Class 6A blog: Richmond Hill looks to keep a good thing going

Kell quarterback Corbin LaFrance (8) attempts a pass in the first half against Walton at Walton high school Friday, September 4, 2020 in Marietta, Ga.. This is one of several football games during the 2020 Corky Kell Classic. (Jason Getz/Special to the AJC)
Kell quarterback Corbin LaFrance (8) attempts a pass in the first half against Walton at Walton high school Friday, September 4, 2020 in Marietta, Ga.. This is one of several football games during the 2020 Corky Kell Classic. (Jason Getz/Special to the AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Richmond Hill was one of the biggest surprises in Class 6A last season.

The Wildcats won eight consecutive games after a 1-3 start and advanced all the way to the state semifinals for the first time in school history, losing to eventual runner-up Allatoona 17-14 in overtime.

Richmond Hill opened the 2020 season with another big victory, 28-11 against a Camden County team that was ranked No. 6 in Class 7A coming into the game. This week, the Wildcats will face another top-10 team, although from a lower classification, when they travel to Ware County, ranked No. 5 in 5A.

Ware County won the last meeting between the teams 51-24 in 2015 and is 6-0 in the series since the teams first met in 2010. The Gators' 27-24 victory in 2012 was the only game decided by fewer than 17 points.

Richmond Hill coach Matt LeZotte has taken the program to unprecedented heights since his arrival in 2015, when he inherited a team that had gone 2-8 the year before. His first three teams improved from three to six to seven victories.

The Wildcats took a step back from a record standpoint in 2018 at 5-6, but they also won a playoff game for only the third time in school history. Then came the breakthrough last season.

“We have worked tirelessly for six years to change the culture at Richmond Hill,” LeZotte told GHSF Daily’s Todd Holcomb this week. “When we got here, they had opportunities to win but never expected the outcome to go their way. We have changed that mentality, and our guys don’t flinch. We are fortunate to have a group of guys that have played a lot of games, and I’m proud of the job our guys are doing.”

Here are five other games worth watching involving Class 6A teams that are on the schedule for Friday:

*Buford at North Cobb: This game came about after both teams lost several of their original opponents because of COVID-19 concerns. Buford will be the first of three opponents North Cobb faces this season that won state championships in 2019. The Warriors also will meet 7A champion Marietta and 6A champ Harrison (now playing in 7A) in region play. Buford won 5A before moving up to 6A this season. Buford has never scored a point against North Cobb – the Wolves lost 26-0 in 1958 and 25-0 in 1959.

*Douglas County at Stockbridge: Head coach Johnny White has revived the Douglas County program, posting a 30-14 record in four-plus seasons at a school that had not had a winning record in the eight years before his arrival. The Tigers are ranked No. 10 in 6A this week after rolling past Lithia Springs 47-7 in the opener. Stockbridge won at least 11 games every year from 2012 to 2018, never giving up more than 14.7 points per game, before dropping to 8-3 last season. Stockbridge lost to Gainesville 49-23 last week.

*Glynn Academy at Camden County: Camden County will get another shot at 3-6A this week when it hosts Richmond Hill’s region rival, Glynn Academy. The Red Terrors are coming off the worst year (6-5) in coach Rocky Hidalgo’s first seasons, but they still managed a second-place finish in the region and a victory in the first round of the playoffs. Glynn Academy warmed up with a 33-7 victory over Class A Public McIntosh County Academy last week. Camden fell out of the 7A top 10 after its loss to Richmond Hill.

*Hillgrove at Kell: These two Cobb County schools opened around the same time (Kell in 2003, Hillgrove in 2006) but have never played each other in football. Both come into the game off of season-opening losses. Kell led Walton 28-16 midway through the third quarter but gave up the game’s final 19 points in a 35-28 loss. Kell’s Corbin LaFrance was 21-of-33 passing for 271 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 57 yards. Hillgrove fell behind early against Norcross and lost 30-21 in head coach Byron Slack’s debut.

*Northside-Warner Robins at Peach County: Northside reached the state championship game in 2018 but has since gone through one of the roughest stretches in its storied history. The Eagles lost that state final 14-0 to Lee County, followed with a 3-7 season in 2019 and lost the 2020 opener to Veterans last week. Getting out of the slump won’t get easier this week when Northside travels to Peach County, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A. Northside leads the series 11-5 but has lost the past two meetings, including 21-13 last year.

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