Blog Post No. 10
An undefeated season propels Prince Avenue into playoffs
By Morgan Ainslie
Prince Avenue Christian School heads into the postseason 10-0. The Wolverines are ranked first in GHSA Class A rankings going into the playoffs.
Tonight, Prince Avenue (10-0) and First Presbyterian (6-4) meet again in the first round of the playoffs. The Wolverines faced the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs last year as well.
“First Presbyterian is really excited, cause they really had to win the last four weeks to get into playoffs,” said head coach Jeff Herron. “Whereas, we’ve really just been cruising. I’m not sure if that’s an advantage for us or them. I guess we will find out Friday night.”
Last year, Prince Avenue beat First Presbyterian in that first-round playoff matchup, 55-30.
In preparation for the game, Herron said the Wolverines have focused the last two weeks on the First Presbyterian’s offense and special teams because of the effect those elements both had in the 2014 game. The Wolverine started off the game last year with a 99-yard kickoff return and another touchdown after the Wolverines blocked a punt.
Last year, Prince Avenue was knocked out by Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy in the second round of playoffs.
For Prince Avenue, the 2015 schedule has been a breeze. Every game has been won by a margin of at least 21 points.
The Wolverines have had an easy time finding the endzone and keeping the other teams out. This season, Prince Avenue has had three games where it held its opponents scoreless. In their last two games, the Wolverines have scored a combined 105 points and neither opponent scored against them.
Prince Avenue has benefitted this season from an explosive run game. Senior Kevon Hudson has rushed for over 1000 yards this season. Hudson, senior Jordan Hightower and junior Noah Campbell have each averaged over 10 yards a carry for the season.
Even with this year’s success, Herron says that the team isn’t focused right now on being undefeated. The real excitement will come from playoff victories.
“But like I told them two weeks ago, being 10-1 is not any fun,” Herron said. “So the team wins are great, but it’s the regular season and our goals have always been higher than that. If we can sit here four weeks from now and say we’re undefeated, then we can say we accomplished what we set out to do.”
///NEED EDITOR CREDIT///
Blog Post No. 9
///NEED A BYLINE///
After a 4-6 season, Clarke Central High School football head coach Ahren Self has stepped down.
Though many committed players say they get along well with Self, his record speaks for itself. Self was 16-15 over three seasons and this is the second year in a row the Gladiators have not made the playoffs.
“The team was very surprised and couldn’t believe it,” senior defensive back Rayshawn McCall said. “We all love coach Self. He is a great coach and we all believe he will be coaching again next year. If not the defensive coordinator for us, then he will definitely be a key asset to another team, possibly at the collegiate level.”
Before his promotion to head coach, Self spent six seasons as the Gladiators’ defensive coordinator. The high point of his career at Clarke Central was likely when he coached the defense through the Class AAAA state final game in 2009 under head coach Leroy Ryals, although Clarke Central lost to Sandy Creek 29-15.
“I think I’ve done some good things,” Self said. “But I think I owe it to the program and the tradition here to step down and go somewhere else.”
Self had a tough act to follow in Ryals, though.
Prior to coming to Clarke Central in 2006, Ryals coached tight ends at LSU under Nick Saban. He led the Gladiators to the playoffs every year he coached and left with a 60-22-1 record. There’s also former head coach Billy Henderson, who led the team to three state championships.
Self hasn’t been able to achieve the same. However, McCall said that is partially due to less energy behind the program these days.
“A coach that could bring energy to the student body about coming out and playing would be a great fit,” McCall said. “For the past few years, our numbers have been down and most of the athletes in our school haven’t been playing football.”
Self said he still wants to coach football, wherever he ends up, and he is looking forward to being a defensive coordinator again. He will have more time to form relationships with players that way, due to the narrower focus.
“Our participation has been down, the gates weren’t very good this year,” Self said. “I’ve been here for eight years, three as the head coach, I think i’ve///CAPITALIZE/// done what I can do here.”
///NEED EDITOR CREDIT///
Blog Post No. 8
Billy Madison Collective Podcast, Episode 2
By Justin Hubbard and Nicole Chrzanowski
Welcome to the second episode of the Billy Madison Collective Podcast! Justin Hubbard and Nicole Chrzanowski discussed the state of Cedar Shoals football and Athens Christian boys basketball.
Blog Post No. 7
Billy Madison Collective Podcast, Episode 1
By Evan Greenberg and Sarah K. Spencer
Welcome to the first episode of the Billy Madison Collective Podcast! Sarah Spencer and Evan Greenberg discussed the playoff picture for Athens Academy and Region 1A outlook overall and head Josh Alexander’s experience under pressure. We also touched on Ray McCall’s growing interception record and what Clarke Central needs to do to finish at or above .500.
Blog Post No. 6
Prince Avenue Christian football rolling through its schedule with ease
by Morgan Ainslie
Prince Avenue Christian School earned its seventh victory of the season by beating Athens Academy, 45-14, on Oct. 9. The undefeated Wolverines will host Towns County this Friday for another region game.
Towns County is 1-6 on the season and 1-4 in the region.
“I’m sure the crowd won’t be as big, the band won’t be as loud, and the cheerleaders might not be as peppy tomorrow night,” ///NEED FIRST NAME AND ID/// Herron said. “But all of that doesn’t matter to us. Come 7:30 p.m., we have to be ready to play and make sure that Prince Avenue doesn’t take a step backwards.”
Against Athens Academy, Herron says that the score did not represent what happened on the field. After a slow start in the first half, Herron was able to pull the team back together for the second half in order to pull out the victory.
“We had to play the whole four quarters, but that’s a credit to Athens Academy,” Herron said. “We didn’t play our best. Our kids were a little too excited. It was a very emotional game, but it was a good learning experience for us for playoffs.”
Against Athens Academy, senior Jordan Hightower caused a fumble on the opening kickoff. He also recorded a 43-yard punt return, and intercepted 2///STYLE ERROR/// passes, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
“I feel like I did everything that coach told me to do,” Hightower said. “I executed. I’m just happy with my results. I had pretty good game.”
Herron attributes this season’s success to bringing back 18 of his starters from last year. Although the Wolverines lost three key players to graduation (Jonah Doster, Tyson Herron, and Ashton Glenn), Herron is reassured by his belief that this team is better than last year.
“Our kids are bigger and stronger than they were last year,” Herron said. “They’re a little bit faster. And, we had a few kids move in that have helped us, too. So, put that combination together, and I think it has showed up on the field pretty well.”
Hightower said his team’s ready to play whomever steps onto the field
“It’s like any other game,” Hightower said. “We’re looking at this season one game at a time. We look at each game without faces. It doesn’t matter who they are, we’re just about to play our best.”
After this week, Prince Avenue plays Lakeview Academy (2-4) and Providence Christian Academy (0-6).
“On paper, the teams we have left are not as good as some of the teams we’ve already played,” Herron said. “But as I told them on Monday, that really doesn’t matter. Our focus right now is getting Prince Avenue better. Who we play is irrelevant to us.”
Edited by Evan Greenberg
Blog Post No. 5
Cedar Shoals football snaps losing streak
By Nicole Chrzanowski
On an overcast Friday night at Cedar Shoals High School, the Jaguars ended a 15-game drought. The Jaguars (1-4) won their first football game since Nov. 1, 2013///COMMA/// in a 20-3 victory over Heritage High School (0-6).
To put that into perspective, the current senior class has not won a game since its sophomore year, at which point most were still playing on the junior varsity team.
“I’ve coached in a lot of football games over 38 years but to watch our kids win…they were like kids on Christmas morning,” said head coach Scott Wilkins. “We played well. We played very good on defense, we played very well on offense and we were very proficient in the kicking game.”
The Jaguars displayed a well-rounded effort to earn the win. On defense, there was no one standout, because five lineman with at least seven tackles apiece. Yusuf Green picked off two interceptions. On offense, Jerphari Colbert had 19 carries for 142 yards, quarterback Greg Smith was able to manage the game and the offensive line proved steady throughout the entirety of the game.
The Jaguars have struggled with special teams in previous weeks and have made extra effort in practices to be confident in their kicking and returning ability, according to Green. Constant repetitions on special teams paid off as the Jaguars only had one “hiccup” during the game, according to Wilkins.
Now that the Jaguars have finally gotten over the hump and earned a win, they hope to keep up the momentum.
“For our guys, hopefully they can see that when we put it all together we can be a good football team,” Wilkins said. “When you do those things and you can have some consistency, then you can have some confidence.”
There was a definite change in practice from last week to this week. The players were attentive and Wilkins’ yelling was kept to a minimum. Whether it be the sun finally appearing for the Jaguars, in both a literal and figurative way, or just a rejuvenated spirit, the Jaguars appear more passionate than ever about football.
“I thought Monday and Tuesday were two of our best practices of the year,” Wilkins said. “They were physical, they were intense, and there was a tremendous focus.”
The rainy days have passed for the Cedar Shoals football team and the Jaguars are ready to move on to their next opponent, Loganville High School, and hope to begin a new winning streak.
Edited by Justin Hubbard
Blog post No. 4
Athens Academy football not looking past Towns County before facing Prince Avenue Christian
By Evan Greenberg
Athens Academy football’s next two opponents are Towns County and Prince Avenue Christian. The former has a record of 1-5, and the latter is 5-0. And so the age-old narrative of taking games week by week, never looking forward to a tough opponent and losing to a not-so-tough one in the meantime, is spun.
“We never talk about who we’re playing,” head coach Josh Alexander said. “We don’t care. I know that sounds cliché as a coach, but we just really don’t. We’re not going to worry about it.”
Alexander, in his first year as head coach, has his team in a great position to make the playoffs, and a game against an Athens-area rival next week could affect potential seeding. The team is tied atop the region standings with Prince Avenue Christian. With so much at stake in a game two weeks from now, Alexander has had to keep his team focused on the task at hand.
“Coach Alexander always preaches if we get things right under our roof, then we don’t need to really worry about other people,” junior defensive back Rolf Reynolds said. “We’re not really looking forward to anyone down the road.”
Reynolds did concede “it’s a little natural to look ahead.” Despite players’ limited experience, Alexander has them well-trained and focused on the game at hand. He has been coaching for 18 years at a large high schools like///SUCH AS/// Parkview and Archer that have seen their fair share of playoff games. It’s there he learned how to control the environment and message he wants to spread.
“I just try to prepare them before it happens,” Alexander said. “Anything from adversity to knowing how to win, that stuff’s an art within itself. I think good teams need to act like they’ve been there, and when you’re handed some type of adversity, you need to know how to handle it.”
Alexander’s demeanor of acting like he’s been there – because he has – has allowed his team to remain focus and not allow itself to fall to the potential pitfalls of a trap game.
“He’s been cool throughout all the high pressured situations, which has really relayed to us that there’s no reason for us to get tense or nervous during games,” junior wide receiver Jacob Hudson said.
Edited by Sarah K. Spencer
Blog post No. 3
Cedar Shoals Jaguars confident despite 0-3 start
By Nicole Chrzanowski
After a winless 2014 season, the Cedar Shoals Jaguars have started the 2015 season 0-3. Despite having several returners and an experienced coaching staff, the Jaguars are still pursuing their first win in 14 games and first of head coach Scott Wilkins///APOSTROPHE/// return to Cedar Shoals.
The Jaguars///APOSTROPHE/// next chance to break the streak is on Friday against region opponent, Flowery Branch High School. The past two losses have been blowouts for Cedar Shoals, something they///GRAMMAR ERROR/// have used to propel them forward rather than push them back. The Jaguars have been outscored 104-14 this season.
“We’ve got to have a better kicking game,” said senior cornerback Yusuf Green. “We have to get the punts off, cover and we just have to put some points up on the board. Defense, offense, whoever gets it up there gets it up there, that’s what matters.”
The Jaguars have some returning seniors this year, but the majority of the team is made up of sophomores and juniors. Junior Ryan Huff is a team standout and a three-star safety, according to 247 sports. On the offensive side of the ball, the running back position is filled by nearly all sophomores and juniors.
For the seniors that remain, it is important to them that they set an example for the rest of the team and finally earn a Friday-night victory.
“A lot of the younger kids, they look up to me,” said quarterback Greg Smith. “So it’s extremely important that I set an example.”
Despite being 0-3 on the season and 0-2 in region play, the Jaguars are not out of playoff contention quite yet. There are four undefeated region 8-AAAAA teams, three with only one win, and another three that have yet to earn their first win.
Cedar Shoals’ regional opponents have seven or eight ///GAMES?/// remaining each dependent on the team, the fight for coveted playoff spots is far from over.///RUN-ON SENTENCE/// For the Jaguars, it just boils down to finally earning a victory.
“A win would mean a lot. A lot. We’ve been working real hard for it and I think it’s time,” Green said.
Head coach Scott Wilkins knows that a win is possible, he says that his team just has to beat its opponents rather than itself.
Practice leading up to the Flowery Branch game fluctuated in attitude and rhythm, but the constant downpour of rain forced the players to be a tad more cautious and move a bit faster to remain warm. Wilkins spends some moments in quiet, watching his work of art unfold around him and at other times, is quick to come down on silly mistakes.
“Good, good, good!” is shouted by Wilkins nearly every time he watches a play he thinks went well in practice. There were a lot of ‘goods’ during Thursday’s practice, and he has high hopes for a win against Flowery Branch.
“Getting over this hump has taken a little longer than expected, but I know this is our week,” Wilkins said. “These seniors have yet to have a Friday-night win and I think it is about time.”
Players get excited at the end of practice for their game against Flowery Branch.
Edited by Justin Hubbard
Blog post No. 2
Clarke Central football fights to find rhythm after slow start
By Sarah Spencer
For the Clarke Central football team, rhythm and discipline are the keys to success. However, sustaining them will be the challenge Clarke Central faces for the 2015 season.
That’s what Rayshawn McCall, a senior defensive back at Clarke Central High School, said about the Gladiators’ season so far.
After losing the first two games of the season to Hart County and Lanier, Clarke Central got their///GRAMMAR ERROR/// first victory of the season this past weekend on Sept. 11 versus Cedar Shoals. Clarke Central went on to beat Cedar Shoals 29-0.
McCall said dominating that game was a product of the team building chemistry///CLICHE/// and starting to click///CLICHE/// under coach Ahren Self.
“As a team, we started off slow, but we’re starting to pick it up now,” McCall said.
The team will be tested this week against an undefeated Salem team on Sept. 18. However, according to McCall, almost every team they play is tough matchup and it is the coaching that makes the difference.
“This will be fun,” McCall said. “They have a lot of athletes. Every team in our region, oh my goodness they have a lot of athletes. But the thing that separates the teams in our region is the coaching.”
Coach Ahren Self is in his third year at Clarke Central. In his first season, the Gladiators went 5-5, and in his second season they improved to 7-4. It’s an upward trend that Clarke Central hopes to continue.
At practice on Thursday, Sept. 17, Clarke Central held a walk-through practice and went over the plays and the game plan to prepare for their///GRAMMAR ERROR/// game against Salem.
During the walk-through, the team began to run a 7-on-7///STYLE ERROR/// drill. After a completed touchdown pass, the players race against Self’s verbal countdown from 15 to set up an extra point attempt and kick it through.
Although a shaky start deterred Clarke Central from finding their///GRAMMAR ERROR/// rhythm early,
Coach Self’s structure and routine show that discipline is a priority on the field.
“Really, whoever is the most disciplined team will win the region,” McCall said.
Edited by Morgan Ainslie
Blog post No. 1
A tale of two coaches: High stakes for Self, Wilkins in Athens rivalry match-up
By Justin Hubbard
The Clarke Central football team had a less than ideal start to its season: the///CAPITALIZE WHEN A COMPLETE SENTENCE FOLLOWS A COLON/// Gladiators lost their first two games.
Clarke Central went on the road to Hart County on Aug. 28 when the Gladiators dropped their opener, 24-12///FACTUAL ERROR///, then followed that up with a trip to Lanier High School. Clarke Central lost that contest, 37-20.
This isn’t the start head coach Ahren Self needed. The Clarke Central football program has historically been one of the best in northeast Georgia. However, since posting three straight seasons with at least 10 wins from 2009-11, the Gladiators have fallen on hard times.
They went 5-6 in 2012 under Leroy Ryals. Self was brought in for the 2013 season and he boosted the program a little bit, as Clarke Central finished 7-4. The next season proved to be worse with the team finishing just 5-5. There’s isn’t much indication that Self’s seat is warming up, but it could be on fire if the Gladiators lose Friday night.
Cedar Shoals, Clarke Central’s crosstown rival, will visit the Clarke Central campus Friday. The Jaguars have not won a game since the 2013 season, when they won three. They went 0-10 in 2014 and lost their season opener to Elbert County two weeks ago, 40-14. Cedar Shoals had last week off to prepare. Between the extra time, their recent woes and the series record between these two teams – Clarke Central 33, Cedar Shoals 15 – there’s little doubt that the Jaguars will go all-out to try and beat the Gladiators. It would be their first win over Clarke Central since 2007///NEED PERIOD///
The dynamics at play in this contest, which center around the head coaches, make for an intriguing match-up. Both Self and Cedar Shoals head coach Scott Wilkins could buy some time if they score victories, so who knows what kind of plays each one may use.
What’s certain is this will be a unique chapter in this rivalry’s history.
Edited by Nicole Chrzanowski