I apologize for being tardy to the football prediction party. This was a hectic week for the Stovall clan, but such is the life of a tri-vocational sportswriter with a wife and four year old son.
But I’m here, about five hours before kickoff of one of the biggest weeks of the season and one of the Southern Crescent’s bigger-than-life match ups. Since I’ve already kept you waiting, without further ado or build up, let’s jump right in to Week 4 predictions, starting with our game of the week.
No. 4 JONESBORO (3-0) at EAGLE’S LANDING (2-0): They call this the FCA Gridiron Classic, and so far each of the first two editions of this game — involving both teams — has lived up to the billing. Last year’s clash was a 16-8 defensive grudge match, and in 2013, it was a 36-29 barn burner, both won by Eagle’s Landing with both contests literally going down to the final horn. We expect no less from this one.The FCA Classic, now in its third year, was the brainchild of Jonesboro head coach Tim Floyd and Eagle’s Landing coach Joe Teknipp who passed away this summer after a bout with cancer. And while both teams have always played each other with a ton of pride, this one will be extra special because of the stakes at hand and the playmakers on the field.
Both schools will field their best, most complete teams since the Classic’s inception. The in-game match ups to watch will be the Golden Eagles’ Antonio Gibson — arguably the best athlete in the four-county area — against Jonesboro’s Jordan Griffin. Gibson will line up at running back, wide receiver — virtually every where. And Griffin, the Kentucky commit, may be Jonesboro’s best overall athlete. Definitely the hardest game for me to predict this year so far, but I’ll give the edge to Jonesboro because with skill player talent being fairly equal, the trenches will tip the scales, and Jonesboro has the edge there. JONESBORO 35, EAGLE’S LANDING 31.
NEWNAN (2-0) at No. 7 SANDY CREEK (2-1): Undefeated Newnan is coming into The Battlefield with early-season momentum after opening with a 34-13 win over Carrollton and a 27-7 victory at Marietta last week. It’s the Cougars’ first 2-0 start since 2012 which is also the last time Newnan won more than seven games in a season since 2009. Like the Jonesboro game, Newnan is looking at the chance to go into Sandy Creek and beat the Patriots as a program shifter. But I believe the Patriots are focused, and ready to prove it they still have state title aspirations against a quality opponent. Coach Chip Walker’s boys get it down ahead of next week’s bye. SANDY CREEK 28, NEWNAN 17.
DUTCHTOWN (2-1) at STARR’S MILL (3-0): I’ll be at the Jonesboro-Eagle’s Landing tilt, but if I could clone myself, this is the Southern Crescent game I’d send my doppelgänger to. And here’s two reasons why: 35-33 and 17-14. The first was Starr’s Mill’s come from behind win against the Bulldogs on their home field last year. The second was the final tally of a play-in game between the two schools where the winner made the 2014 playoffs and the loser started rooting for the school basketball teams. So how much do you think the Bulldogs will want the get back at the Panthers tonight? I think both teams are better than last year, but I think Starr’s Mill at home will prevail. And yes, I’m prepared to eat some crow if I’m wrong. I know a couple of Dutchtown players will be glad to serve it up for me on a silver platter. STARR’S MILL 28, DUTCHTOWN 24.
LOVEJOY (1-1) at HILLGROVE (1-2): Forget the prestige of the opponent. Forget the fact that Hillgrove hasn’t had a losing season in program history. Forget the fact that the Hawks have had the same coach — Phillip Ironside — since the program’s inception. This is definitely a winnable game for Lovejoy. With a come-from-behind win against a solid Mundy’s Mill team, and a tough, close loss to a talented Dutchtown bunch, coach Ed Carson knows he still hasn’t seen his young Wildcats put together a full four quarters of ball he knows they can play. If this one were next year, I’d give the nod to Lovejoy. But I think the youth still needs a little maturing to go on the road and win this one. HILLGROVE, 28, LOVEJOY 17.
MOUNT ZION (1-1) at HENRY COUNTY (0-2): Why am I choosing this game for in-depth analysis? Because I believe this is a springboard game for whoever comes out on top. If the Warhawks can get their first victory over a vastly improved Mount Zion squad coached by former Dutchtown head man Kevin “Bull” Jones, look at the schedule ahead: at Pike County, at Hampton, home against Walnut Grove and at Eastside, Covington. If Henry County gets a win, they could go see themselves go on a tear that should, at the least, net them three wins in the next four games. The road is harder for Mount Zion. After Henry County, the Bulldogs are home against Locust Grove and a big, smash mouth Riverdale team. Then they finish with four road games — at Pike County, Whitewater, Griffin and Spalding. A win tonight could give Jones’ team confidence to at least split the next four. I think they get it. MOUNT ZION 21, Henry County 14.
Here are my picks for the remaining Southern Crescent games. Winners in CAPS:
Ola at MCINTOSH
GRIFFIN at Eastside, Covington
SPALDING at Walnut Grove
Mount Pisgah at ELCA
RIVERDALE at Hampton
Pike County at LOCUST GROVE
LUELLA at Forest Park (Thursday night)
STOCKBRIDGE at Morrow
TATTNALL SQUARE at Strong Rock
Union Grove at MUNDY’S MILL
Woodland at NORTHGATE
DREW at North Clayton
And the College Picks:
GEORGIA TECH 42, Tulane 19: One more successful tune up before the trip to Notre Dame.
GEORGIA 35, Vanderbilt 17: The Commodores always give Mark Richt fits, but Nick Chubb and the Bulldog offensive line will be too much to handle.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN 31, Western Michigan 28: Don’t make me look silly two weeks in a row, Eagles.
New Mexico State 35, GEORGIA STATE 24: Try again next week for win No. 1, Panthers.
Gabriel Stovall is the founding editor of thecrescentbuzz.com, and has been covering sports in the Southern Crescent for the last four years. Follow him on Twitter @GabrielStovall1, and follow Southern Crescent Buzz @crescent_buzz.