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December 5, 2013

Packers hope to be ‘wall-worthy’ tonight at Norcross

MOULTRIE — There is space on the wall in foyer of the field house at Colquitt County High School for another oversized team photo.

And a victory in tonight’s 7:30 Class AAAAAA state quarterfinal game at Norcross – and certainly one tonight and another the following Saturday – would make this year’s Packers, in coach Rush Propst’s words, “wall-worthy.”

“I’m telling our guys to be special,” Propst said before taking the field for the Packers Wednesday evening practice. “They have got a chance to be set apart from the other teams, to be talked about like the 1937, the 1963, the 1991, the 1994 and 2010 teams.

“They can be part of that conversation.”

The Packers should have plenty of motivation as they prepares to meet Norcross at Blue Devil Stadium, the site of their playoff elimination in last year’s semifinal.

The Packers will be slight underdogs against the surviving No. 1 seed in Class AAAAAA, although both teams will take 11-2 records into the game. Colquitt County has won as many as 12 games just once and that was in 1994 when it went 15-0 to win its only state championship.

And despite reaching the semifinals each year since 2009, the Packers have qualified for the state championship game just once, losing to Brookwood in 2010.

Propst, just 1-3 in state semifinals despite going 16-4 overall in the playoffs, says reaching the state championship game as the community is celebrating 100 years of Packers football would certainly make this team one of the most revered.

Colquitt heads into tonight’s game playing as well as it has all season.

The Packers have outscored their three playoff opponents – Newnan, North Cobb and Dacula – by a combined 135-33.

They have given up just 578 yards in those three games and in the last two, North Cobb and Dacula have combined to rush 60 times for 69 yards.

The four touchdowns they have surrendered have all come in the fourth quarters of those games after the outcomes had long been decided.

And the Packers have yet to give up a rushing touchdown in the playoffs and have given up just six touchdowns on the ground all season.

The offense began its resurgence in the regular-season ending loss to Camden County. But it has been dynamic in the playoffs, rolling up 440 yards of total offense against Newnan, 518 against North Cobb and 420 against Dacula.

No one is expecting those kinds of offensive and defensive numbers against Norcross, however.

The Blue Devils lost two of their first three games, but are now on a 10-game winning streak as they attempt to get a chance to defend their first state championship.

The Blue Devils offense is led by a pair of seniors who were not members of last year’s state title team.

Big and strong quarterback A.J. Bush has completed 103-of-202 passes for 1,548 yards 13 touchdowns. He played at Milton last year.

Running back Josh Boyd, who moved from South Gwinnett this year, has rushed for 1,265 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The Blue Devils also have a group of able wide receivers.

Colquitt will try to slow them down with one of the best defenses in school history. The Packers have surrendered just 21 touchdowns in 13 games. Two came on fumble returns; another on an interception return.

A front seven led by preseason All-State and Ole Miss committed Jamiyus Pittman and Packers single-season sack leader Quintin Hampton will be charged with keeping the Packers in the game.

Hampton, who has 19 1/2 sacks, and Tomarcio Reese, who has 21 tackles for loss, will try to harass Bush and turn Boyd in to tackles Pittman, who is listed at 295 pounds, and underrated Mike Parrish, 311 pounds.

The linebacking corps features junior Bull Barge, who leads the team with 94 solo and 188 total tackles. Senior Brandon Key, with 129 tackles, also plays inside. Senior C.J. Johnson plays the Star position.

Barge and Johnson each have two of the Packers 12 interceptions.

Starting cornerback Michael Sutton has three interceptions. Maleek Lewis, who will start at the other corner, has one. Safety Quan Patillo has one interception and leads the team with 14 passes defended. O’Shay Williams is the secondary’s most proficient tackler and has 76 solos and 123 total stops.

All four of the secondary starters are seniors.

The Packers have received strong work from an offensive line tutored by coaches Joey Bennett, Ian Smith and Brooks Brodie.

Cade Blackburn will start at center and will be flanked by guards Gabe Mobley and Clay Hawkins. The tackles are Brandon Cope and Alfred Brown.

Although he threw three interceptions in the victory over Dacula last Friday, senior quarterback Daniel Mobley has completed 69-of-103 passes for 818 yards and five touchdowns in his last four games.

The offensive line will have to protect Mobley against a Norcross defensive front that has 11 sacks in its last two games. Blue Devil defensive tackle Dorian Kithcart has four of those and defensive tackle Khyree Lee and All-State defensive end Lorenzo Carter have two each.

The Packers leading rusher is junior Sihiem King, who has 1,392 yards on 245 carries and leads the packers with 18 touchdowns.

Mobley is the Packers second-leading rusher with 300 yards. Tim Sanders give the Packers a bigger back and he has 225 yards, averaging seven yards a carry.

Colquitt has four receivers with 33 or more catches: sophomore Kiel Pollard with 44 and seven touchdowns; King and Javonta Woods, with 34 each; and Todd Boyd, with 33.

Sanders has 15 receptions, most of which have come down the stretch.

Propst said he is hoping to be able to get some quick-strike scores on a strong Norcross defense led by Carter, Tennessee-bound linebacker Kevin Mouhon, safety Jordan Noil and a pair of physical corners.

Williams will be the punter and Jose Vega, who is 23-for-26 in extra point attempts and 7-for-9 in field goal attempts, will be the place-kicker. Vega also will kick off.

Pollard will be the snapper and Chase Parrish will be the holder.

Williams and Ty Lee will return punts and Lee and Lewis are the primary kickoff return specialists.

The winner of tonight’s game will advance to the Dec. 14 state championship game in the Georgia Dome against McEachern-North Gwinnett winner.

Propst is hoping his players will have more incentive than their hosts tonight.

“They are more talented than we are,” he said. “They’ve got all those college prospects. They’ve got 60 seniors. They have all the intangibles.

“And they’ve got 60 kids who have got a ring and a sense of gratification. And sometimes, when you’ve got something, you forget how you got it. Our team has to want it more. We’ve got to want to get something that they’ve got. We’ve just got to hit them in the mouth and get after their tails.”

PACKERS NOTES: The game will be broadcast live by CSS-TV, shown locally on Moultrie city cable CNS channel 71. Kickoff is expected shortly after 7:30 p.m.… The weather forecast calls for a 70-percent chance of showers and a temperature of 65 degrees at kickoff. … Former Packer quarterback and Colquitt County Sports Hall of Fame member Reggie Stancil coaches the Norcross wide receivers. He also was on the staff last year and sports a state championship ring.

 

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