Loganville grabbed state-wide headlines three years ago with an upset of a Gainesville team that went on to win a state title. Two years ago, the nation looked on as ESPN broadcast the Red Devils showdown with a Red Elephants squad that featured one of the top high school quarterback recruits in the country.
As the two Region 8-AAAAA rivals prepare to meet again Friday night at Red Devils Field, the spotlight will be even brighter than those two noteworthy meetings, at least for the home team.
With a victory, Loganville (7-1, 6-1 Region 8-AAAAA) which has already wrapped up its first postseason berth in four years, would go a long way in securing a home game in the first round. The Red Devils last played a home postseason game in 2008.
“Obviously, this is the first time we’ve played them with a chance to go to the playoffs,” said first-year Red Devils head coach Mike Humphreys. “All year, we talk about taking one game at a time. But with the possibilities of this game, I’m sure there’s a little more excitement and pep in their step.”
Gainesville (5-3, 5-2 Region 8-AAAAA), which was ranked No. 7 in a preseason poll, would take the runner up spot with a win. The Red Elephants were challenging for first place until a shocking 44-7 upset loss to Clarke Central two weeks ago.
Gainesville head coach Bruce Miller blamed the loss, in part, on his team overlooking Clarke Central. There’s little chance the Elephants underestimate the Red Devils.
Loganville strength has been its defense, which is allowing just over eight points a game. Offensively, the Red Devils have found a nice balance between the run and pass.
Quarterback Cameron Perkins McLeod has thrown for 840 yards and nine touchdowns while the running back tandem of Darryl Giles and Evan French have combined for over 1,400 yards and seven scores.
Given last Friday night off, both units should be healthy with fresh legs.
“Our goals are the keep from giving up the big play on defense and to sustain drives on offense,” Humphreys said.
Monroe Area (2-6, 1-4) at White County (2-6, 2-3). Its playoff hopes dashed with last week’s loss to North Hall, Monroe will spend the next two Friday nights trying to avoid finishing in the league basement.
The Hurricanes’ lone Region 8-AAAA victory places it a game ahead of Chestatee, who they’ll play in the season finale a week later. White County is a game in front of the ’Canes.
After three consecutive postseason appearances, the Warriors have struggled through a rebuilding year. They’ve played solid on defense, but until last week’s 52-11 win over Chestatee, White had found scoring difficult, averaging just eight points a game.
The Hurricanes can relate. They’ve suffered back-to-back shutouts and have scored just 12 points in their past four games. But the Hurricanes have been decimated by injuries and hope to have several key starters back over the final two weeks.
Eastside (6-2, 3-1) at Walnut Grove (3-5, 1-3). The Warriors know they’ll fall short of their goal of earning their first playoff berth this year. But they’re still battling to break even. To do so, they’ll need to upset Eastside, which has locked up the No. 2 spot in the subregion.
Friday will be Senior Night at The Grove and the Warriors will honor a relatively small but very successful group of 12th-graders who’ve help turn around a program that was struggling when their high school careers began.
Greene County (4-4, 2-2) at Social Circle (3-5, 1-3). Despite its recent struggles, Social Circle still has a shot at earning a postseason berth. With its first region victory of the season last Friday, the Redskins set up a do-or-die game Friday against Greene County.
The Tigers are in fourth place, a game ahead of Social Circle in Region 8-AA. A Redskins victory would give them the tie-breaker over the Tigers.
Starting quarterback Blake Brock played sparingly in last week’s win over Oglethorpe after missing the previous game with an injury. He could be back in action full time this week.
George Walton Academy (3-5, 3-2 Region 8-A) at Commerce (5-3, 4-2). Back in the day when region standings mattered in Class A, GWA would still be in the thick of the playoff chase. But now that power ratings determine who makes the postseason, the Bulldogs, while not mathematically eliminated, are likely out of the running.
They entered last week’s game against Hebron Christian 21st in the power ratings and were expected to drop further after falling to the Lions. On Friday, they’ll go on the road to face Commerce, which was sixth in the public school ratings, followed by a season finale against Athens Academy, which was No. 8 among private schools.
The Bulldogs will face a Tigers team that’s looking to make the playoffs for the 19th consecutive year. They reached the state quarterfinals last fall.