One would be hard-pressed to find two currently hotter teams than North Gwinnett and McEachern heading into the Class AAAAAAA state football quarterfinals.
Thanks to the luck of the draw of the bracket, the two teams are on a collision course as the No. 4 state-ranked Bulldogs travel across Interstate 285 for a state quarterfinal game Friday at Walter H. Cantrell Stadium in Powder Springs.
North comes into the game having won 11 straight after a season-opening loss to fifth-ranked Colquitt County back in August, have outscored opponents by an average score of 42-11 and have scored 45 or more points in seven of 12 games this season.
The second-ranked Indians (12-0), meanwhile come in undefeated and beating teams at a 38-12 clip and have scored 42 or more points in five of their last six games.
And there will be no shortage of talent on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
“They’ve got a receiver (Javon Baker) going to Alabama,” Bill Stewart said of McEachern. “They’ve got another one (Decari Collins) going to Clemson. They’ve got a running back (Christian Mason) going to Michigan State. They’ve got a D-lineman (Jamil Burroughs) that’s an All-American (and another Alabama commit). They’ve got athletes all over the place.”
Stewart actually forgot another McEachern weapon, and an important one at that, in Florida-committed quarterback Carlos Delrio-Wilson, who has combined for more than 2,200 yards of total offense with his arm an legs.
Of course, North isn’t exactly devoid of talent, with power conference commits of its own in North Carolina-bound receiver Josh Downs (68-960, 13 TDs), Iowa-committed defensive back Taylor Goodson (52 tackles, 4 INTs, three-star defensive linemen Jared Ivey (64 tackles, 17 1/2 sacks, 27 TFL) and Chuck Smith (41 tackles, 7 1/2 sacks, 17 TFL) and four-star junior linebacker Barrett Carter, as well as offensive weapons like running back Devin Crosby (173-1,226, 24 TDs), Western Carolina-bound quarterback J.R. Martin (135-208-5 for 1,975 yards, 24 TDs).
It makes for a compelling matchup that should keep fans on the edges of their seats all evening long, and Stewart is confident the Bulldogs will be ready to play.
“Yeah, I feel like we’re in our groove,” said Stewart, whose offense has put up an eye-popping 224 points over the past four weeks, including a 60-10 win over Walton in last week’s second-round game. “It’s been really good. I think our team’s gotten better each week. That’s what you want to do. I feel like we’re playing well right now.”
But as many weapons are there are on both sides that can seemingly turn a matchup like this into a complicated chess match, Stewart is convinced the deciding factor could more likely be as simple as a game of checkers.
“You’re always trying to figure those chess pieces out,” Stewart said. “Hopefully, you come out with the best plan you can. Then it comes down to fundamentals. So when it’s all said and done, it’s still blocking and tackling and making plays.
“It’s the normal stuff, too. You have to go execute your offense. You’ve got to make sure that you don’t give them plays by turning the ball over or busting a coverage or stuff like that. So you want to make sure you’re all clean on that.”