Eddie White Academy coach Mareno Philyaw said he was pleased at the way his team played in the first round of the playoffs earlier this week. (Special Photo: Jerry Jackson)
JONESBORO — Eddie White Academy coach Mareno Philyaw and M.D. Roberts coach Rosby Johnson had similar messages for their teams after finding out who their next opponent would be in the Clayton County Middle School playoffs.
The schools will meet a pair of familiar foes that they defeated handily during the regular season in Tuesday’s semifinals at Twelve Oaks Stadium in Hampton.
White, the top seed in the postseason tournament, will take on Morrow, the No. 5 seed at 5 p.m. while Roberts, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, takes on Babb, a sixth seed in the nightcap of the doubleheader.
Earlier this season, White defeated Morrow 31-6 in Week 4. But Philyaw said he expects a different Morrow group this time around.
“We had a long talk with the team after we found out we would be playing Morrow,” Philyaw said. “We sat them down to let them know that this is a different Morrow team. They have gotten much better since the beginning of the season. They are much improved, and we can’t expect an easy game. We have to be on our Ps and Qs in this matchup.”
Philyaw, a former standout at North Clayton High, said he was overall pleased with his team’s effort in their opening round win against Jonesboro on last week.
Morrow advanced to the semifinals with an upset of No. 4 seed Kendrick in the first round at Tara Stadium last week. The Bobcats enter the game with a 5-2 record.
Since its loss to White earlier this season, the Bobcats have won three straight games coming into the playoffs, which included wins over Adamson (32-0), Riverdale (24-16) and Pointe South (14-6) to end the regular season.
Coming into the first round game against Jonesboro, Philyaw said he was a little concerned about the team since it was coming off a bye week. He admitted the team started slow, but picked up the pace throughout the game.
“I thought we responded well coming off a week off,” he said. “We started slow, but we got our groove back, and played well. It was a good win for us.”
Johnson said he saw a lot of carry over in his team from its big win over Rex Mill the week before.
“They played like they wanted to win,” Johnson said about his team’s win over No. 7 seed Mundy’s Mill. “This team has talked about winning a championship, and they played like they were hungry.”
He said the team did something it hadn’t done all season when it scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in the same game.
“We were clicking on all cylinders,” Johnson said. “We came out and played real physical. It is the playoffs, and I told them that they would have to pick up the way they play.”
Babb upset defending champion Rex Mill, which was the tournament’s No. 3 seed, in the first round at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
In the first week of the season, Roberts got a 22-0 win over Babb. The win over Rex Mill prevented a rematch of the regular season finale between Rex Mill and Roberts, which was played in the final week of the season.
Johnson said he is sure his team will face a different Babb team on Tuesday.
“Babb has gotten a lot better, and they are a totally different team,” Johnson said. “They are using players in different roles now. I told my team to not even think about the early win. We got to be prepared for this team on Tuesday. Last week was a big win, but we have to put that behind us and focus on what is ahead.”