Games to Watch: Creekside begins defense of Region 5 title

Region 5 gets a jump on the rest of the state Friday when it begins region competition. The league is a diverse one that encompasses schools from the City of Atlanta to Fulton County to Douglas County and Villa Rica. And with eight members playing a region schedule, it requires seven league games. So the non-region fun is over and it’s all business from here on.

The big dog in Region 5 is Creekside, ranked No. 2 in Class 5A. The Seminoles (2-1) are considered to be head-and-shoulders above the others, despite its 62-0 loss to Mater Dei, Calif., the No. 1 team in the country.

Defending region champion Creekside will open its region schedule on Friday with a trip to Lithia Springs. The Lions’ 0-3 record is misleading since it includes losses to DeKalb County’s Stephenson, Douglas County rival Alexander, and Lee County, the No. 4 team in Class 6A.

Creekside’s success is not misleading, as the Seminoles feature a roster full of playmakers, including quarterback Vinson Berry (337 yards passing, five touchdowns), running backs Roderick McCrary (428 yards, two touchdowns) and Travis Terrell Jr. (293 yards, two touchdowns) and receiver Shane Kelley (eight receptions, 23.5-yard average, three TDs). Creekside won last year’s contest 35-14.

In one of the more intriguing games among the Region 5 openers, Chapel Hill (3-0) will host Mays (0-3). Chapel Hill has been winning with its defense. The Panthers have two shutouts and allowed only 12 points. Trevor Brooks, Isaiah Collins, Dillon Johnson and Jabo Cook lead the defense. The top offensive players include Connor Griffin, Tyler Jones, Ashtin Watkins and Naathan Ruiz. Mays, which has historically been one of the city’s most reliable teams, sustained heavy graduation losses and is in a rebuilding mode. Mays won last year’s game 35-23.

Maynard Jackson (2-1) travels to Banneker (2-1) for its opener. Jackson running back Kenyon Gilliam Jackson is one of the top running backs in the city and ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win over Lithonia. Quarterback Rashad Harp threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another. On defense, Kaleb Harris had seven tackles, one sack and one interception, and Duke Ellis had eight tackles, one interception and one touchdown. Jackson won last year’s game 190.

The other Region 5 opener features Villa Rica (2-2) at Tri-Cities (2-1). Villa Rica is led by left-handed quarterback Zhay’lyn Bell, with Jaiden Terry, Xavier Buckner and Carson Nalley. Tri-Cities already has two wins under first-year coach Rodney Hackney, exceeding their win total for the two previous seasons. Villa Rica won last year’s game 42-13.

Other interesting games this week:

McEachern vs. Tucker (Hallford Stadium): The Tigers (2-1) step up in class to face McEachern, 0-4 under new coach Kareem Reid. Tucker will be trying to bounce back from last week’s loss to Dacula. The Tigers wasted a fine effort from Jordan McCoy, who rushed for 257 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 548 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tucker’s top defensive players include linebacker Dallas Kelly, strong safety Damion Davis and sackmaster Seth Hardin.

Winder-Barrow at Loganville: Two contenders to make the state playoffs open play in Region 8. Winder-Barrow (3-1) is under first-year coach Robert Paxia and Loganville (2-2) is under first-year coach Gene Cathcart.

Winder-Barrow quarterback Evan Lynn has thrown for 419 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore Demetrius Dowdy has rushed for 413 yards and four touchdowns and sophomore Xavier McCoy has run for 345 yards and three touchdowns.

Loganville brings a balanced attack with sophomore quarterback Brody Hannah (950 yards, nine touchdowns passing) and running backs Olani Francis (353 yards, four touchdowns) and Chris Wilson (204 yards, two touchdowns). Tyler Breedlove (27 catches) and Ahmed Souare (25 catches, five touchdowns) are the favorite targets. Charles Barkley-Smith, a Yale commit, leads the defense with 38 tackles, five for loss.

Eastside at Ola: Eastside (2-1) rebounded from getting hammered by Newton by whipping fellow county rival Alcovy 31-0. The Eagles are led on offense by Anquez Cobb (263 yards, three TDs) and Jayden Barr (193 yards, five TDs). Ola (3-0) is the only unbeaten team remaining in Region 2 and is looking to make its fifth straight playoff appearance. Quarterback Jake Holmes (6-3,225) throws well, runs hard and isn’t afraid of contact, traits from his career as a soccer goalie. Eastside overpowered Ola 42-12 a year ago.