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HAMMOCK: Underappreciated Collins Hill football team keeps rolling

Collins Hill receiver Quentin Jones (11) hauls in a long pass in the rain behind Walton’s Ryan Roegge (31) during the state playoff game at Collins Hill. (Photo: Karl L. Moore)

Collins Hill receiver Quentin Jones (11) hauls in a long pass in the rain behind Walton’s Ryan Roegge (31) during the state playoff game at Collins Hill. (Photo: Karl L. Moore)

It’s easy to see how Collins Hill’s football team got overlooked.

In Region 7-AAAAAA with defending state champion Norcross and perennially strong North Gwinnett, the Eagles were underappreciated in the preseason and the early stages of the season. They also were coming off a 6-5 season, which tempered fans’ expectations in a powerful region that featured five playoff-caliber teams (a group that included Peachtree Ridge and Mill Creek).

The early-season results weren’t exactly attention-grabbing, either.

Collins Hill blanked a Central Gwinnett team that finished 2-8 in its opener 22-0, then followed it up with a narrow 21-13 win over Dacula. The Eagles could have easily lost to Dacula, which looked rough at the time based on the Falcons’ one-win season from 2012, but it doesn’t now that Dacula is one of the eight remaining teams in Class AAAAAA.

And so is Collins Hill, still underrated among the remaining teams in the Elite Eight.

Veteran defensive coordinator Larry Massey’s defense carried the Eagles early in the season, allowing just 29 points in the first four victories. The offense wasn’t bad, either, but head coach Kevin Reach didn’t think that group was playing its best.

Then Collins Hill struggled in its only loss, a 28-0 setback at Norcross.

Since then, there may not be a football team in Class AAAAAA playing better. The Eagles have reeled off six straight wins, averaging 50.7 points during that span with the kind of offense that Reach and offensive coordinator Sean Calhoun expect. Included in the run were two key victories that netted them the second region title in school history — a 53-28 rout of North Gwinnett and a 45-34 win over Mill Creek.

Yet even with a region championship, Collins Hill didn’t get its due. It was a shared region title with Norcross and North, two teams that continued to draw most of the attention statewide as the playoffs began.

In their two playoff games, the Eagles have blasted Walton 41-7 and destroyed Region 6-AAAAAA champion Alpharetta 48-0. Up next in Friday’s quarterfinals is McEachern, another chance to add to their already impressive resumé.

A win there likely won’t satisfy the naysayers, though. Popular opinion is that Collins Hill’s quadrant of the bracket is the weakest of the four in AAAAAA, so the Eagles have to do what they’ve done all season — keep winning without much state-wide acclaim.

And if they put together a few more victories, the state will be forced to take notice.

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.