin Whitley said. "This is it. ... We're talking about a really good measuring stick to see how far we've got to go.

"We're going to go down and we're going to play both games as hard as we can play. We'll see how it ends. If we're not good enough, we'll get better and we'll come back next year."

ERIC BERRY 2.0: Freshman defensive back Javon Brandon showed he belonged at the varsity level with two interceptions, including one he returned for an 85-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Brandon spent most of the season playing on the ninth-grade team. Whitley said Brandon played on the ninth-grade team as part of his vision for the program to win at every level.

But with the ninth-grade season over, Whitley said Brandon is on the varsity team to stay and could make a big impact.

"I hate to say my former player's name, but he's in that category if he works," Whitley said, referring to former Creekside star and Kansas City Chiefs rookie Eric Berry, whom Whitley coached.

"If he puts the time and learns how to get serious in the classroom, he's in the same mold as my former player."

SECOND GUESSING?: Twice in the fourth quarter, Lovejoy came up empty when going for it on fourth down. Trailing 13-11 with 11:17 left in the game, the Wildcats were stopped on a fourth-and-three play from the Creekside 5-yard line.

With 7:24 remaining, Lovejoy was stopped short on a fourth-and-nine play on the Seminoles' 26.

Fortunately on the ensuing drive, Jermaine Hough got his second interception of the game to setup the game winning drive for an 18-15 win for the Region 4-AAAA championship.

"If I had that chance to sit back and analyze it a little bit, might have made a different decision," Lovejoy coach Al Hughes said. "At the time I felt like the best thing to do was to try to inch it out if we could, and leave it up to our big guys up front. If I was an armchair quarterback I might have changed my mind."

DEFENSIVE PRESSURE: In its win over Creekside, the Lovejoy defense only allowed 146 yards of offense and came up with four turnovers, including two interceptions by Hough.

"Our defense played well all night," Hughes said.

DOING IT ALL: Henry County quarterback Chris Moody has shown his abilty to run and pass the football. Friday night in the team's victory against Drew High School, the junior had two touchdowns through the air and one on the ground.

WINNING STREAK: After a slow start this season, the Henry County Warhawks have won five games in a row and are in position to host a first-round playoff game in two weeks.

CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS: ELCA has outscored its opponents on average 49-5 through its first nine games. Three of its victories have been by 62 points or more. It also has four shutouts.