GAC Spartans (7-AAA)
Coach: Tim Hardy
Record: 5-1, 2-0
Last week: Beat North Hall 45-21
Dawson County Tigers (7-AAA)
Coach: Sid Maxwell
Record: 5-1, 2-0
Last week: Beat East Hall 52-34
It's just past midseason, but Greater Atlanta Christian's clash with Dawson County has significant implications. The winner is likely the Region 7-AAA champ, a title the Spartans are hungry to retain for the sixth straight year.
“Our players and coaches understand the magnitude of the game and we're fired up to play a good opponent in a critical matchup,” GAC head coach Tim Hardy said. “It's Oct. 11, but we all understand the positive implications for the winner. It's a big game. There's a lot on the line.”
The Spartans won 23-20 last year in Norcross, but Dawson County's is quite a bit different on offense this season. Last year, the Tigers were a run-first team.
“This year, they are much more diverse — which makes them harder to defend,” Hardy said. “The thing that stands out to me is it's a really balanced team. They stress you to defend the entire field. As we started to break it down, they have a lot of good players and an ability to attack in a multitude of ways.”
Some of the same things can be said about GAC. Senior quarterback Jackson Hardy has thrown for more than 1,000 yards in six games, and to 15 different receivers. His primary targets have been Christian Thomas, Brooks Miller and Jake Hicks. The ground game includes a number of options, led by Tyler Bride and his 755 yards, Montae Bailey and Tre Henry. Bailey also has been a playmaker in the secondary on defense.
“Defensively, (Dawson County) has good team speed,” Hardy said. “They are smart schematically.”
Both teams have good kickers as well. In the waning seconds of the first half last week, Dawson County opted to let Caleb Bonesteel attempt a 67-yard field goal (three yards longer than the NFL record). It was short, but it speaks to the Tigers' confidence in his leg.
GAC's Tyler Curland is 20 for 20 on point-after attempts and has made the only field goals he's been asked to take (22 and 20 yards). The junior is averaging almost 55 yards on 25 kickoffs and 37.5 yards on 14 punts.
Last meeting: GAC won 23-20 last year
Location: Dawson County