Spartans ready to kick off season against Stone Mountain


GAC Spartans (6-AA)

Coach: Tim Hardy

2012 Record: 10-4, Class AA state semifinals

Last week: Beat Woodward Academy 47-7 in a preseason scrimmage

Stone Mountain Pirates (6-AAAA)

Coach: Dante Ferguson

2012 Record: 3-7

Last week: Lost to Lamar Co. 35-6 in a preseason scrimmage

When: Today, 8 p.m.

Where: Hallford Stadium

Last meeting: GAC won 34-26 last year

Directions to Hallford Stadium: I-285 East to Memorial Drive, make left and turn left on Rockbridge Road. At Georgia Perimeter College, turn right on College Drive.

For complete GAC coverage throughout the season, along with rosters, schedules and more, go to the Spartans' page on the Daily Post's prep sports site: www.gwinnettprepsports.com/gac.

Ready or not, the 2013 high school football season kicks off tonight.

And after a long offseason and an entire summer of preparation, Greater Atlanta Christian coach Tim Hardy is certain his team is well prepared as his Spartans become the first Gwinnett County team to tee it up with a 8 p.m. kickoff against Stone Mountain at Hallford Stadium in Clarkston.

“We’re ready to play,” Hardy said. “I think all the team (members) that have done stuff in the summer, and really began working hard in the weight room during the winter, is ready. I’m sure Stone Mountain is ready to go, too.”

The Spartans, coming off a 10-4 season in which they advanced to the Class AA state semifinals a year ago, looked plenty ready in a 47-7 win over Class AAA Woodward Academy in their preseason scrimmage last week.

As pleased as Hardy was with his offense — which graduated two of its most explosive players from last year, but still has plenty of weapons like quarterback Rafe Chapple, receivers Chris Williams and Darius Slayton and running back Micah Abernathy — it is the defense that may have been most impressive last week.

The Spartans are plenty experienced on that side of the ball with nine starters returning from last year, and Hardy hopes leadership from the likes of senior Ross Wood and junior Paul Carothers will help lead to a similar dominating performance.

“Coming off our scrimmage, we had a bunch of hats on the ball on defense,” Hardy said. “When we get a whole pack of players to the ball like that, we have a chance to be pretty good.”

The Spartans will have their hands full with Stone Mountain, which proved itself quite capable with a strong aerial assault on offense despite its 3-7 record a year ago.

The Pirates also return quarterback Cordeal Cook, who was an All-Region 6-AAAA performer after throwing for 1,725 yards and 17 touchdowns, the latter of which was third most in DeKalb County, last season.

Also back are two of his chief targets, receiver Jaquon Golden and tight end Dante Ferguson Jr., the son of the Pirates’ head coach, as well as seniors Austin Prayor and William Moore to anchor the offensive line.

“Stone Mountain is a talented football team,” Hardy said. “They play hard and they play with a lot of energy. For us, the key is our execution. When we do that, we give ourselves a chance to win. Just executing the best we can and playing clean and playing sharp is a big key.”

That goes for every one of the individual GAC units.

Hardy is looking for production across the board as the Spartans begin their quest to get back to the state semifinals, and then take the next step further to play for a championship.

“I think it’s a little bit of everything,” Hardy said. “We need to play defense. We need to protect the football on offense. The effort on special teams needs to be good. It’s just everything.”