Photo: Karl L. Moore Central Gwinnett's Jonathon Hawkins (24) breaks through the takle of Collins Hill's Grant McDonald (18) during a game earlier this season.
CENTRAL AT GRAYSON
CENTRAL GWINNETT BLACK KNIGHTS (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: Todd Wofford
Record: 3-1, 1-1
Last week: Lost to South Gwinnett 42-28
GRAYSON RAMS (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: Mickey Conn
Record: 4-1, 2-1
Last week: Beat Shiloh 45-27
Last meeting: Grayson won 22-0 last year
Directions to Grayson High School: From I-85, go east on Sugarloaf Parkway to Ga. Highway 20 and turn right. Proceed through Grayson and turn right on Hope Hollow Road. School is immediately on the left.
Knowing an opponent's available personnel is always important for a football coach trying to come up with a game plan for a given game.
So, it's understandable that Grayson coach Mickey Conn finds himself in a bit of a dilemma when trying to game plan tonight's Region 8-AAAAAA game against Central Gwinnett, with the status of Black Knights quarterback Eman Westmoreland uncertain.
"Sure it does (make a difference)," Conn said. "(Westmoreland is) such a great player that you've got to prepare for him being the guy. But at the same time, you have to be aware of what (Central) likes to do when he's not in there."
As it stands, the status of Westmoreland, who has thrown for 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns on 72 of 114 passing to be Gwinnett's second-leading passer thus far, is still up in the air according to Central coach Todd Wofford.
"The doctor said (Monday) that he should be good to go (tonight)," Wofford said. "But he didn't practice (Tuesday), and we'll have to see how he does (the rest of the week). He could be a game-time decision."
And make no mistake, Westmoreland's presence or absence could make a difference in how the Black Knights (3-1, 1-1) approach tonight's game offensively.
With him, they boast a formidable aerial attack in their spread offense, with Westmoreland having targets like Justin Brownlee (23 rec., 515 yds., 6 TDs), Zedekiah Brown (17-138) and Chris Shelling (14-193, 2 TDs) to choose from.
Without him late in last week's loss to South Gwinnett, Central relied more on its running game behind Johnathan Hawkins and Jourdin Shiloh, as well as backup QB Nate Hartford, with the latter two combining to run for more than 150 yards.
And regardless of whether or not Westmoreland plays, Wofford says it's important that the Black Knights improve its running game.
"Last week, Jourdin Shiloh gave us a spark," Wofford said. "Of course there's Johnathan, and Brownlee can run some, too. Either way, we've want to try to spread it around.
"We're about a 50-50 (run-pass) team anyway, but for the last two years, running on Grayson is not something anybody's done much of. We're going to have to establish some sort of running game to be successful."
On the ground or through the air, the Black Knights are going to have to find away to produce offensively against one of the toughest defenses in the state in Grayson (4-1, 2-1).
That unit, led by big-time college prospects like Robert Nkemdiche, Wayne Gallman, Jack Banda, Ryan Carter and Zach Barnes, has become the trademark for the No. 7 state-ranked Rams.
But the Black Knights will also have their hands full against a Grayson offense that clicked much better since an upset loss to No. 8 Parkview last month, scoring 45 points in each of their two games since behind the running of a deep running back stable led by Gallman and Aares McCall.
The biggest difference, according to Conn has been cutting down on mistakes.
After turning the ball over four times in the Parkview loss, the Rams have committed just one miscue since, while also cutting down on costly penalties in last week's win over Shiloh after committing double digit infractions the previous two games.
"We got a lot better (in the penalty department) and we stayed more focused last week," Conn said. "But the turnovers are what really hurt us against Parkview. I think that message was well received. The first unit last week, I think, played the best it's played all year. I was very pleased."