The playoff picture is beginning to take shape in Region 6-AAAA only three weeks into the football season.
The 12-team region plays a straight region schedule, so every loss is critical. Southwest DeKalb and Marist realize that, both already having lost to 3-0 Tucker.
This weekend’s Southwest DeKalb-Marist showdown at Hallford Stadium could have the No. 2 seed and a home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs hanging in the balance. Both teams come into the game at 2-1.
Southwest DeKalb has stabilized itself after a lopsided 50-19 loss to Tucker in the first week of the season. Marist fell 31-24 to the Tigers in double overtime two weeks ago.
Marist leads the series 10-6, but had a five-game winning streak against Southwest snapped last season. Marist has never lost to both Tucker and Southwest in the same season.
“We’ve got to realize our backs are up against the wall now,” Marist coach Alan Chadwick said, “We have an opportunity to play for home field advantage, and we’ve got to come out swinging. This is a huge challenge for us. We got pushed around by [Southwest] last year and we can’t get pushed around again this year.”
Both teams rely heavily on the running game. Southwest set a school record with more than 500 yards rushing two weeks ago in a 42-6 win over Carver Atlanta. Semag Bridges and Andrecas Jackson did most of the damage in that game for the Panthers.
The Panthers appear back on track after trying out a new offensive scheme against Tucker in the season opener. The Panthers have since gone back to their wing-T offense, with success.
“We thought we had some downhill runners, some I-backs,” Southwest coach Buck Godfrey said. “We switched our offense, but we were dead wrong about it. It just didn’t work in the game. When somebody puts that kind of score on you, it makes you rethink things. We went back to the things we do well.”
Marist is averaging 273 yards rushing per game, with quarterback Andy Perez and running back Gray King getting most of the carries. Fourteen players have carried the ball for Marist, with King averaging 86 yards per game and Perez 80 yards. Perez missed last week’s Chamblee game with a sore back but is expected to play against the Panthers.
“When you play them, the first thing you’ve got to stop is that fullback,” Godfrey said. “We’ve got to come with three or four different looks and play assignment football. We did a good job with that last year, and we need to do the same this time.”
After its loss to Tucker two weeks ago, Marist spent last week working on tackling fundamentals. Chadwick is hopeful the refresher course will be beneficial in wrapping up Southwest’s running backs.
“We worked a lot on technique and footwork,” Chadwick said. “We were losing our feet when we tackled against Tucker and their players were able to fall forward to get some extra yards. We’ve worked very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”