Since a 17-14 loss on a 27-yard field goal with no time left against No. 5-state ranked Stockbridge in the fifth game of the season, the No. 6-state ranked Bears’ path to victory has grown easier and easier. Plays Griffin struggled to make at times early this season are now just happening, effortlessly.
Action has replaced thought as the Bears (8-1) have reeled off consecutive victories against Riverdale, North Clayton, Upson-Lee and Spalding heading into tonight’s Region 4-AAAA crossover play-in game against fourth-seeded Eagle’s Landing (1-8).
Consider the facts:
* In Game 6, Griffin jumped out to a 28-0 lead — early in the third quarter — on the way to a 35-14 victory at Riverdale.
* In Game 7, Griffin jumped out to a 28-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter in a 42-20 homecoming win against North Clayton.
* In Game 8, Griffin jumped out to a 21-0 lead at archrival Upson-Lee. While the Knights mounted a comeback in the form of a pair of two-play scoring drives late in the game, the Bears mounted a nifty 14-play, 57-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown with 1:29 left to play on the way to clinching the Region 4-AAAA Div. B championship with a 28-14 win.
* In Game 9, Griffin won by its largest margin of the season — 42 points, blanking Spalding 42-0.
Contrast the above with facts from Griffin’s first four games:
* In Game 1, Griffin overcame a 16-7 halftime deficit to win 42-16 at Dutchtown.
* In Game 2, Griffin led 22-0 at Northgate on the way to a 35-6 victory.
* In Game 3, Griffin rallied from a two-score deficit in the fourth quarter to win 34-33 against No. 7-state ranked Jonesboro in a game that was a rematch of a 2011 opening-round-state playoff game Griffin also rallied to win with a pair of scores in the final two minutes.
* In Game 4, Griffin — leading 33-20 after Woodland-Stockbridge scored on the first possession of the second half — put the game away by scoring on its next three possessions to carry a 52-20 lead into the fourth quarter where the speed-up rule was instituted.
While Griffin continues to develop, it is evident the Bears are poised to strike hard and often heading into the playoffs where their first test figures to be an admirable one.
ELHS is now playing much better than its 1-8 record indicates.
Since starting to use its best players on both sides of the ball two games ago, the Golden Eagles have defeated Woodland-Stockbridge 30-28 three weeks ago and lost to Region 4-AAAA Div. A second-place Locust Grove 35-34 two weeks ago — on the last play.
Off last week, the Golden Eagles figure to be refreshed and ready to for a fight tonight.
Griffin expects Eagle’s Landing, which is averaging 26 ppg, to come looking for a shootout.
It’s a shootout Griffin will be more than happy to end.
Griffin’s gunslingers — the quarterback tandem of starter Jaquez Parks and backup Anforne’ Stroud — combined to set what is believed to be the school’s modern-day passing record for yards in a game (333) last week against Spalding. Parks, who only the week before set his career-high mark of 273 yards passing in a win at Upson-Lee, was 15-19-1 for 181 yards and a TD, while Stroud was 10-11-0 for 152 yards and 2 TDs.
It’s hard not to get the feeling both underclassmen are just getting warmed up for a run deep into the playoffs.
Of course, tonight’s elimination game is the first step. The winner advances to an opening-round Class AAAA state playoff game next week, while the loser’s season comes to an end.
Look for the high-flying Bears to extend their school-record state playoff streak to 12... Bears 52-21.
John Sullivan is the sports editor at the Griffin Daily News.