Valdosta Daily Times

December 7, 2012

Packers to visit undefeated Norcross in state semifinals

Wayne Grandy
The Moultrie Observer

MOULTRIE — According to the Georgia High School Football Daily and its computer Maxwell Ratings, Norcross is the favorite to win the Class AAAAAA championship.

Which means, of course, that the Blue Devils are favored to defeat Colquitt County when the two teams meet at 8 tonight at Blue Devil Stadium in Norcross.

And, on paper, Norcross should be favored.

The Blue Devils are 13-0 and the last unbeaten team in Class AAAAAA. They have an outstanding offense with a number of highly productive skill position players.

With the likes of running back Alvin Kamara, quarterback Joseph Wilber and receivers Myles Autry, Clinton Lynch and Trey Smith, the Region 7 champions can score from anywhere on the field.

Kamara has rushed for more than 1,900 yards this season and is averaging 174 in the Blue Devils three playoff games.

 Norcross is averaging 38.1 points a game.

The Blue Devils defense, led by end Lorenzo Carter, who has 18 sacks this season, and linebacker Tommy Tate, who has 33 tackles in the three playoff victories.

Cornerback Shon Akins is a three-year starter.

Colquitt County, on the other hand, has three losses and went into the playoffs as the No. 4 seed from Region 1.

Do the Packers stand a chance?

Recent history would suggest that it will not be a surprise if the Packers knock off the Blue Devils and make a second trip to the state championship game three years.

When the Colquitt County qualified for the playoffs in 2009, it had not made a postseason appearance since 2005, when the Packers beat Tri-Cities and then lost at Starr’s Mill.

Rush Propst took over the program three years later and Colquitt County went 4-6 in 2008.

Since 2009, Colquitt is 13-3 in the postseason and a remarkable 11-2 on the road.

Not only are the Packers not likely to be awed by playing away from Moultrie, they clearly have relished playing favored opponents in the postseason.

As they have this year, the Packers faced four straight games on the road in 2009, beginning with a trip to play Westlake. The defense played well in a 10-0 victory.

If they Packers were not considered underdogs against the Lions, they certainly were the next two weeks against a talented Stephenson and Lassiter.

The Packers manufactured enough points to upset the Jaguars 22-21 in the second round and then shocked the previously undefeated and Hutson Mason-led Trojans 46-17.

That sent the Packers to what was the first of four straight semifinal games and they were unable to hold off eventual state champion Camden County, losing 19-10.

In 2010, the Packers drew Jenkins in the first round, but had to go to Savannah to deal the Warriors ad 50-21 thrashing.

But it was back to being an underdog the next week when the Packers returned to Hallford Stadium in Clarkston and held off high-scoring M.L. King 48-47.

The Packers got a rare home playoff game the next week and defeated Mill Creek 27-14. That sent the Packers to Loganville to meet a strong Grayson team.

The Packers got a late touchdown for a 31-24 win and it was off to the Georgia Dome for the school’s first state championship game since 1994.

Although rolling up 608 yards of offense and 36 first downs, the Packers fell to Brookwood 52-38.

But they were back in the playoffs last year as the No. 2 seed and taking advantage of the first-round home playoff game to defeat East Coweta.

That win sent the Packers to play undefeated North Gwinnett and Colquitt knocked off another unbeaten opponent, winning 17-7.

Colquitt faced a second-straight unbeaten team the following Friday night, and upset Camden County 32-31 in Kingsland, scoring a fourth-down touchdown and adding a 2-point conversion with 33 seconds left to advance to the semifinals.

Colquitt led Grayson late, but several controversial calls in the final drive enabled the Rams to escape with the victory. They defeated Walton the next week to take the state championship.

This year, again as No. 4 seed, the Packers opened by knocking off Region 7 champion McEachern and then rallying to eliminate Newnan and Parkview.

Colquitt has come from behind to win their last four games: the three playoff contests and the regular season-ending 13-12 win over Camden County.

The Packers will bank on their playoff experience, something Norcross does not have. The Blue Devils are in the semifinals for the first time in the school’s history.

The Packers are riding a five-game winning streak since the disappointing 38-36 loss to Valdosta.

Following the format they have used for playoff games the last four years, the Packers left Thursday and stayed at a hotel near the stadium last night.

Propst said he believes keeping the team together the day before a big game helps the players remain focused on the task at hand.

“We make sure they get plenty of rest and eat right,” Propst said. “How much they rest and how well the eat is important.”

Both teams should know what to expect from the other after having met in August in a scrimmage at Tom White Field at Mack Tharpe Stadium.

One boost the Blue Devils will have is that receivers coach Reggie Stancil is a former quarterback for the Packers and last month was inducted into the Colquitt County Sports Hall of Fame.

But Propst is just two victories away from his first state championship in Georgia.

He won five while coaching Hoover High in Alabama.

 “I still like our chances,” Propst said. “All the pressure’s on them.

“We’ll come ready to play.”

PACKERS NOTES: For those driving to today’s game, which will start at 8 p.m., MapQuest suggests taking I-75 North to I-675 and take it North toward Augusta.

Take I-675 to I-285 and take it East toward Augusta/Greenville. Take I-285 East to Exit 31B toward Cumming/Dahlonega and take Georgia Highway 141 North 5.9 miles to Spalding Drive Northwest. Take a right on Spalding and go about a half-mile to the school on the right.

Norcross High School athletic director Kirk Barton said that free shuttles are being offered to take fans to the stadium from Christ the King Lutheran Church, which is located at 5575 Peachtree Parkway in Norcross.

Barton said the church “is just down the street and they have a huge parking area.”

Admission to the state semifinal game is $15 and is set by the Georgia High School Association.

The game will be televised live at 8 tonight on Georgia Public Broadcasting.

The Colquitt County-Norcross winner will face the North Cobb-Lovejoy winner in the state championship game, scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15, in the Georgia Dome. Tickets for the state championship game will be $18 if purchased at the schools or $20 at the gate.