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STOVALL: Time for playmakers and contenders to emerge

Gabriel Stovall

Gabriel Stovall

PREDICTIONS

Winner Loser

Eagle's Landing Jonesboro

Luella Henry County

Lee County Morrow

McIntosh Drew

Creekside Forest Park

Star’s Mill Mount Zion

Coffee Mundy’s Mill

Northgate Ola

Locust Grove Spalding

Stockbridge North Clayton

Griffin Woodland

Strong Rock Crawford County

or as long as I’ve been following football, I’ve heard coaches say that the biggest improvement their teams make is between their first and second games.

From there, it doesn’t take long to figure out who are the contenders and the pretenders. It doesn’t take long to differentiate the playmakers from the role players.

How long, exactly? For many teams, the answer is game three.

We will know a lot more about the validity of postseason and championship aspirations for Southern Crescent football teams by about 11 p.m. tonight. That’s because many squads are jumping into region play this Friday.

And the ones that aren’t will be faced with barometer-type games that will go far in determining how hot or cold their playoff chances may be.

Take for instance, the East Coweta-Lovejoy game. The Indians are coming into Twelve Oaks Stadium to face a Lovejoy team that’s standing almost in exactly the same place it stood this time last year, on the way to its second straight trip to the Georgia Dome.

The Wildcats took to task a decent Mundy’s Mill squad in week one, followed by a squeaker of a loss at Colquitt County and victory against Alpharetta. Just like last year.

Now, East Coweta comes to town as a 1-2 team that looks just dangerous enough — especially offensively — to test coach Al Hughes’ team in a major way. After blasting Henry County 49-8 in week one, the Indians’ two losses have come 21-17 against undefeated Archer team, and 53-35 to Class AAAA No. 1 Sandy Creek, arguably one of the best teams across any classification in the state.

In 2012, East Coweta was overwhelmed by Lovejoy 30-7, despite keeping it close for a while. Look for a similar result tonight. Just like last year. Lovejoy 35, East Coweta 21.

Elsewhere, Union Grove goes on the road for its first major test of the season at Whitewater. The Wildcats embarrassed Union Grove on the Wolverines’ home field, during Homecoming no less, last year to the tune of 34-0. During the summer I asked several Union Grove players which games they were most looking forward to playing. To a man, “Whitewater,” was the automatic, almost reflexive response.

Whitewater opened the season with a respectable 20-7 loss against a Coffee team that just missed climbing into the Georgia Sportswriters Association’s Class AAAAAA top 10 poll. It came back to defeat Mundy’s Mill and Fayette County by a combined 67-13 score.

Meanwhile, Union Grove is off to its first 3-0 start in a while, behind the confident arm of quarterback Jonathan Slade, and the legs of upstart freshman tailback Trevor Gear. I wish I could be at this one because it promises to be a battle, but I’ll send my positive thoughts by way of a prediction.

Union Grove 21, Whitewater 17.

Over at Southern Crescent stadium in Riverdale will be a tussle of two new rivals, Dutchtown and Riverdale. Much has been made of this matchup ever since one-time Raiders coach Kevin Jones took the Dutchtown job, and former Bulldogs defensive coordinator Terry Herrod took the Riverdale head coaching position.

Both coaches are doing their best to play this down as just another game. Whatever. This one looks to be a dramatic, high scoring affair that will give early Region 4-AAAA, Div. B bragging rights to the winner. So far Dutchtown’s defense has been as bad as Riverdale’s offense has been good.

It’ll show on the scoreboard. Riverdale 45, Dutchtown 35.

Three more quick hits before I go. Georgia beats North Texas by a lot. Georgia Tech announces its seriousness as an ACC title contender by handling North Carolina relatively easy. And an injury-plagued Atlanta Falcons team will struggle against upstart Miami, causing a massive wringing of hands all across Rise Up Nation.

Let’s see if I do better this week, than last.

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