Call it redemption or call it persistence, but Greater Atlanta Christian is right where it wants to be.
When it entered last year’s playoffs as the No. 6-ranked team with an 8-2, 6-0 record, GAC had a deep playoff run in mind. The Spartans defeated North Murray 49-17 in the first round, but then came No. 10 Westminster. The Wildcats, who had beaten GAC 22-21 in the Week 2 of the regular season after being behind 11 points with 8:20 remaining in the game, handed GAC another loss, 44-34.
Call it fuel.
This is a new year, and GAC is rolling. The Spartans have one blemish on the record, losing to No. 9 Lovett 30-29 in overtime. Since then? Flawless.
GAC got its first taste of redemption against Westminster, a savored 19-14 victory. It traveled to Texas in Week 3 won 34-27 against Prestonwood Christian, a lauded program from Texas. Against Class AAAA Thomson on Sept. 20, GAC won 38-19. It entered region play against East Hall and had its largest margin of victory this season, 49-7. Then GAC defeated North Hall 45-21. With four games left in the regular season, GAC has plenty of time to tweak things to prepare for an even deeper playoff run.
So what’s the formula for success? The players. Let’s break down their stats:
Quarterback: Senior Jackson Hardy surpassed 1,000 yards on the season last week against North Hall, when he was 12-of-18 passing for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Hardy is 72-of-123 for 1,1105 yards and nine touchdowns this season. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound quarterback committed to Richmond.
Backfield: Senior Tyler Bride leads GAC in rushing by more than 500 yards. He has 76 carries for 755 yards and 11 touchdowns and three games with more than 100 rushing yards. Against Prestonwood Christian, Bride had 28 carries for 245 yards and scored all five of GAC’s touchdowns. Against Thomson, Bride carried the ball 12 times for 185 yards and three touchdowns. The 5-10, 180-pound 3-star recruit is averaging 9.9 yards per carry. Senior Montae Bailey has 33 carries for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Tre Henry has 31 carries for 190 yards and four touchdowns. When needed, Hardy adds 15 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
Receivers: Hardy has passed to seven different receivers for touchdowns. C.T. (Christian) Thomas, a 3-star recruit who committed to Georgia State, has 12 catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns. He did not play in the first three games of the season because of injury. Junior Brooks Miller, a 5-10, 165-pound receiver and defensive back, has 13 catches for 187 yards and a touchdown. Junior Thomas Lowman has eight receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown. Bailey has five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Senior Choe Bryant-Strother has two catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. Jake Hicks has added seven catches for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Linebackers: Spencer Helms, a 6-5, 210-pound outside linebacker, leads a Spartans defense that has given up 19.6 points per game, a slight decline from last year’s defense which allowed just 15 points per game through six games. But GAC was 4-2 llast season after losses to Westminster and Prestonwood Christian. Helms has 32 solo tackles and 14 assists with a team-leading five sacks. Bryant-Strother, a 6-4, 235-pound middle linebacker, has 25 tackles with 18 assists. Lowman, a 6-2, 175-pound inside linebacker, has 21 tackles with eight assists. Aidan Bailey, a 5-10, 175-pound junior, has 20 solo tackles and 15 assists. Junior Deymon Fleming has 10 solo tackles, seven assists and a sack. Sophomore Will Gary, a 5-9, 160-pound outside linebacker, has 16 solo tackles and 10 assists with a sack.
Secondary: Henry leads the secondary in the tackles with 23 solos and 14 assists. Joseph Rose, a 5-11, 165-pound junior safety, has 19 solo tackles and nine assists with a team-leading two interceptions and one sack. Bride, who doubles as a cornerback, has 14 tackles and six assists. Evan Byrd, a 5-9, 160-pound senior cornerback, had 14 solo tackles and four assists. Junior Saiku White, a 5-11, 165-pound cornerback, has 12 solo tackles and seven assists.
Defensive line: Senior Myles Hinton, a 6-6, 308-pound lineman, has two solo tackles, two assists and two sacks. The 4-star recruit committed to Stanford, however he did visit Michigan in early September where his brother Chris, who graduated from GAC last year, is on the football team. Junior Wil Calhoun, a 6-2, 285-pound lineman, has five solo tackles and three assists with two sacks.
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