Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers.
Alright, Clayton County, don’t make this sports writer look bad.
One week after writing a glowing column about the power of Clayton County football and its showing in the National Football League, I open the newspaper to discover this:
The nine Clayton County high school football teams went 3-6 in last Friday’s action.
In those nine games, the Clayton schools were outscored 250-112.
Against Henry County teams, Clayton went 1-3. Headlining the futility was then-No.8 Riverdale’s 38-0 loss at Dutchtown.
But that’s not even the best part.
Clayton County’s record this season against non-county schools (including Henry) after four weeks? A whopping 5-15.
Take away seventh-ranked Jonesboro (2-1 against non-county schools), Lovejoy (2-1) and Drew (2-0) and you have an alarming 1-13 mark.
The lone win? Riverdale’s 28-14 victory at Grady — a victory that is almost as good as its aforementioned defeat at Dutchtown was bad.
So what does it all mean? Is Clayton County really that much worse than the rest of Georgia or even just the Atlanta metro area?
I’d say not. At least not the top half of the county’s schools anyway. Jonesboro’s loss to No. 2 Griffin was by just one point; and that after leading by two scores midway through the fourth quarter.
Lovejoy took No. 6 Colquitt County down to the wire on the Packers’ home field, before settling for a 14-7 loss in a game where the Wildcats could’ve won if not for two touchdowns called back on penalties.
One of Drew’s out-of-county wins was against 0-4 Rockdale. But last Friday coach Jarrett Laws’ Titans knocked off McIntosh which came into the contest with a surprising 3-0 record.
And although Riverdale looked severely overmatched last week against Dutchtown, you still can’t take away what second-year coach Olten Downs and his young Raider bunch did at then-No. 10 Grady — a team that bounced back strong after the Riverdale loss in a 21-0 shutout of Lithonia.
Also Clayton County sports perhaps one of the few teams in the state that got promoted after a loss.
Jonesboro went from unranked to eighth-ranked after its 34-33 defeat at Griffin, and have sense moved up to No. 7.
The Cardinals are the only team ranked in the Associated Press Poll, while Lovejoy just missed cracking this week’s top 10, gathering 14 votes — falling out despite a Week Three 44-23 win against Alpharetta, presumably to make room for Parkview which upset over former national No.1 Grayson in the same week.
All is not lost for Clayton, however.
The season has yet to reach the halfway mark, and six Clayton schools will take on foes outside the county this week. Three on the road (Lovejoy at Druid Hills, Morrow at Rockdale and Drew at Starr’s Mill) and three at home (Eagle’s Landing at Riverdale, Locust Grove at North Clayton and Woodland at Jonesboro).
Besides, the reality for most coaches is this: region games matter. The local county rivalries matter. Everything else is a potential bonus.
Several coaches that I’ve talked to through the year have suggested that non-region games just provide more opportunities for teams to get their players ready for region play.
Region play means a whole new season. Region play gives teams who faltered in non-region games an opportunity to make people forget about their earlier woes.
Do you suppose any body will care about a Clayton County school’s out-of-county record if one of these teams catches fire at the right time and makes a run at the county’s first state title since 1987?
I still feel good about Clayton County’s brand of football. But I’ll admit, Clayton County, you’ve got me a little nervous.
Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.