5 to watch: Griffin-Starr’s Mill face off in Region 3

Griffin has been working through a few issues this season, trying to settle some position battles and fill the voids left by graduation. The Bears (3-2) have the makings of a pretty good football team by the end of the season, coach Antonio Andrews said.

More will be known this week when Griffin hosts Starr’s Mill (2-3) in a game that will have a huge bearing on who wins the Region 3 this fall. Griffin won last year’s meeting 29-28 after Starr’s Mill had won a 52-49 classic in 2016.

The Bears have finally settled on a quarterback, with sophomore Quamari Williams winning the job. The key was his ability to develop a chemistry with the deep receiving corps that includes Terrell Jester, Darryl Matthews, Jamol Mays and Jacarlin Dennis. Aalijah King is a powerful running back and Jordan Favors broke through with two scores last week.

The Griffin defense has two stellar linemen in Damarjhe Lewis (6-4, 280), an Auburn commit, and Michael Webb. The staff has had to replace the entire secondary.

Starr’s Mill broke a three-game losing streak last week by beating Jonesboro. The Panthers, the two-time defending region champions, had a lot of shoes to fill from last year’s 11-2 team. Coach Mike Earwood’s Wing-T offense has flourished behind three juniors: quarterback Hunter Lawson (201 yards passing, 205 yards rushing) and backs Kalen Sims (697 yards, six touchdowns) and Ardit Holt (326 yards).

The Panthers also have one of the best kickers in the state in Michael Lantz, who has received multiple college offers, most recently from Minnesota.

Here are four other interesting games to watch this week:

Decatur at Riverwood: This game will help clarify the situation in Region 6, a league that may not be settled until the final week. Decatur (2-2, 1-0) is trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005. The Bulldogs, under second-year coach Cody Cory, feature a unique Pistol offense and return running back Martize Smith. Riverwood (3-2, 1-1) bounced back last week to end a two-game losing streak. The Raiders bring a balanced attack led by quarterback Aaron Graham (701 yards passing, nine TDs; 304 yards rushing) and running backs Reese White (707 yards). Receiver Tre Young is a game-breaker (17 catches, four TDs). Riverwood leads the series 4-2, but Decatur won 14-12 in 2017.

Hiram at East Paulding: This contest between the two Paulding County rivals should have a bearing on who makes the playoffs from Region 7. Hiram (3-1) has won three straight under new coach Pete Fominaya and could equal last season's win total with a victory. The Hornets run hard with Marcus Fulks (543 yards, four touchdowns), who has three 100-yard games, and quarterback Nate Presnell. Hiram is seeking its first trip to the playoffs since 2010. East Paulding (1-3) is much better than its record might indicate, as the three losses were by a total of 10 points. The Patriots beat then-No. 7 Kell two weeks again and had No. 4 Carrollton on the ropes last week. Tyrell Robinson (1,500 yards in 2017) has again been tough to bring down; he ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns against Carrollton. East Paulding leads the series 9-5, has taken the last three and seven of the last eight, and won 30-27 in 2017.

Johnson at Buford: Johnson has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. At 4-1, the Knights are closing in on their first winning season since going 6-4 in 2012. But it's about to get real for coach Jason Roquemore's team, which opens the Region 8 schedule against No. 2 Buford. And expect the Wolves (3-2) to be in a particularly foul mood after losing last week's game to Archer. Johnson is led by three-year starting quarterback Sam Corbett, while Buford's attack is led by running back Derrian Brown, a Texas commit who has rushed for 839 yards and 12 touchdowns, and sophomore quarterback Aaron McLaughlin. The teams have only met twice with Buford winning both by a cumulative 118-0.

Cedar Shoals at Clarke Central: The Battle of Athens may also be the Battle for No. 2 in Region 8. (Both teams must still face mighty Buford.) This is the firsts region game for both sides. Cedar Shoals (3-2) is led by quarterback Kiyonnice Smith, who has thrown for 522 yards and rushed for 116, and running backs Osiris Walker (465 yards) and Devontaye Bankston (337 yards). Clarke (3-2) has played an aggressive schedule against a series of ranked teams, three of them on the road. The Gladiators have an outstanding one-two punch in the backfield with O'Brien Barnett (464 yards) and Jonathan Sewell (230 yards), with quarterback Isaac Ward growing into a solid passer (629 yards, four TDs). Clarke leads the series 36-15 and has won the last 10 meetings, including 48-7 in 2017.