ADEL -- It's not unheard of for small town boys to go off to the big city and get hustled in a shell game.
What makes Cook High's second consecutive trip to Atlanta for the Class AA football semifinals noteworthy is that the Hornets are the ones running the shell game. Instead of a marble, Cook hides a football. Instead of using shells on a table, the Hornets shuffle three different backs around the field.
Confused? Good, that's just what Cook (13-0) is counting on this Saturday against Americus. The Hornets have a three-pronged rushing attack with seniors Demarrow Byron, Vincent Brown and Deonto McCormick, and opponents never seem to figure out where the ball is going next.
"All of our players are dangerous, our skill position players," said McCormick, a wingback who leads the team in receiving yards, but has posted even bigger numbers on the ground. "They concentrate on one back, and then they other back gets the ball and is just as dangerous.
"You see it a lot where a defense keys on one back when they go in motion, and then we counter-attack with another back going the opposite way."
McCormick had 669 yards in the regular season, but that only placed him third on the team. Byron and Brown both eclipsed 1000 yards in the regular season, and Cook's rushing express hasn't slowed down in the postseason. In three playoff games, the Hornets have outscored the opposition 148-26.
"They think I'm going to get the ball, and Demarrow might get the ball," said Brown. "They think Demarrow's getting the ball and I get the ball."
Cook has won every game this year by at least three scores, but few observers expect a blowout either way in the Georgia Dome this weekend. Defending champion Americus (12-1) was ranked No. 1 all season until being knocked off in the regular season finale by Class AAAA Crisp County.
Now Cook has the top ranking, but the Hornets still have something to prove after falling to Washington-Wilkes in last year's semifinals.
"We've got to bring our 'A' game this year," said Byron. "Last year it was our first time (in the Georgia Dome) and I believe we were nervous. But this year it's different."
"We just tell (the underclassmen) to be calm and play hard," added Brown.