Class 5A blog: It’s winner-take-all in three region finales

ajc.com

New Manchester-Chapel Hill, St. Pius-Decatur and Woodward-Creekside to decide own fate

One team from Douglas County is going to be very happy on Friday night. New Manchester travels to play Chapel Hill in the final game of the regular season. Whoever wins the game not only wins bragging rights in the big rivalry between the two schools, they also win the Region 6 championship.

It will be the first region football championship for either school. Chapel Hill (6-3, 4-1) has won five of its last six games and is coming off a bye week. New Manchester (4-3, 2-1) is riding a two-game winning streak, but hasn’t played since Oct. 30 when contests against North Springs and Villa Rica were COVID-cancelled.

In addition to a region championship trophy, the winner will also get to avoid one of the three big boys in Region 7, the region against whom they play in the first round. No one wants to run up against No. 1 Blessed Trinity, No. 4 Cartersville or No. 7 Calhoun on the road in the first round of the playoff -- especially on the day after Thanksgiving.

“We’ve only got about 400 kids on campus, but there’s still a lot of buzz going on around here,” Chapel Hill coach Jason DeShon said.

Chapel Hill began the year with high expectations. The Panthers have 27 seniors, received 16 transfers once other schools began to shut down or delay their football seasons, and fields one of the most experienced offensive lines in the league.

“We do what we do,” DeShon said. “We’re good up front and we run the ball.”

Chapel Hill averages 215 yards rushing per game and has a double-threat in senior running backs Rudolph Paul (682 yards, five TDs) and Michael Perkins (608 yards, three TDs). Quarterback Komari Frye has thrown for 561 yards and five touchdowns and run for 268 yards and seven touchdowns.

Defensively the Eagles are led by a pair of juniors – linebacker Zach White, who recently surpassed the 100-tackle mark, and lineman Derrick Hubbard, who has nine sacks.

New Manchester like to throw it around. The Jaguars average 264 yards passing per game, with Rico Jones throwing for 1,089 yards and 11 touchdowns and Deandre Houston throwing for 741 yards and nine touchdowns. Malik Laurent has 40 catches for 582 yards and eight touchdowns and Horatio Fields has 37 catches for 732 yards and six touchdowns.

Defensive back Robert Iverson leads the team with 69 total tackles, including nine for loss, as well as two interceptions and two recovered fumbles.

The two rivals – New Manchester drew its population from Chapel Hill when it opened – have only played twice. New Manchester has won the two previous meetings, but they haven’t met since 2015.

Here is a look at the two other winner-takes-all scenarios in Class 5A this weekend.

Region 6: Decatur (6-0, 5-0) will travel to No. 8 St. Pius (7-1, 5-0) to determine the region championship.

Decatur made the setup possible by defeating two-time defending region champion Southwest DeKalb 32-14 last week. Justin Weaver had an interception and returned a fumble 98 yards for a touchdown and the Bulldogs pressured the Panthers all game. Decatur hasn’t started 6-0 since 2003 and is seeking its first region championship since 2004.

St. Pius will be aiming for its eighth region championship under coach Paul Standard, the school’s all-time winningest coach. The Golden Lions continue to thrive as a run-oriented team. Quarterback Dennis O’Shea directs the offense that features a deep stable of running backs that include Mason Benefield, Cameron DeBose and Jack Graham.

St. Pius leads the series 14-3-1. The Golden Lions have won the last six meetings, including 21-0 a year ago.

Region 3: After both teams survived rough starts, Woodward Academy (6-3, 6-0) plays at Creekside (5-2, 5-0) to decide the region championship.

Woodward Academy lost its first three games to Eagle’s Landing Christian, Marist and Riverwood, but have since reeled off six straight wins. Creekside lost its first two games, falling to Westlake and Cartersville. The Seminoles outlasted Jonesboro last week to set up this week’s showdown.

Coach Maurice Dixon’s Creekside team loves to pound the ball on the ground and has four players with at least 350 rushing yards. The leader is Kamauri Davis, who has run for 887 yards and five touchdowns. The others are quarterback Nyqua Lett (391 yards, four TDs), Jamond Lee (381 yards, six TDs) and Cameron Burch (350 yards, two TDs).

Woodward Academy’s offense features Damari Alston, who has rushed for 1,223 yards and 19 touchdowns. The junior is a four-star recruit with 44 offers, including Georgia Tech, but has not indicated which way he’s leaning. Quarterback Banks Snellings has thrown for 759 yards.

Woodward leads the series 7-6, but Creekside has won the last six. The teams haven’t played since 2007.

In other key games on Friday:

Region 4 -- Jones County (6-3, 6-0) at Dutchtown (6-3, 5-1): If Jones County wins, the Greyhounds will take the region title. If Dutchtown (6-3, 5-1) prevails, there will likely be a three-way tie involving Ola, which will be broken by a points formula.

King secures final playoff spot in Region 5: The game between King and Lithonia was cancelled because of COVID. The two teams had been tied for the final playoff spot. Because the cancellation was due to problems in the Lithonia program, King was awarded the No. 4 playoff spot and will compete in the state playoffs.

About the Author

In Other News