Photo by Brian Paglia / Stockbridge coach Kevin Whitley and the Tigers are certainly pointing in the right direction as they head into the playoffs with their first ever region title.
STOCKBRIDGE — Stockbridge defensive lineman Allen Pitts felt so good about Friday night’s victory that he wanted to make sure the media got it right.
“Tell the newspapers that Stockbridge is the region champs,” he said while running off the field.
The last time North Clayton and Stockbridge met, the Eagles made Kevin Whitley and company sweat out a one-point victory at Tiger Stadium last September.
But, with a Region 4-AAAAA title on the line, the Tigers left nothing to chance.
Stockbridge used two Maetron Thomas rushing touchdowns and a suffocating defense to shut out North Clayton 29-0, giving the Tigers their first region crown in school history.
“Best feeling ever,” Stockbridge quarterback Trenton Earl said. “I have to praise God for this moment. You only get one time in your life to do this kind of thing.”
Whitley was gracious to his Tigers who, after a 23-0 season opening loss to M.L. King, have rattled off nine straight victories, flexing their defensive muscles along the way. The Tigers have surrendered just seven points in their last 12 quarters of football and forced four North Clayton turnovers en route to their second straight shutout.
“It feels good to do this for the school,” Whitley said. “Our defense has played well all year, even in the loss to King. I think anytime you have a good defense, you have a chance to win.”
The Tigers shook off a little sluggishness on a cold night and went to work, scoring on their next two possessions after going three-and-out on their first drive. The first came when Thomas scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to cap a physical seven-play, 61-yard drive.
Thomas weaved his way through North Clayton defenders to score on an 8-yard toss sweep. Stockbridge added a two-point conversion to stretch its lead to 15-0 with 7:58 left in the second quarter.
And just before the half, the Tiger defense stopped the Eagles’ best drive of the half, when senior safety Corey Hall snagged an errant Jeremy Daniels pass and took it 70 yards to the house to make it 22-0.
Clifford Lowe’s 9-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter capped the scoring.
Stockbridge raised its record to 9-1 and clinched its third straight winning season for the first time since a stretch of winning records from 1992-1995. The win also allowed the Tigers to clinch their third consecutive playoff berth.
Last year, the Tigers picked up their first-ever playoff win by defeating Washington County 26-17 before losing 35-10 in the second round to Carrollton. And Whitley made sure to serve notice that the Tigers won’t just be happy to be there.
“Nobody goes into the playoffs just to say, ‘That’s enough,’ ” he said. “Anytime you go this far you’re trying to win it all.”
Earl, who has yet to throw an interception this season, said he sees no reason why that can’t happen.
“Everything is coming together for us right now,” Earl said. “The offense, the defense, it’s all clicking together for us. And if we play hard as a team and play together, we can’t be beat.”
With the loss, North Clayton ends its season at 2-8.