Photo: Karl L. Moore — Parkview's Demonte Dawson (2) finds a little room to run as South Gwinnett's Anthony Beck (42) tries to make the tackle during last week's game at South Gwinnett.
Parkview at Walton
Parkview Panthers (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: Cecil Flowe
Last week: Lost to South Gwinnett 16-14
Walton Raiders (5-AAAAAA)
Coach: Rocky Hidalgo
Last week: Lost to Roswell 28-24
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Walton won 31-20 in 2007
Directions to Walton High School: I-285 to Riverside Drive exit, go right. Make a left on Johnson Ferry Road, go five miles and turn left on Sewell Mill Road. Make a left on Bill Murdoch Road and school is on left) OR (Holcomb Bridge Road to Highway 9, go left. Make a right on Highway 120 and a right on Johnson Ferry Road.
If there are two coaches matched up in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs who should have empathy with each other they are Parkview's Cecil Flowe and Walton's Rocky Hidalgo.
The Panthers (7-3, No. 3 seed from Region 8-AAAAAA) and Raiders (7-3, No. 2 seed from Region 5-AAAAAA) certainly have a lot in common as they square off in the opening round tonight at 7:30 at Raider Valley.
Both should be missing their starting tailbacks, and a significant portion of their offense with injuries to Alabama commit Tyren Jones of Walton (266 car., 1,682 yds., 16 TDs) and Division I prospect Chris Carson of Parkview (175 car., 1,100 yds., 11 TDs).
Both have also been missing their starting quarterbacks for a good portion of the season. Parkview's Rob Youngblood and Walton's Parker McLeod, another Alabama commit, have since returned to the lineup and should be ready to go -- though Youngblood will likely continue to share snaps with Mac Marshall.
Still, both Flowe and Hidalgo have had to do a lot of mixing and matching in recent weeks to find yards and points, a task that remains in tonight's matchup.
"It's just the nature of the game," Flowe said of all the key players banged up. "It's unfortunate, but you readjust and keep playing. We've got to find some offense somewhere.
"Having Rob back helps some. So, we'll just plug some guys in here and there and see what we can come up with."
One of the answers the Panthers have come up with to try to get some production at running back in Carson's absence has been more carries for Justis Rosser.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior has responded with 208 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries over the past two weeks.
The only concern has meant a heavier workload for Rosser, who is also plays an important role in the secondary for the Parkview defense.
But there have been very few concerns about that unit, which ranks as one of Gwinnett's best by giving up an average of just 13.3 points per game behind defensive linemen Hunter Thornton (87 tackles, 3 sacks) and Sam Willis (87 tackles, 7 sacks) and linebacker Kyle Williams (84 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 INT).
And it will have to continue that good work against a Walton offense that will try to get McLeod back into form, as well as D.J. Smith (61 car., 356 yds., 4 TDs rushing, 27 rec., 368 yds., 4 TDs receiving), who has been the Raiders' main playmaker in Jones' absence.
"They've given us a chance to win (most games)," Flowe said of his defense. "We went into the South Gwinnett game saying they weren't going to cut the field in half.
"They scored 16 points, and they average over 30 per game. So, they did a pretty good job."