Moultrie Observer

Local Sports

November 15, 2012

Packers face tough playoff opener at McEachern

MOULTRIE —  In its Monday’s edition, the Georgia High School Football Daily wrote that it considered McEachern a “sleeper” to win the Class AAAAAA.

It also calls the Colquitt County-McEachern matchup the best in the first round.

The “sleeper” assessment certainly was added to list of incentives the Colquitt County players received as they prepared to meet the Indians at 8 tonight at Walter H. Cantrell Stadium in Powder Springs in a first-round playoff game.

McEachern is 8-2 and will take an eight-game winning streak into the game on its own artificial turf field in front of its home fans in its impressive stadium.

Although unranked by the GHSF Daily, the Indians are averaging more than 40 points a game over their last nine contests and worry the Packers staff with its abundance of speed on both sides of the football.

A running quarterback in a spread formation that often features an empty backfield and two tight ends has confounded defenses all season as the Indians raced to their 15th region championship.

The Packers, 7-3, are ranked No. 9, a recognition that should give McEachern a little incentive of its own.

That No. 9 ranking is probably reflective of the schedule the Packers have played.

And perhaps their recent playoff history.

If Colquitt makes another run deep into the playoffs, it should not be a surprise.

Over the last three seasons, Colquitt County has played more games than any other team in the state in its highest classification, winning 10 playoff games, eight on the road.

Both Packers head coach Rush Propst and offensive coordinator Jeff Hammond have used the term “battle-tested” to describe the Packers.

Not only have they been down difficult playoff roads the last three seasons, this year they have played the most difficult schedule in the state, facing playoff teams North Gwinnett, Thomas County Central, Lovejoy, Carver of Columbus, Camden County, Lowndes and Valdosta.

The Packers scrimmage opponent was unbeaten Norcross.

Colquitt is not likely to be intimidated or unduly impressed by anyone it might meet from here on out.

“We’ve been in some big games,” Propst said. “Our kids know what to do.”

But he is wary of McEachern, saying the Indians remind him of a South Georgia team because of their speed on both sides of the football.

“They are real athletic and difficult to defend,” Propst said. “This will be the most difficult challenge we’ve had all year.”

And Propst himself said he especially relishes this time of the year. This is the 17th team he has taken to the postseason in his 24 years as a head coach. He has won five state championships, played for three others and would like nothing better than get his first as a coach in Georgia.

After shocking Camden County 13-12 last Friday, Propst said he hoped the outcome gave a boost to his team’s confidence  and that it would “enhance” its play.

He also said, cautiously, that the Packers “may be peaking.”

Offensively, the Packers have played better in their last five games with quarterbacks Cole Segraves and Daniel Mobley providing sparks.

With Mobley suffering from a sore shoulder, Segraves has guided the team to back-to-back wins over Coffee and Camden County.

In the victory over the Wildcats, Segraves led the Packers to 170 yards of offense and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. One of those touchdowns and 70 of those yards came on a game-tying touchdown run.

“It’s Cole’s football team,” Propst said. “He’s played well and practiced well. But Daniel will be available.”

The Packers offense has developed into perhaps the most diverse since Propst has been in Moultrie.

In addition to two quarterbacks who have both succeeded under fire, the Packers have three running backs – John Boatwright, Sihiem King and Maleek Lewis – they feel confident with and a bevy of receivers, including Bobby Hill, Todd Boyd, Kiel Pollard, Kishaun Taylor, Javonta Woods and D.J. Johnson.

“We’re playing a lot of skill people now,” Propst said. “We’ve got a lot of weapons. It takes 10 weeks to get this offense going a lot of the time.”

Propst said much of the credit for the offensive improvement in the last month goes to the health and stability a line that includes center Dalton Dillon, guards Travis Register, Jeffery Davis and Cade Blackburn and tackles Octavius Jackson and Gabe Mobley.

Defensively, the Packers have played well much of the season and even in the game against Valdosta in which it gave up 38 points, it had to deal with five turnovers.

The defense was masterful against Camden County, but will have a real challenge with the Indians.

A defensive front that includes Michael Parrish, Taphari Wright, Travis Register, Jamiyus Pittman, Ikeem Blakely, Jeffery Lawson and Creig Harris was smothering last week.

The linebackers will include leading tackler John Gray, Brandon Key, Bull Barge, Quintin Hampton and Tomarcio Reese.

Johnny Ward and Tim Sanders will be the corners and Jamal Phillips, O’Shay Williams and Garrett Pearce will be the safeties.

Will Bannister, who is 28-for-29 in extra point attempts, will kick out of the hold of Tyler Yost. Britt Jones will snap for both the place kicks and the punts by Yost, who averages 38.3 yards. Roberto Vega attempts field goals.

“The kids understand we have to play perfection football now,” Propst said. “And I think the kids know they are very close to that.

“The next 30 days are the real season. We’ve got five ball games to play inspired football.”

PACKERS NOTES: The game will be televised on Georgia Public Broadcasting tonight with kickoff at 8 p.m. … Also tonight, Camden County will play host to Hillgrove, Lowndes will be at Martin Stadium to play Marietta and Valdosta will go to North Cobb. … The Colquitt County-McEachern winner will play the Alcovy-Newnan winner.

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