The 2012 season hasn't always been pretty for Douglas County's five schools. Reclassification left the county with five teams playing in four different regions, making for a lot of long road trips against unfamiliar and oftentimes ranked opponents.
Given that, wins have been tough to come by on many a Friday night. But all five teams have continued to play their hearts out each week. That perseverance paid off when county teams turned in their best week of football yet – going 3-1 Friday night. The last time two local schools won in the same week was late August.
Chapel Hill, Douglas County and Lithia Springs all won their games, while Alexander fell 42-6 to a top-ranked Sandy Creek team that has lost a total of three games in the past five seasons. New Manchester had a bye week.
The Lions (1-6, 1-6 Region 5-AAAAA) took the long hike to Cartersville without starting quarterback Sammy Cornelius and pulled off an emotional 27-14 victory over Woodland-Bartow behind the running of Avonte Boyd to break into the win column for the first time this year.
Chapel Hill (4-3, 3-1 Region 4-AAA) moved into second place in Region 4-AAA with a 28-7 win over B.E.S.T. Academy at Grady Stadium in Atlanta. The Panthers leap-frogged the Central-Carroll Lions (4-4, 3-2) in the standings after Rockmart (3-4, 2-2 Region 4-AAA) took advantage of seven Central turnovers in a 28-7 upset.
And Douglas County is tied for second in Region 3-AAAAAA after knocking off Westlake 21-6 for a Homecoming win that puts the Tigers at 2-5 overall and 1-1 in region play. Douglas County continues region play next week at Newnan, which fell to Langston Hughes 34-14 Friday.
Alexander dropped to 0-7 overall and 0-4 in Region 5-AAAA with the loss to the Patriots (7-0, 4-0 Region 5-AAAA). The bigger concern for the Cougars is the health of quarterback Brian Dansereau, who was transported to WellStar Douglas Hospital via ambulance after taking a hit to the head and neck on a sack in the third quarter.
Dansereau's mother, Cindy, said Saturday her son was treated for a mild concussion and a cervical strain in his neck and released from the hospital around 3 a.m. Dansereau won't be able to practice next week and will have to miss at least Friday's game at No. 5 Carrollton while recuperating.
Lions put it all together
Lithia's defense has given the Lions a chance to win games all season. It was other factors – injuries, discipline problems, special teams miscues and an inability to move the ball on offense – that left Lions head coach Scott Dean frustrated on many a Friday night.
But this week it all came together, even with Cornelius out for the year with an injury and several other starters still out or playing through bumps and bruises.
The offensive line stepped up like it hadn't done in so many other games, giving fullback Avonte Boyd room to run. And run he did – for over 200 yards and all four Lions touchdowns.
And the botched punts that have given Lithia's opponents easy scores so often this year? Friday night, the shoe was on the other foot for a change. The Lions defense tackled Woodland's punter in the end zone after a bad snap for a safety late in the third quarter. Lithia punter Jack Dow, meanwhile, had a big 50-yard kick to pin Woodland at its own 1-yard line late in the game.
As for the Lions defense, it played the same old hard-nosed football Lithia's fans have come to expect. Only this week, all the other parts came together and Dean got the four-quarter effort he's talked about all year and a big win as a reward.
Panthers coach seeing success in first year
Chapel Hill first-year head coach Geoff Pastrick is making headway after coming over from Class AAAAAA powerhouse McEachern where he was an assistant.
"I'm not trying to make this McEachern by any means but I'm trying to make it into a successful football program and I know what it takes," Pastrick said last month before the Panthers first Region 4-AAA win – a 23-22 decision over Rockmart.
If that was ever in doubt, Pastrick has certainly quieted his critics pretty quickly. The Panthers have won two of their three region games since the Rockmart victory, with a 35-0 loss to first-place Callaway being the only chink in Chapel Hill's armor.
Friday's win over B.E.S.T. was all the more impressive because running back Tre Mitchell, who carried the Panthers offense the first six games, was out with an injury. Quarterback Brett Roberts got the passing game going and freshman running back Jamarcus Morissette filled Mitchell's big shoes with over 100 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Looking ahead, Chapel Hill controls its own destiny in its bid to finish at least second and host a state playoff game, with three tough but beatable region opponents remaining. After visiting Haralson County next week, the Panthers host Central-Carroll and then end the regular season at Jackson-Atlanta.
Garner gets hands on all 3 TDs
Douglas County scored three touchdowns Friday and all-purpose standout Anthony Garner had his hands on all of them. Garner rushed for two TDs and caught a 17-yard pass from quarterback Ellis Richardson for the Tigers other score.
Garner's feat was even more impressive given that he missed most of the second half with an ankle sprain. Tigers head coach Jason Respert said Garner was being treated over the weekend and is questionable for next week's game at Newnan.
Coming into Friday's game with Westlake, Douglas County had lost five straight since opening the season with a win over county-rival Chapel Hill on Aug. 31.
"We had two goals going into the year," Respert said. "We wanted to beat Chapel Hill so we could be a county champ and we wanted to compete to be a playoff team. We've accomplished the first one and right now we're working to accomplish the second one."
Cougars play with determination
During the pre-game warm-ups, the difference between Sandy Creek and Alexander was visible by the size of the teams. The Patriots had at least twice as many players as the Cougars.
But being outnumbered and outmatched by a Patriots team with roughly five Division I college prospects didn't deter Alexander one bit.
The Cougars pass rush got to Sandy Creek quarterback Cole Garvin on the Patriots first drive. At least three Alexander defenders swarmed Garvin and knocked the ball loose as he attempted to get off a throw. Defensive lineman Archie Humphries fell on the ball, setting up the Cougars only score – a 42-yard scamper by Dansereau that got Alexander within 7-6 after the PAT was blocked.
Early on, Alexander's defense had success stopping the run. Aside from a 54-yard touchdown run by Eric Swinney, the Patriots were held to mostly short gains by the Cougars on the ground through a good chunk of the first quarter.
When Garvin did go to the air, Alexander's secondary stepped up on a Patriot drive late in the first quarter forcing three dropped passes. But Garvin had a short playing field to start the drive and eventually found the end zone on a 15-yard pass to Demarre Kitt, a D-I receiver who decommitted to Georgia earlier in the week.
Dansereau pounded the ball for 4 and 5-yard gains through the first 30 minutes of the game before being hit from behind on the sack that forced him out of the game.
"We had a lot of positive yards," said Alexander head coach Matt Combs. "But we had some drive-stoppers. They were a good team. They manned up and played a great job of defense. They bent but they didn't break. We bent and we broke. That was a good offense they had. They had a lot of weapons. It's tough to try to take them all away."