STOVALL: Let the region race begin

Gabriel Stovall

Gabriel Stovall

Football season goes by fast, doesn’t it?

We build up a season from winter conditioning in late December to spring ball just before school lets out, all the way through a summer of 7-on-7 drills and passing league tournaments, until opening night.

And just like that, it’s October. And next month is November. The playoffs come and go, and when the lights dim down in the Georgia Dome in December, we start the cycle all over again.

The brevity of it all, juxtaposed to the build up seems to tease and tantalize our senses, and leave us begging for more when it’s all said and done.

But thank God we can hold off on the begging for now, because things are just now starting to get juicy on the football field.

The practice laps have been run, and now these Southern Crescent football machines are ready to kick into high gear and start fighting for pole position in the race for region bragging rights.

Teams that are 4-0 must be wary of overconfidence. Teams that are 2-2, 1-3 or even 0-4 must avoid panic mode.

Remember Mundy’s Mill from last year? Started out 0-4, ran the table. Came within one game of a playoff berth. High school football doesn’t follow the commands and dictates of the Bowl Championship Series of the college game (thank goodness). You don’t have to be perfect to be crowned champion.

Just get hot at the right time.

On with the predictions:

Amazing how similar records can give off different vibes. Both No. 9 Stockbridge and Eagle’s Landing are 4-1. But the Golden Eagles are on a three game winning streak, and Stockbridge is smarting after a 35-14 loss to third-ranked Griffin last week.

But this is the first subregion game for each team, and neither Stockbridge’s Griffin loss, nor Eagle’s Landing’s week two defeat at the hands of Lee County mean much in the grand scheme of things. Coach Kevin Whitley called Eagle’s Landing’s offense a duplicate of the Griffin attack that torched them last week, and he may be right.

Look for Stockbridge to be better prepared this week. Also, the Eagles are better defensively, but that because they play their best playmakers on both sides of the ball. If Stockbridge can get its power run game going, Eagle’s Landing could tire out, which will affect its play on offense.

I think this one is a close one, but maybe — just maybe — this is the year of the Eagle. I’m picking the upset: Eagle’s Landing 27, Stockbridge 20. First 5-1 record for Eagle’s Landing, ever.

The Southern Crescent tour for Griffin continues, as the Bears — already winners against Jonesboro, Woodland and Stockbridge, now host Riverdale. This game looked great on paper just a few weeks ago. And on the Griffin side, it still does. The Bears have a defense now to match their potent offense.

And Riverdale has to find an answer for senior quarterback Greg Taylor who is out for the season with a torn ACL. Uh oh. Even with Taylor, the Raiders haven’t been sharp in back-to-back losses to Dutchtown and Eagle’s Landing. I wish I felt differently, but this one could get ugly. Griffin 41, Riverdale 17.

Can Kevin Jones and Dutchtown make it three straight? If Locust Grove is forced into a shootout with the Bulldogs, they will. Dutchtown is scoring at a 40 points per game clip. The Wildcats? Not so much. Safety/wide receiver Cortez McDowell is a force, but now that Devin Randolph has emerged as a major defensive playmaker for the Bulldogs, they’ve become a different team. Dutchtown 35, Locust Grove 14.

As for No. 5 Lovejoy, it looks like it’s Rockdale County’s turn to be the latest team with aspirations of knocking off the Wildcats. Lovejoy has had some close calls this year, and Rockdale is 4-1 and much improved, having already eclipsed its 2012 win total. No matter. Lovejoy takes care of business, 38-14, and is well on the way to a fourth straight region crown.

College and pro picks: Tennessee, home of former Jonesboro cornerback Cameron Sutton, and future home of several Southern Crescent commitments, will keep things close with Georgia before succumbing. Miami will be all over Georgia Tech, and if the Falcons don’t beat the Jets on Monday night, well, let’s just say they do.

Happy football weekend.

Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at gstovall@henryherald.com, or follow him on Twitter @GabrielStovall1.