We continue our high school playoff coverage with a preview of Mays High vs. Clarke Central High, courtesy of Mays High senior and Summit newspaper sports editor Drew Underwood:
ALSO: Check out Southerner staffer Mason Gepps‘ preview of tonight’s Grady-Gilmer match-up here.
UPDATE: Mays fell 52-31. Scoreboard.
The Mays Raiders football team’s first playoff game (Region 6AAAA) will be a rematch of last year’s first round match up of the Class AAAA playoffs against the Clarke Central Gladiators. The Raiders’ 7-3 record earned them a tough game on the road against an experienced Clarke Central team. The teams will take the field tonight at 7:30 p.m. from Billy Henderson Stadium in Athens. With talented offensive weapons from both teams, this game is anticipated to be shootout that may be decided by the last possession.
The Gladiators are the favorites to win, coming off of an undefeated season, but the Raiders come into the game riding a wave of momentum after a 54-0 win last week against Chamblee. Last season, the Gladiators were able to come from behind to defeat the Raiders 31-28 in a game that went down to the wire, for their first playoff win since 1997. They would ultimately lose in the state championship game.
“We’ve been here before,” Raider’s head coach Dominic Calloway said. “We know what it’s going to take to win so we have to execute.” The Raiders enter the game with a chip on their shoulder, something to prove after Clarke Central cut their championship hopes short last season.
The Clarke Central Gladiators clinched the Region 8-AAAA championship with a win over Flowery Branch. Led by senior quarterback Martay Mattox, the Gladiators have won their 10 games by an average margin of victory of at least 13 points. Mattox is aided by speedy tailback Quenshaun Watson, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season. The Gladiators outscored their opponents 421-119 and outscored their last two opponents (Flowery Branch and Rockdale County) 77-6.
Mays’ potent offense, under the reins of senior Homer Causey, has averaged 28.6 points per game. With only one returning offensive lineman from last year, team captain Gregory Eason, a completely rebuilt offensive line has paved the way for junior running back Torey Bowen (pictured), another 1,000 yard rusher. Bowen averaged 6.2 yards per carry scoring 15 touchdowns on the season. The Raiders used their running game to set up the passing game. Causey has racked up 1,802 all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns. Causey’s biggest target, sophomore wideout DeAngelo Yancey, leads the team with six touchdown catches in his first year of varsity play.
With a lot of new starters on offense, the defense took up much of the slack in order to secure Raider wins. Senior linebacker and Georgia Tech commitment Darrius Caldwell averaged just under one sack per game (.8), and is the leading tackler with 9.2 a game. Senior defensive lineman and fellow Georgia State commitment Rodrick Thompson compiled 17 tackles this season.
After finishing one win short of the state championships, the Gladiators are hungrier this year, said Quenshaun Watson. That amount of confidence can be both beneficial and problematic, head coach Leroy Ryals admits. Although he thinks this team is mature enough to avoid being overconfident.
These two teams both have the talent and the will to win, so the outcome of this pivotal match up will come down to which team can execute. The winner will go on to face the winner of the East Paulding-Rome game in the second round of the playoffs. The loser will set their sights on next season.