Sports Editor Will Hammock
High school football fans had plenty to focus on last Friday night, and not just news from their own team.
Grayson edged Brookwood on a crazy interception for a touchdown in the waning seconds, capping an intense rivalry game that was full of hype after students released YouTube videos challenging the other school.
Upstart Archer dominated longtime Gwinnett standard-bearer Parkview 40-16 to put the program's first playoff game within reach, Norcross beat out Collins Hill for Region's 7-AAAAA's third seed and Dacula's Rocky Capobianco nearly rushed for 300 yards.
Over at Shiloh, Central Gwinnett's Malachi Jones broke the county's single-season record for receptions with his 73rd of the season. And that wasn't even the neatest thing that happened in the Generals' home stadium last Friday.
While it wasn't front-page news outside of a small community in Snellville, Shiloh surprised longtime supporter Tom Marley by naming its new fieldhouse in his honor. The announcement was made at the Central game, which was a secret kept from Marley until it happened.
It was a great honor for Marley, a guy who has done more than his fair share to hold the Shiloh community together over the years. As others have moved in and out of the cluster, he has stayed put and has donated unfathomable hours into Shiloh from the late 1980s, when his son began wrestling for the school, until now.
It would be easy for Marley to do something else with his time -- with Shiloh's revolving door of football coaches and athletic directors over the past decade -- but it's not in his nature. He'd rather do what he can to help the kids who live in the community he's supported for more than 20 years.
The world, and high school athletics, needs more guys like Marley.
Here are some other thoughts as we enter the last week of the high school football regular season:
• The place to be, at least if you're a recruiting guru, is Central Gwinnett on Friday. Under Armour All-American Game scouts, as well as the usual crews from Scout, Rivals and ESPN, will be in attendance to catch some college prospects, most notably two of the state's top juniors in Grayson's Robert Nkemdiche and Central's Trey Johnson, on the same field.
• Speaking of Nkemdiche and the Grayson defense, the scary part is that nearly everyone on the unit is a junior. The Rams have a shot at a great finish this year, but expect just as much from them in 2012.
• Kudos to third-year program Archer for being in the playoff mix in Game 10. And unless something crazy happens Friday (Archer loses to South Gwinnett and Parkview upsets Dacula), the Tigers are headed to the state playoffs.
• The winner or loser of Friday's Region 7-AAAAA championship game between North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge will get drastically different first-round opponents in the state level. The loser gets playoff-tested and defending state champion Brookwood in the opener, while the winner likely gets a first-time playoff team in Archer.
• It's been a great year for turnaround teams, starting with Dacula's rebound from an 0-2 start to the No. 2 seed in 8-AAAAA. But other teams who stayed positive after slow starts include Collins Hill (from 1-3 to the playoffs), Archer (1-3 to possible playoff berth) and Hebron (from 0-5 to a possible 5-5 record with a win Friday).
Will Hammock can be reached via email at email@example.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.