To top it off, the anticipation of opening a really large, unexpected gift awaits. For not only is it opening-night — as if that isn’t enough — but it is also rivalry night as Griffin High and Spalding High face each other at Memorial Stadium and across town, Griffin Christian hosts Flint River at Nix Field.
Elsewhere in the area, Skipstone Academy is idle and Faith Christian Academy travels to take on Independent Christian Schools of Georgia and Alabama (ICSGA) 2009 playoff runner-up Grace Baptist Christian.
With that, tonight’s picks:
n Spalding (5-6 in 2009) at No. 2-ranked Griffin (13-1): Both teams will likely try to establish the run early, thanks to strong running games led by senior Zay Sharp (726 yards and 5 TDs) — who has already verbally committed to Louisville — at Spalding and classmate Wontavious Washington (16-181 yards and 1 TD) at Griffin. However, if that doesn’t work, things could get interesting in a hurry. Expect an aerial display of epic proportions.
Pulling the trigger for Spalding High is junior quarterback Casey Moody. The third-year starter passed for 1,660 yards and 12 TDs as a freshman and 1,765 yards and 15 TDs in 2009 as a junior.
Pulling the trigger for Griffin High is senior quarterback Tyler Hamm. The first-year starter started and won a game as a sophomore and completed 23-of-54 passes for 375 yards and 3 TDs last year in mop-up duty.
While Hamm doesn’t have the career stats of Moody, he has a cast of four receivers who have already received Division I offers, including wide outs Nile Daniel (Kentucky), Chandler Worthy (Marshall and Troy) and Xzavier Dickson (Alabama, Florida and Georgia to name a few) as well as end Ty Turner (South Florida).
Both teams took large steps last year, the Clint-Ashmore Spalding Jaguars by reaching the state playoffs for the fist time in six years and the Steve DeVoursney-led Griffin Bears by making it to the Class AAAA state semifinals for the second year in a row and the third time in the last five years.
Griffin has dominated this series in modern times, topping Spalding 62-13 in 2008 and 42-10 in 2009. But with two Griffin starters out — offensive guard Jonathon Archer (non-athletic related major surgery for a prior condition) and fullback Artavious Parker (ankle) — and a number of changes on the Spalding offensive line in the last week, this game is too tough to call…OFF.
n Flint River (9-2) at Griffin Christian (7-4): The last time these two teams met, they played for the GISA Region 4-AA championship. Griffin Christian prevailed 20-14 in double overtime, thanks to a 282-yard, 2-touchdown night by 2009 Griffin Daily News Offensive Player of the Year Anthony Lewis.
Both teams will play in different classifications this year, so this is non-region. It’s still a rivalry. GCHS has Lewis leading the charge, while perennial GISA Class AA state power Flint River has Ethan Rowe — who as a freshman led Griffin Christian in yards rushed and touchdowns before transferring to Flint River — to pave the way.
Rowe scored one touchdown on a fumble return last year in that game. Anthony scored two, the first on a 78-yard run with two minutes left in regulation to force overtime and the second on a 5-yard touchdown run in overtime.
Edge, again, this year to Lewis and Company… Crusaders 20-17.
n Faith Christian (1-0) at Grace Baptist Christian (0-0): HIRAM, Ga. — This will be Faith’s second game of the season under first-year head coach Nelson Grist, while it will serve as the season opener for ICSGA 2009 runner-up Grace Baptist.
Faith Christian only lost four games all of last season. Two of them were to Grace, the first, 36-6, coming in the regular season and the second, 32-20, coming in the opening round of the ICSGA playoffs. So this will be a good measuring stick to see how far the Lions have come since then… Lions 28-27.
(Sullivan is the sports editor at the Griffin Daily News.)