“The next two games scare me,” he said of the prospects facing his newly No. 2-state ranked Bears as they prepare to play Stockbridge on Friday at Memorial Stadium and Riverdale Oct. 5 at Tara Stadium.
Griffin moved up from No. 3 to No. 2 in the state’s two largest polls this week, replacing Marist in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Class AAAA state poll on Sunday and Statesboro in the Associated Press on Tuesday.
It just means Griffin (4-0) has more to defend than ever when the Kevin Whitley-coached Tigers come calling in an all-time series the Bears lead 6-0, the most recent outing being a 44-0 Bears win at Memorial Stadium in 2009. But a lot has changed since then for the Tigers which finished 2-8 in 2009. Whitley, then in his first year coaching Stockbridge after coming over from Creekside where he coached Eric Berry amongst others — and beat the Bears 20-0 in the second round of the 2006 Class AAAA state playoffs — has since guided the the Tigers to records of 6-5 in 2010 and 9-3 last season.
And so far this year they are 3-1.
“Their only loss is to a Class AAAAA team, (Class AAAAA No. 3-state ranked) MLK (23-0 in the season opener), and they’ve gotten a lot better since then,” DeVoursney said of a Stockbridge team that has reeled of wins against Upson-Lee 13-3, Columbia 34-8 and most recently North Clayton 15-14 in their last three games. “They have a lot of speed on both sides of the ball and you can tell they are well coached, so it’s going to be a big game for us.”
It’s also a Region 4-AAAA crossover game, meaning it could factor into tiebreakers later this season.
Of course, Griffin has been on a run this season too, running the table with wins against Dutchtown 42-16, Northgate 35-6, Jonesboro 34-33 and, most recently, Woodland-Stockbridge 52-20.
Second-year Bears offensive coordinator Justin Rogers couldn’t be happier with the way his unit, averaging 38.5 ppg, is playing heading into what will likely be its largest test to date.
“It’s hard to be mad when you had one pick, didn’t punt and scored 52 points,” he said of last week’s season-high output. “I was really excited how well we ran the ball.”
Junior running back Devontae Freeman led the way rushing for 137 yards on 13 carries, which included touchdown runs of 5, 19 and 50 yards. In all, the Bears amassed 318 yards on 37 carries. Quarterback Jaquez Parks ran eight times for 51 yards while running back Malik Miller, who leads the team with seven touchdowns — six of them rushing — added 42 yards on four carries.
Of course, Parks was also brilliant through the air, completing 14 of 26 for 198 yards and two touchdown with one interception. Backup Anforne’ Stroud completed 2 of 4 for 42 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option. The duo’s favorite receiver was first-year sophomore Christian Owens who had a career-highs in catches (7) and yards (125). Classmates Keyston Fuller, who had a pair of touchdown receptions, and Quay Mangham, who had another touchdown catch, rounded out the attack.
DeVoursney knows they’ll be hard-pressed this week against a Stockbridge defense allowing a subregion-leading 12 ppg against.
“They held MLK to 23 points — and MLK scored one off a blocked and another off an interception,” he said flatly.
Rogers is well aware of the 4-3 quarter coverage his team will face Friday.
“They’re about as basic as it gets,” he said. “They do very little, but they do it good.”
One thing that could cut into Griffin’s production is the suspension of several players for the second week in a row for unspecified reasons.
“They could have played last week and they could play this week, but we want to send a message to the team there are consequences for your actions on and off the field, right or wrong,” said DeVoursney.
On the other side of the ball, Griffin will face a double-slot offense averaging a subregion-low 15 ppg for. Griffin, allowing 18 ppg against, has decided to start over this week.
“We’re telling the kids to forget about the mistakes they made the first four games and focus on getting better,” said sixth-year Griffin defensive coordinator Rusty Easom. “The next six games are big.”
To the defense’s credit, it gave up 20 points last week but one of the scores came off an interception returned to the Griffin 13-yard line.