ATHENS, Ga. - Bragging rights in GHSA Region 8-A are at stake Friday night when Athens Academy (9-0) hosts Prince Avenue Christian (9-0) for region supremacy from Slaughter Field in Athens. The game will have playoff seeding implications and will also be a chance for the Spartans to avenge a 2012 playoff loss to Prince Avenue that still hurts a little.
"Anytime you're undefeated and get beat it doesn't feel real good," said Athens Academy Athletic Director Kevin Petroski.
The undefeated Spartans were charging into the quarterfinals that year, with a chance to make history when the Wolverines crashed their party, crushing them 24-7 before eventually falling to Eagles Landing Christian in the finals. This year, both teams are evenly matched with big-time talent on offense and stout defenses stiffing opponents for nine consecutive weeks of regular season play.
Athens Academy has one of the top defensive squads in the state, allowing only seven points per game behind the play of senior DT Jackson Reynolds who, like most Spartans, plays both ways. Reynolds is also a bruising 205-pound force at fullback for head coach and former Archer offensive coordinator Josh Alexander, now in his third year at Athens Academy.
The Spartans rely on shifty, quick athletes on the offensive side of the ball according to Petroski. The toughest to bring down might be 5' 7" Henry Trapnell who's dangerous in the open field, weighing a mere 150 pounds. Super-sophomores Jalen Huff and Len'Neth Whitehead are just two of a prolific group of weapons at the Spartans' disposal. Huff has offers from four colleges including Kentucky to play cornerback, while Whitehead was recently offered by Michigan. Whitehead gets plenty of carries at running back and is fast and furious at his outside linebacker position on defense. A veteran offensive line gets much of the praise from the coaching staff, opening holes for the Spartans' runners and helping athletes like all-state wide receiver Payton Bowles find the time to get open.
"Unlike some teams, we've been fortunate to have games where we've gotten out to big leads," said Petroski. "Some of the excitement has been taken away a little bit in the second half of games because we've been out in front by so much."
But Spartans' fans, players and coaches alike know that second-ranked Prince Avenue offers a challenge unlike any they've seen so far in 2017. PAC has surrendered just 98 points all season while averaging 38 points per game on the offensive side.
The Wolverines have won four consecutive region titles, and despite losing six defensive starters to graduation, they remain sound on that side of the ball. Head coach Greg Vandagriff told us earlier this year that senior all-state linebacker Sam Wessinger and free safety Elijah Hynes are the main defensive playmakers.
Three-year starter Grant Roland continues to make big throws at quarterback for the Wolverines, often connecting with dynamic wideout Christian Parrish who ran wild in our 9/22 Game of the Week, scoring three touchdowns in a 28-14 win over George Walton. PAC has a strong offensive line as well, thanks in large part to Georgia Tech commitment Harrison Jump among others.
The Game of the Week kicks off at 7:30 Friday night, but not before Bill Hartman has live reports from the field beginning on FOX 5 News at 5-- following that, PAC vs. Athens Academy will be the featured game on the Big Show at 11 p.m.
"There's lots of excitement on campus for this one. It's a game we look forward to each year and there's certainly added incentive this time around." Petroski told FOX 5 Sports.
And it's called a region title.