Central, Parkview battle for second place

Through eight weeks of the season the best team in Region 8-AAAAA is pretty clear. First-place Brookwood has steamrolled through much of the schedule and has won every region game by double-digit margins.

What isn't so obvious is which team is second-best. Central Gwinnett and Parkview are both 4-1 - with both team's losses to Brookwood - and they've both won each of those four contests in similarly dominating styles.

Parkview's average margin of victory is 31.5, Central's is 30.0. So it isn't nearly as apparent as to which team is second-best in 8-AAAAA.

But it will be after tonight, where the winner will sew up the No. 2 seed in the region.

"You're trying to play for a spot in the playoffs and get a home game that first week," Parkview head coach Cecil Flowe said.

Central is actually playing for even more than that.

The Black Knights are trying to prove they belong among the region's elite. They've already earned a berth to the playoffs for a second year in a row, but they want more than that. They want to show that they can do more than just play with the big boys, but that they can beat them.

Central has lost to Parkview by an average margin of 28.2 points the last five meetings.

"We feel like we'll come ready to play," Central head coach Bradley Warren said. "We won't be intimidated. We'll be ready to play. And we'll see if we've closed the gap or if we've actually passed them."

Judging from their common opponents this season, Central does appear to have considerably narrowed the gap with the Panthers, who haven't lost to a region team other than Brookwood since 1999.

This season Parkview beat South Gwinnett 21-6 and Central beat the Comets 31-17. Parkview defeated Berkmar 35-2; Central won 48-6. Parkview downed Shiloh 49-7 and Central beat the Generals 35-0. The Panthers lost to Brookwood by 21 points; Central lost by 11.

So, just judging from the region results, the Black Knights certainly appear to have a chance tonight against the perennial state power.

"He's got his best team ever," Flowe said. "They've got two really good running backs. They do a bunch of stuff with them, you have to prepare for a lot."

Said Warren: "We're really focused. And the players know they have to have another great ballgame to have a chance in this one."

Both teams have excellent running games. Parkview's Caleb King leads the county in rushing with 1,561 yards and 13 touchdowns. Central's Beau Johnson (1,205 yards, 14 TDs) and Yusuf Holloway (563 yards, 7 TDs) combine to form the best 1-2 punch in Gwinnett.

But with both defenses having to gear up to stop the run, tonight's game might very well come down to which team does the other things better - like winning special teams, the turnover battle and the passing attack.

Parkview's Patrick Witt threw for 143 yards and four touchdowns in last week's 43-7 win over Meadowcreek.

"He threw the ball very well on Friday, he threw to all the right people," Flowe said. "I thought he did a real good job ... and he will have to make plays. They play a lot of man, so you have some things you have to do against them."

Because running against the Black Knights' speedy, aggressive defense isn't easy.

"You've got to cut them off," Flowe said. "You have to keep yourself in position, because they can run. They have single digit numbers in the front (line)."

And Warren knows his offense will have quite a challenge as well against

the always-stout Parkview defense, which will be without injured defensive end Greg Billinger for tonight's game.

"The coaching staff always has them ready to play," Warren said. "What they do on defense isn't that complicated, but they're really good on that side. And they're really good on the defensive line."