Class 5A blog: Two region titles to be determined this week

The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes, led by quarterback Jake Parker, are Class 5A's No. 1 ranked team with a 7-0 record. Last year they reached the 5A championship. (Nick Johnson/Special)

Credit: Nick Johnson

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The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes, led by quarterback Jake Parker, are Class 5A's No. 1 ranked team with a 7-0 record. Last year they reached the 5A championship. (Nick Johnson/Special)

Credit: Nick Johnson

No. 1 Cartersville hosts No. 6 Calhoun for Region 7 crown

The Region 7 championship will be decided Friday night when No. 6 Calhoun travels to No. 1 Cartersville to determine the top seed for the state playoffs.

Cartersville (8-0, 4-0) finished second in the state last year and has run though a challenging schedule that includes non-region wins over No. 2 Creekside, Class 7A teams West Forsyth and Cherokee. The Purple Hurricanes beat defending region champion Blessed Trinity on the road.

Calhoun (8-1, 4-0) has non-conference wins over rival Dalton and Class 4A No. 6 Cedartown, with the only loss coming against McCallie, the No. 1-ranked team in Tennessee. The Yellow Jackets also took care of Blessed Trinity on the road.

That sets up a winner-take-all game on Friday at Sam Weinman Stadium in Cartersville. The game will be televised by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

“It’s a big rivalry game,” Cartersville coach Conor Foster said on his weekly podcast. “It’s important to both communities, it’s important to the kids who have grown up and competed against each other. There are a lot of friendships and good relationships and we’re honored to be playing in a game of this magnitude, especially against a program like that.”

Cartersville is led by senior quarterback Jake Parker, who has thrown for 1,034 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Canes have a strong, balanced running game that features Amari White (584 yards, nine TDs), Malachi Jeffries (481 yards, 10 TDs) and Paul Gamble (223 yards, three TDs). Parker’s favorite targets are Collin Fletcher (20 catches, two TDs), Brynen Wilkins (13 catches, three TDs) and big-play Jacob Ray (nine catches, 26-yard average, three TDs.)

The Calhoun offense is directed by quarterback Christian Lewis, who has thrown for 1,834 yards and 20 touchdowns. His favorite target is Georgia commit Cole Speer, who has 21 catches for 528 yards and seven touchdowns. Caden Williams leads the team with 837 yards rushing and Gage Leonard has run for 687.

“This is an opportunity for a reward,” Foster said. “It’s a payday for lots of hard work and years of hard work. It’s the next big game, but it’s not the last big game.”

Cartersville has won the last three meetings and defeated the Yellow Jackets 31-14 in 2020.

In other important games this week:

Villa Rica at New Manchester: The Region 6 championship will be on the line when Villa Rica (5-2, 3-0) travels to Douglasville for a date with New Manchester (4-3, 3-0), the reigning region champion. Villa Rica, under first-year coach Tim Barron, has won five straight games. New Manchester, led by receiver Y Muhammad (33 catches) has won its last three. The teams didn’t play last year because of COVID. New Manchester leads the series 3-1.

Warner Robins at Coffee: No. 1-ranked Warner Robins (7-1, 1-1) and No. 7 Coffee (8-1, 2-1) will determine the second seed from Region 1. The winner earns a home game for the first round, while the loser hits the road. The teams didn’t play last year because of COVID and Coffee holds a 6-4 series lead.

Jonesboro at Creekside: Two good defensive units will be featured in this Region 3 contest. Jonesboro (6-2, 4-1) quietly goes about its business and uses its solid defense to stay competitive. No. 2-ranked Creekside (7-1, 5-0) has three shutouts and allowed only 14 points in its last five games since losing to No. 1 Cartersville. The offenses aren’t bad, either. Creekside’s Nyqua Lett has thrown for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns and Kamauri Davis leads a balanced running game with 459 yards and eight touchdowns. Jonesboro’s Chadrick Garner has thrown for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns and has not been intercepted. Devon Rainey and Malcolm Simmons both have 21 catches. Creekside leads the series 2-1 and won 21-12 in 2020.

Southwest DeKalb at Decatur: This has the makings of an offense vs. defense showdown. No. 9 Decatur (9-0, 4-0) has cruised through four Region 5 contests, easily winning those by an average of 48.5 points. The Bulldogs are loaded with game-breakers, including quarterback Harrison Hannah and receivers Mekhi Lloyd and Kenric Lanier. Southwest DeKalb (4-4, 3-1) features a defense that leads DeKalb County with 20 takeaways – 10 fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions. Senior linebacker Jamel Nelson leads with 55 total tackles, 4 ½ sacks and 13 tackles for loss and sophomore lineman Chase Kerns has 44 tackles, 10 ½ sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Decatur won last year’s game 32-14, as the two area rivals met for the first time since 1967.

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