Tucker coach Franklin Stephens saw what can happen in the state football playoffs when a team is not prepared.
Northside Warner Robins, ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA, was upset in the first round last weekend by Whitewater 28-21. The Eagles could have been Tucker’s third round opponent had both teams continued winning.
“We haven’t addressed it with the team, but if I were to address it I would say that’s why you can’t overlook anybody and you can’t afford to have a bad game in the playoffs,” Stephens said. “That’s why we stress to them week in and week out to be prepared.”
The Tigers (11-0) followed Stephens’ advice and beat Loganville 50-6 in the first round. Five of the seven teams from DeKalb County to qualify for the state playoffs won their openers.
There are no No. 1 or No. 2 seeds remaining in Tucker’s quarter of the draw. The Tigers, who face Hiram in the second round, will not face a ranked opponent until at least the semifinals.
“I think speed was a big factor [against Loganville], but this week Hiram has just as much speed as we do, or more,” Stephens said. “Their quarterback is fast and he does a great job managing the game in the wing-T.”
M.L. King in AAAAA, Marist in AAAA, and Cedar Grove and St. Pius in AAA all won first round games last weekend. Stephenson, the No. 2 team from Region 2-AAAAA, lost its first-round game as did Southwest DeKalb, the No. 3 team from 6-AAAA.
While Tucker is shooting for its second state title, another DeKalb team is using the post-season to build a foundation.
Cedar Grove won its first state playoff game since 1992 and at 7-4 has its most wins since 1999. The Saints beat Cartersville 30-24 in the first round and face Gainesville (10-1) on the road Friday.
“We want to build a program and we’ve been able to get it to .500 and keep it there,” Saints coach Ray Bonner said. “Now we’ve taken the next step. We’ve got a young ball club and they’re coming together.”
The Saints went 0-10 in Bonner’s first season in 2002, but the team won five or six games in six of the next seven seasons. Bonner said he attributes the success this season to a roster that includes many players from three straight undefeated junior varsity teams over the past three years.
“The kids are believing what they are doing is right,” Bonner said. “We finally have a quarterback who can make a big difference–not that we haven’t had talent there before.”
Sophomore Jonathan McCrary passed for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns against Cartersville, and has more than 2,900 yards passing and 26 touchdowns.
M.L. King also has advanced on the strength of its passing game. The Lions (8-3) beat Harrison and face Colquitt County in the second round. If the Lions keep winning they could have rematches with South Gwinnett next week and Valdosta in the semifinals.
Junior quarterback Jonquel Dawson has passed for more than 3,000 yards with 35 touchdowns.
St. Pius possibly has the most difficult route to the Georgia Dome and a berth in the state championship game. The Lions, which beat Allatoona 24-17 in the first round, faces No. 2 Carrollton (11-0) on the road Friday and could face No. 4 Cairo in the third round.