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PREP FOOTBALL: South Atlanta getting accolades after upset win over Pace

South Atlanta is looking for its second straight win tonight against Therrell. |PHOTO: Bailey Stevens

By Kendall Jackson

ATLANTA, Ga. — After notching a 22-14 win over Pace Academy last week—despite being considered a 24-point underdog—the South Atlanta Hornets have begun to grab some attention. Part of that attention was head coach Brad Stephens seeing his program selected as the Fox 5 Sports Team of the Week! 

After starting the season with an 0-2 mark, the Hornets (2-3, 2-1 in Region 6-AA) have won two of their last three games coming into tonight’s region clash with Therrell (1-3, 0-2) which is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Lakewood Stadium. 

As to be expected, Stephens was bullish on just how impactful such an award can be. and is, for his program. 

“It’s a great momentum booster,” Stephens said during Wednesday night’s practice. “It’s great for our team, it’s great for our community, it’s great for our kids.” 

Stephens has already seen some unprecedented success in his five-year tenure as South Atlanta’s head coach. When he took over the program after a 1-9 campaign in 2015, he grabbed the reigns of a team that hadn’t had a winning season in its first six years of existence. After a 3-7 mark in his first season (2016), Stephens has led the Hornets to three straight playoff appearances, and the program is coming off its first back-to-back winning seasons in school history. 

And while the latest team accolade is nice, the coach says he’s also aware of the downside of winning a mid-season, weekly award. 

“The thing you worry about coming off a game like this is, are we over it,” he said. 

It’s a fair question for a young program still learning how to consistently win. And it’s a question that only can only be answered when South Atlanta Therrell on the gridiron tonight. 

Stephens gave great praise to the Panthers’ players and much respect to head coach Greg Sullivan. He spoke specifically to how athletic Therrell is, even going as far as saying that the Panthers are “probably all around one of the most athletic teams we’ve played.” 

South Atlanta junior quarterback John Lawton looks to make a throw downfield in an early-season game. | PHOTO: File

Add that to their hunger for a much-needed win against a regional rival like South Atlanta, and all the ingredients of a trap game are present. 

One tactic Stephens and his staff uses to keep their bunch focused is encouraging them to ignore social media as well as team records. 

“You gotta go play the game,” he said. “Last week with us and Pace, they had Pace picked by 24 points. You gotta go play the game.”

Stephens feels this team has the ability to make progress toward a third straight winning season and fourth straight postseason berth, and he said it starts with the ever-improving leadership of his own quarterback, junior John Lawton and the continued success of running back Kejuan Brown who both were key pieces in the win against Pace. 

A win tonight will give the Hornets a two-game winning streak, as well as more momentum heading into next week’s region matchup with Towers. 

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Gabriel Stovall

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