Gut check time for Brookwood, Peachtree Ridge

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Peachtree Ridge's DiAndre Atwater (27) attempts to break the tackle of North Gwinnett's Justin Thomas (43) during the game last week.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Peachtree Ridge's DiAndre Atwater (27) attempts to break the tackle of North Gwinnett's Justin Thomas (43) during the game last week.

Both Brookwood and Peachtree Ridge hoped for a better result in their marquee football game of the season.

The Broncos, in a game hyped up by both schools' pre-game videos, pushed nationally ranked Grayson to the brink but lost 14-7 on an interception return for a touchdown in the game's final minute.

Peachtree Ridge's showcase game was last Friday, when it lost 28-0 to fellow Region 7-AAAAA unbeaten North Gwinnett in a game that decided the region title.

Brookwood got back on track last week with a rout of Berkmar, while Peachtree Ridge must bounce back just as quickly when it hosts the Broncos tonight in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.

"We've just got to look forward, we can't worry about (last week)," first-year Peachtree Ridge coach Mark Fleetwood said. "Brookwood's got the ability to win a state championship. They're that kind of team."

Brookwood was in a similar position to Peachtree Ridge just two weeks ago, when it had to recover from a brutally painful loss. The Broncos (7-3) were tied with Grayson 7-7 -- and could have been ahead if not for a missed second-half field goal -- and appeared headed for overtime. Then a costly interception as they were pushing for the go-ahead score turned the game into a stunning loss.

But Brookwood head coach Mark Crews was impressed with how quickly his players put that behind them.

"I was proud of the way they came out the other night (against Berkmar)," Crews said. "A lot of times you have the tendency to make mistakes and play sloppy when you play a team with one win that you're supposed to beat. But I think they worked hard and played well. They made progress to get ready for this week."

This week pits the Broncos against Peachtree Ridge (8-2), the 7-AAAAA runner-up.

The Lions have made a great turnaround under Fleetwood, who has returned them to the playoffs after a one-year absence. The same stingy defense that has been a Peachtree Ridge staple is there, but it's been boosted by a more diverse offense triggered by quarterback Billy Best.

That unit must try to move the ball against a Brookwood defense that hasn't allowed more than 21 points in a game all season.

"They're running somewhat of an attack style defense," Fleetwood said. "They're playing with a lot of confidence. They believe in what they're doing. You can see that on the field."

Fleetwood also is concerned with Brookwood's running game, featuring Nick Tompkins and Jamaal Cole.

"No question about it, we have to stop the run (better than we did vs. North)," Fleetwood said. "They've got a couple of great running backs who are tough and run hard."

Both programs are used to deep playoff runs, including Brookwood's march to last year's state championship. Before last season, Peachtree Ridge had made the quarterfinals, the state final, the second round and won the state championship the previous four seasons.

There's a good chance the Brookwood-Peachtree Ridge winner could go on another playoff run this season. But taking that first step will be tough in this intriguing first-round showdown.

"Everybody does that looking down the road thing to see who's in your bracket," Crews said. "But you've got to treat it like the regular season and focus on this week. If you don't, there won't be a second or third round."