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A 'new season' for GAC

Greater Atlanta Christian quarterback Rafe Chappie(12) scores a touchdown during a game against Wesleyan this season.

Greater Atlanta Christian quarterback Rafe Chappie(12) scores a touchdown during a game against Wesleyan this season.

Model at GAC

Model Blue Devils (7-AA)

Coach: Gordon Powers

Record: 6-4, 5-2 region

Last week: Beat Dade County 41-21

GAC Spartans (6-AA)

Coach: Tim Hardy

Record: 7-3, 3-1 region

Last week: Lost to Lovett 31-30

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: GAC won 9-0 in 1995

Directions to Greater Atlanta Christian High School: From I-85, go east on Indian Trail Road and school is on the right.

Tim Hardy admits getting past last week's game took some time.

In his first year leading the Spartans, Hardy's team spent its season focused on claiming its first region championship since 2001 and they came up one point short a week ago against Lovett.

"We set a goal to win a region championship and all our efforts were focused on that and we came up short of our goal," Hardy said. "(Getting over it) is a process easier said than done."

But unlike last year, where the loss kept the Spartans out of the postseason, the team returned to the GAC campus Sunday to watch film of the loss and move into this week. Call it learning, call it cathartic, but the film session put an end to the loss and set up the Spartans for a new focus, Model and the Class AA state playoffs.

"Now we are on to a new season," Hardy said. "We are going to draw on the experiences (of the regular season)."

And with just three returning starters from a season ago, this past regular season is all the Spartans can rely on.

"At this point, you've played an entire regular season," Hardy said. "They are experienced."

Hardy pointed to a televised game against Westminster and a battle with local rival Wesleyan, both games the Spartans won.

"The fortunate thing is we play in a difficult region," Hardy said. "We've played some games that had a lot at stake. This is definitely a new level, this is the first game we've played where if you lose the season is over. But a sense of urgency can bring a better focus as well."

Against Model, the Spartans will face a team relishing the spoils of a successful season the Blue Devils rarely see. The power-I formation team's six wins are the most since an eight-win year in 1980 (it won six games in 1999 and 1981) and this is the school's first trip to the playoffs since 2003.

Model doesn't score loads of points, but it doesn't need to. Even on its worst day, a shutout loss to Calhoun, it allowed just 35 points and it only allowed over 20 three other times. That will be the challenge for the Spartans' offense led by running back Kyle Scales and quarterback Rafe Chapple.

Chapple threw for 1,618 yards and 17 touchdowns in the regular season, completing 56.1 percent of his passes. Then there is Scales who racked up 1,063 yards and 16 touchdowns during the regular season, despite ending the season slowed by an ankle injury. Hardy said Scales is as healthy as any player is after 10 weeks of football and the team's leading rusher still managed 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last week's loss to Lovett.

"We have those kinds of (injuries), but at the same time we are pretty blessed," Hardy said. "Pretty much everybody is intact."

And with most players getting their first taste of the playoffs, the excitement for tonight's home game built through the week.

"We are trying to get them to understand the privilege we have earned to be a part of the tournament," Hardy said. "As we get into it and it gets up to Friday (the energy) will build up."