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Archer, Central hope for big swing with win Friday

Central Gwinnett's Nigel Adams (23) runs the ball during the Black Knights' game against Grayson last week.

Central Gwinnett's Nigel Adams (23) runs the ball during the Black Knights' game against Grayson last week.

When Archer visits Central Gwinnett Friday at 7:30, it may fit the textbook definition of a swing game as far as the Region 8-AAAAAA standings are concerned.

The winner will remain hot on the trail of the frontrunners in the race for one of the region's four Class AAAAAA state playoff berths, while the loser faces a major uphill climb.

A win would also bring each team within reach of other significant goals, with Central (3-2, 1-2 in region) hoping to match the most wins in a season since 2006, while Archer (4-2, 2-2) could match its most single-season wins in its brief history.

"It's a cornerstone game for us," Black Knights coach Todd Wofford said. "It's a big game for both of us. If you lose, it's an uphill climb (to a playoff berth) the rest of the way. If you win, you've got a little breathing room."

Both teams have also had to deal with missing significant personnel in recent weeks.

Central played the latter part of a loss to rival South Gwinnett two weeks ago and last week's loss to Grayson without starting quarterback Eman Westmoreland, one of Gwinnett's leading passers, with an ankle injury.

However, Wofford says the prospects of getting the 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior back this week are considerably better.

"He was a stretch to go last week," Wofford said. "He wanted to play, but I didn't want to take the chance (of him aggravating the injury). But he's looked pretty good (in practice this week), So, I assume he'll be good to go (Friday). I'm keeping my fingers crossed."

Meanwhile, Archer coach Andy Dyer says the Tigers will likely still be without bruising fullback Ernest Alexander, who has not played since being injured early in a loss to No. 7 state-ranked Parkview on Sept. 21.

While the absence of the 5-10, 210-pound senior does change Archer's gameplan somewhat, it's not nearly the impact Westmoreland's absence had on Central.

Besides, the Tigers have been able to strike a solid balance offensively behind the running of Sean Fowler (107 car., 747 yds., 5 TDs) and a passing game led by quarterback Gabe Tiller (59-96-3, 807 yds., 4 TDs) and receivers Will Kone (19-301, 1 TD) and Deondre Singleton (16-259, 3 TDs).

"Each game, we go in wanting to take advantage of what (defenses) give us," Dyer said. "Throwing the football with some success has helped us do that."

That balance is a concern for Wofford as his Black Knights try to slow down the Tigers, something they have had trouble doing lately after allowing 42 of more points in three of the last four games.

"We've (made) a couple of personnel changes on the defensive side," Wofford said. "And we're trying to get to some things offensively to help out the defense. One of the things we've got to get back to is some basic things blocking and tackling."

Likewise, Dyer knows his defense will have its hands full with the Central offense, with Westmoreland having plenty of weapons to utilize, such as receivers Justin Brownlee and Zedekiah Brown.

"They've got a lot of talented players on offense," Dyer said of the Black Knights. "They have the ability to score a lot of points. History shows they have the ability to make big plays (every snap). We just have to eliminate big plays."