Class 3A Blog: Patrick, Crisp expect tough task against Oconee County

Crisp County might have been excommunicated from the top-10 after falling to 0-3 in its pre-region schedule, but the Cougars have been perfect since losing to Class A Private then-No. 2 ELCA 21-18 on Sept. 10.

Crisp’s run through Region 2-3A – including a 27-14 victory against then-No. 4 Peach County on Oct. 8 – awarded head coach Miguel Patrick his first region title in his first season in Cordele. Now, the Cougars are preparing for one of the biggest games to ever take place in the Cougar Den, when they face No. 2-ranked Oconee County on Friday.

“They are a really good football team,” Patrick said, chuckling. “They are so well-coached and have some great players. We talked about that (Jake) Johnson kid … he is unbelievable and makes play after play after play.”

Crisp is coming off a 41-0 victory against Harlem in the first round; Oconee County survived a scare against Adairsville (29-22). But that closely contested matchup is just a testament to a deep class, according to Patrick.

“This class is really deep with really good teams,” Patrick said. “You talk about these 16 teams that are left … any one of them have the capabilities to go all the way. You just don’t know who is going to get hot. All of the teams are really well-coached, and this class is deep. These are going to be some great second-round matchups that will produce some great games in the quarters. Whoever wins these Sweet 16 games, the quarterfinal matchups will be even better.”

Oconee County’s best players are Jake Johnson, C.J. Jones, Whit Weeks and Jacob Wright. Johnson has 42 receptions for 696 yards and eight touchdowns. Weeks, who plays both ways, has 16 receptions for 190 yards and two touchdowns and leads the team in tackles with 34 solo, 86 assists and averages 10.9 tackles per game. Wright is 120-of-187 passing for 1,832 yards and 18 touchdowns. Jones has 196 carries for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“Their linebacker, Whit Weeks, he is an absolute stud,” Patrick said. “They have just a really good football team, and they have the best defense we will have faced all season. Coach (Travis) Noland does such a great job and his staff, as well. So we have our work cut out for us.”

Crisp quarterback Jack Carter is 97-of-170 passing for 1,516 yards and 16 touchdowns to lead a balanced Cougars offense that is averaging 155 rushing and 151 passing yards per game. His favorite targets are Trae Walker (41 receptions, 601 yards, five touchdowns), Ahmad Brown (21 receptions, 484 yards, six touchdowns) and Eric Ivory Jr (15 receptions, 267 yards, four touchdowns).

“We have had a balanced offense all season,” Patrick said. “Our running back, Marquise Palmer, has done an excellent job running the ball for us. He is over 4,000 yards for his career and with over 50 touchdowns in his career. Our quarterback, Jack Carter, has done an amazing job for us this season. We have a couple of guys who can make some plays -- Ahmad Brown, Trae Walker and Eric Ivory. So our plan is to be balanced and keep them honest and get the ball to our playmakers like always.”

And how does home-field advantage factor in for Crisp?

“Well, it does help,” Patrick said. “We have a young football team that doesn’t have to travel this week, and that home-field advantage will, for sure, play to our favor a little bit.”

According to the Maxwell Playoff Projections, Oconee County is a 24-8 favorite to win.

But don’t tell Crisp that. It doesn’t care.

Here is the second-round schedule with predicted winners in bold.

Class 3A Second Round (Nov. 19)

R3#2 Southeast Bulloch at R5#1 Cedar Grove

R8#2 Oconee County at R2#1 Crisp County

R1#2 Appling County at R7#1 Cherokee Bluff

R6#2 Ringgold at R4#1 Thomson

R8#4 Stephens County at R4#2 Burke County

R5#2 Carver-Atlanta at R3#1 Liberty County

R2#2 Peach County at R8#1 Monroe Area

R7#2 Dawson County at R1#1 Pierce County