GAC’s Parker Polhill (5) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the game against Lovett this season. (Photo: Kyle Hess)
No hyperbole is necessary this week. No need to try to talk around the fact that this week’s opponent just isn’t up to the task.
Greater Atlanta Christian and Calhoun go head-to-head in what is most likely the most compelling second-round playoff game anywhere in the state on Friday.
The Spartans are ranked No. 4 in Class AA with just one loss to Lovett marring their season.
No. 5 Calhoun, which has been to the state championship game for five straight years, also has just one loss. It came in the third week of the season to Carrollton, the fourth-ranked team in Class AAAA.
“We’re excited,” GAC head coach Tim Hardy said. “This is two of the five or six teams that have a chance to play for a title. We’re looking forward to going there. It’s different than in metro Atlanta. It’s fun to go into that environment.”
Calhoun has been more than impressive over the last five years, rolling up a 69-6 record while making it to the finals every season. The Yellow Jackets lost to Buford for three straight years before finally breaking through and defeating the Wolves in overtime in 2011. Last season, Calhoun lost to Jefferson at the Georgia Dome.
But if it’s history you’re interested in, it’s worth noting the last time Calhoun didn’t get to the finals was in 2007 — when GAC ousted the Yellow Jackets in the second round. In fact, the Spartans have won the only two meetings between these teams. Both in the second round of the state playoffs. Both in Calhoun.
“When it comes down to it, it’s the guys on the teams in 2013,” Hardy said, “It’s fun to look at history. GAC has been there twice and won. Calhoun has been in the finals the last three years.
“It’s great, but what matters is the 2013 version of both teams.”
Calhoun has good size up front on both sides of the ball, is defensively disciplined and has plenty of weapons on offense.
“But the biggest thing is they execute,” Hardy said, “in all three phases.”
GAC’s running game has feasted on the opposition this season. The Spartans also have an effective passing game, but it was a problem in their one loss this season.
“We are absolutely committed to establishing the ground game,” Hardy said. “Our ball carriers run it like they mean it.
“But we have to have the ability to run and pass. We want to be multi-dimensional, based on the situation.”
GAC SPARTANS (6-AA)
Coach: Tim Hardy
Last week: Beat Rabun County 34-0
CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (7-AA)
Coach: Hal Lamb
Last week: Beat Manchester 42-9
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: GAC won 26-7 in 2007
Directions to Calhoun High School: Take I-85 south to I-285 west. Get on I-75 north and go 54 miles to exit 312. Turn left onto GA-53 west and a slight right onto Wall St. Turn left on Maple St. and continue on Pine St. Turn right onto Yellow Jacket St.