Collins Hill's Nick England (5) tries to beat the tackle of Roswell's Joe Bartlett (22) during last Friday night's playoff game.
Kevin Reach is a veteran of Georgia high school football. A Gwinnett County football historian, he is not.
The Collins Hill head coach is in only his third season in the county, so he knows no details of Gwinnett’s past battles with Lowndes. The Vikings are 10-4 all-time against Gwinnett teams, not that it matters too much to Reach, in his first season as the Eagles’ head coach.
COLLINS HILL AT LOWNDES
Who: Collins Hill Eagles (7-AAAAA) ar Lowndes Vikings (1-AAAAA)
When: Today, 8 p.m.
Where: Lowndes High School (I-75 south to exit 18; turn left and go to the third traffic light; turn right onto Norman Dr.; stadium is on the right)
Coaches: Kevin Reach, Collins Hill; Randy McPherson, Lowndes
Records: Collins Hill 9-3; Lowndes 10-2
Last week: Collins Hill beat Roswell 35-24; Lowndes beat Newnan 38-14
Winner plays: Brookwood-Hillgrove winner
Collins Hill Leaders:
Rushing: Jordan Parker, 402 yards
Passing: Taylor Heinicke, 3,509 yards
Receiving: Zay Howard, 966 yards
Tackles: Travis Parker, 110
Interceptions: Connor Boston, 2
Rushing: Troy Braswell, 901 yards
Sam Duncan, 599 yards
Passing: Cole Parker, 1,142 yards
Receiving: Josh Clemons, 425 yards
Tackles: Chris Scurry, 93
Josh Clemons, 86
Interceptions: Three with 3 each
Collins Hill Eagles (9-3)
Roswell W 13-9
Brookwood L 45-38 (2 OT)
M.L. King L 43-36
at North Gwinnett L 33-20
Duluth W 49-14
at P’tree Ridge W 14-10
Mill Creek W 42-34
at Mountain View W 24-0
Norcross W 42-0
at Meadowcreek W 36-0
Woodstock W 7-3
at Roswell W 35-24
Lowndes Vikings (10-2)
South Gwinnett W 34-26
Pebblebrook W 47-7
at McEachern L 23-22
Leon (Fla.) W 53-7
Burke County W 36-0
at Ware County W 3-0
at Valdosta W 24-17
Colquitt County W 37-27
at Coffee W 33-22
Tift County L 10-7
Groves W 42-6
Newnan W 38-14
He’s well aware that history won’t factor into the outcome when his team travels to Lowndes tonight for the Class AAAAA quarterfinals.
“I haven’t been involved with any of that (past),” Reach said. “I do know the last time Lowndes lost a home playoff game was 2001 and that was against Collins Hill. We’re going to try to do that again.”
If the Eagles can pull off the feat, the pass will get them there.
Quarterback Taylor Heinicke has thrown for county records of 3,509 yards and 40 touchdown passes, to only six interceptions. The pass-heavy attack is evident in the statistics — Heinicke has attempted 342 passes while leading rusher Jordan Parker has 69 carries.
Collins Hill (9-3) hopes to keep the offense rolling against a stingy Lowndes defense that has allowed its most points to spread teams with the ability to pass — 26 to South Gwinnett and 27 to Colquitt.
“(Lowndes) is going to bring some pressure so we’re going to have to pick things up,” Reach said of a Vikings defense that has 18 interceptions this season and a secondary loaded with high-level college prospects.
Offensively, Lowndes runs its traditional wing-T that shares the load with a pack of running backs. Leading the way is Troy Braswell, a 5-foot-7, 170-pound speedster who had 140 of his 901 rushing yards this season last Friday against Newnan.
Florida State commitment Tyler Hunter is one of the team’s top athletes and he filled in nicely at quarterback last Friday for the injured Cole Parker. Parker (1,142 passing yards, 15 TDs) was out with a jammed thumb, but is expected to return tonight.
Ideally, Lowndes won’t rely on the pass much. It leans on the run as always, maybe even moreso than Collins Hill relies on the pass.
“They’re still running the wing-T and they’re not going to change anything, it’s been good to them for so long,” Reach said. “Offensively, they just love to grind up that clock. ... I think we’re going to have to get a couple of three and outs. We can’t let them have the seven-, eight-minute drives and then have us go three and out.”
Lowndes is tough to beat at home and it has the tradition of three state championships in the last seven seasons, while Collins Hill has made it past the quarterfinals just once in school history. That was back in 2001, courtesy of a win at Lowndes.
Can the Eagles repeat that magic tonight?
“We’re not going to make it a vacation trip, our main objective is get on a bus, get off a bus, win a game, get back on the bus and come home,” Reach said. “Now that we’re down to four games left in AAAAA and we’re one of them, we feel like we’ve got as good a chance as anybody.”