If Taylor Heinicke can keep his impressive freshman season going with a win this weekend, his reward will be playing next weekend in Georgia.
The Collins Hill grad and his Old Dominion team face Norfolk State today in the FCS Playoffs opener, with the winner earning a trip to face No. 3 national seed Georgia Southern next Saturday in Statesboro.
Old Dominion has a good chance of making that trip if Heinicke keeps up his amazing season, which began with him expecting to redshirt behind a senior quarterback. But an injury to the starter made Heinicke, who had stood out in practices, the starter.
He's been nearly perfect since he took over the role.
The 2010 Daily Post player of the year is 5-1 as a starter, throwing 15 touchdown passes with just one interception (on a Hail Mary as time expired). He's completed 165 of 233 passes (70.8) percent for 1,770 yards, in addition to rushes for 263 yards and three scores.
If he had enough attempts to qualify, he'd rank among the nation's leaders in a handful of categories.
Heinicke is part of handful of Gwinnett grads who are competing in the FCS playoffs. Here's a look at the others:
-- Georgia Southern
The Eagles' roster features 14 Gwinnett players, including Buford's Domonique Swope, who was named the Southern Conference co-freshman of the year this week. He has rushed for 591 yards and four TDs, most of it late in the season.
Teammate Manrey Saint-Armour, a North Gwinnett grad, also made the league's all-freshman team.
Shiloh's Michael Butler (27 tackles, 3 sacks) has played a lot at safety, as has Peachtree Ridge's Mitchell Williford, who has played in all 11 games at receiver.
The other Gwinnett products on the roster are Seon Jones (Buford), Dion DuBose (Norcross, out with medical redshirt), Charlie Brower (Mountain View), Devonte Lewis (Mill Creek), Austin Hagan (Mill Creek), Raymond Klugey (Norcross), Trevor McBurnett (Peachtree Ridge), Wilson Hudgins (Grayson), Allen Lee (North Gwinnett) and Cody Rediger (Mill Creek).
Wofford, which opens the playoffs next Saturday at No. 5 national seed Northern Iowa, features senior Eric Eberhardt, a North Gwinnett grad who has 41 tackles (33 solos), 8 tackles for losses and 4 sacks.
Fellow North grad Kenny Barnes is a sophomore tight end with a TD catch this season, Dacula's Calvin Cantrell is a junior leader on the offensive line and Wesleyan's Jordan Pope is freshman defensive end.
The Mountaineers host Maine next Saturday with three Gwinnett grads on the roster, sophomore lineman Ian Barnard (Wesleyan) and two freshmen, quarterback Kalik Barnes (Parkview) and linebacker Brandon McGowan (North Gwinnett).
Peachtree Ridge's Brandon Stanley has 10 tackles this season as a freshman defensive back at EKU, which opens the playoffs today with a play-in game vs. James Madison. The winner plays next Saturday at No. 2 national seed North Dakota State.
Yurk earns conference honor
Grayson grad Michael Yurk, a senior lineman for Concordia College Chicago, was named to the All-Northern Athletics Conference second team this week.
The 6-foot-3, 242-pounder spent two years on the defensive line, but has been a steady force at right tackle the past two seasons.
Sarden named CUSA's top freshman
Peachtree Ridge grad DeLaina Sarden, a middle blocker at Central Florida, was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Year this week.
Sarden reached double-digit kills in 12 Conference USA matches, totaling 193 kills (2.54 per set). Her 81 blocks and 18 solo blocks also led the team's defense.
Greater Atlanta Christian's Trent Wiedeman had 15 points and eight rebounds last weekend as College of Charleston upset Clemson. He followed that up with 19 points and five rebounds in a loss to Central Florida. ... Wake Forest's Mykala Walker had nine points and five rebounds, and her team got the victory Wednesday over Mercer and her former Duluth teammate, Alex Phillips, who grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
Smith wins tourney at Navy
Wesleyan grad Kelby Smith won the individual title at 197 pounds last weekend and helped The Citadel to a fourth-place finish in the Navy Classic.
Smith beat Navy's Matt McVay 6-2, Bucknell's Tyler Lyster 5-1, West Virginia's Mac Mancuso 6-4 and Navy's Paul Rands 5-2.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.