Class 3A blog: No. 5 Greater Atlanta Christian firing on all cylinders, faces top-ranked test Friday

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Fifth-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian is 5-0 this season, but its biggest test comes Friday when it plays at home against No. 1 Cedar Grove, a team the Spartans haven’t beaten in the two previous matchups.

The first time the programs met was in the 2016 state championship game. Cedar Grove won 30-19. Spartans quarterback Davis Mills (Stanford) was sidelined by injury during the game6 after taking a hit from Jadon Haselwood (Oklahoma), and GAC never really recovered. Last season, the programs met in the semifinals, and Cedar Grove advanced to defend its title in the championship game with a 28-18 victory.

GAC has beaten Denmark (20-0), Lovett (10-3), Burke County (55-28), Westminster (28-6) and Douglass (42-7) this season and sits atop the 5-3A standings alongside Cedar Grove, both with 2-0 records.

On Friday, a front-runner will emerge.

Coach Tim Hardy answered several questions by telephone Tuesday about his program, the class as a whole and the top-ranked program awaiting his Spartans on Friday.

Q. Your team has been impressive. The secondary was especially fun to watch in the opener against Denmark in the Corky Kell Classic where it made six interceptions. So what is driving the defense?

A. It all starts with our defensive coordinator Nolan Hughey, who has done an outstanding job of really melding enough complexity that it is hard to always know what we are doing, but (it offers) simplicity for our guys. We can play fast and play hard and our guys have done a really nice job of doing their jobs. And I know that may sound boring, but so much of it is doing what you are supposed to do and trusting the scheme and handling that well. I think we have allowed just two touchdowns with our starters this year. That is a pretty good deal. Our guys are competing hard and competing well, and that’s certainly a strength of our team.

Q. You have played Cedar Grove twice, once in the state championship in 2016 and once last season. Both were losses. What does this team want from this game?

A. We are looking forward to playing them again, and we will be ready to roll. Coach (Miguel) Patrick does a great job with their program and they have really good players. They are very well-coached. They execute what they are supposed to do, and we have a lot of respect for how they play and do their business. But we will be loaded up, too.

Q. Offensively, quarterback Deymon Fleming Jr. (63-for-101, 10 TDs) has led the team well. But what is making you guys tick on that side?

A. I think for us it is just trying to be diverse. We feel like we have a number of good players who want get the ball in their hands. Whether it is our running backs or receivers or, obviously, with our quarterback, whether he is running it or throwing it. So for us to be diverse in what we do, how we line up and how we play. And then to be smart in terms of what’s the best matchup with the best opportunities. And taking advantage of what the defense gives us. We have a good offensive line with good size up there and some good experience and Deymon is playing really well -- both in his play, throws and runs. But his quarterback stuff, getting guys lined up right and leading the team well, that’s certainly been a catalyst for our success.

Q. Walk me around the new class. What do you see after a few weeks of play?

A.  I think that the top of 3A is thick. It really is. In a great way. There are a lot of good football teams in Class 3A and whether it’s 2-3A with Crisp and Peach County or whether it’s our region with Cedar Grove and Westminster ... and then Oconee County is playing outstanding football and doing a great job. So there’s a lot of good football in this class. And then you see the teams that have played outside of the classification, those top teams have done well with larger classification schools. And so there’s a lot there. So it is a challenge for everybody in these difficult regions. It will certainly be fun when we get to the playoffs.

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