Coaches always enjoy the test of a tense, four-quarter game early in the season since more of those are likely to come in later, more important matchups.
Halfway through the football season, Greater Atlanta Christian is still in search of its first full game with a reasonably close score.
The Spartans, ranked second in Class AA, have dominated every opponent in their 5-0 start and have an average winning margin of 38.2 points. The defense has been impressive, while the offense averages 51.4 points.
“We have played well,” GAC head coach Tim Hardy said. “What I’m pleased about is we’ve executed. We’ve had some big victories so far, not necessarily because we’re the best thing in town, just that they’ve turned out well.
“The thing I’ve really been pleased with so far is that we’ve executed. … We do know that day (of a close game) is coming and we’re looking forward to when they come.”
GAC can bank on at least one close game in region play, which begins Oct. 11 at Westminster and concludes Nov. 8 with a home game against Lovett, currently the top-ranked team in AA.
Another test could come Friday on a road trip to Thomson, a Class AAA program with plenty of history. The Bulldogs handed GAC a loss last season, a 36-27 triumph in Norcross.
The typically strong program is off to an uncharacteristic 1-3 start after scrapping its longtime wing-T offense in favor of a shotgun, run-oriented spread attack.
“For us, we just want to play well,” Hardy said. “If it’s a see-saw game, it’s OK. If it opens up, it’s OK. We just want to play well and we know Thomson’s the best football team we’ve played this season. They’re well-coached and it’s going to be a challenge.”
While Thomson has made changes, GAC needs to just continue what it’s done so far this season. The Spartans have played well, and produced big plays, in all phases of the game, which was highlighted last Friday vs. Howard (Tenn.) when they scored touchdowns on a kickoff return, punt return, interception return, fumble return, run and pass.
Their scores included plays of 93, 33, 69, 41, 90, 85 and 50 yards. Parker Polhill caught a 33-yard TD pass and returned a punt 69 yards for a TD in the first quarter alone.
“We’ve got some speed,” Hardy said of his team’s big-play ability. “We’ve got some guys who can run. Micah Abernathy and Darius Slayton, their speed is documented on the track. But we’ve got a bunch of guys who can run. Defensively, we’re fast at every position. We’ve got receivers who can run and a quarterback (Rafe Chapple) who throws the deep ball well. We’ve had guys make plays in special teams.
“We have been fortunate to have some big plays, but we can’t rely on those when they don’t happen. We have to be able to grind out drives, too.”
GAC has one drive to grind out before this week’s game even kicks off — a two-hour plus trip to Thomson. The game and the travel should benefit the Spartans when the playoffs begin.
“Thomson’s won 603 games in their history, they play in the Brickyard, a neat, old stadium, and there’s a lot of history behind it with the stadium, the tradition, the town,” Hardy said. “It’s nice for us to get out of metro Atlanta, out of our world, and experience something like that. I grew up in a small town so I appreciate what it’s like when you’re the show in town.”
GAC AT THOMSON
GAC Spartans (6-AA)
Coach: Tim Hardy
Last week: Beat Howard School (Tenn.) 67-20
Thomson Bulldogs (3-AAA)
Coach: Milan Turner
Last week: Lost to Westminster 30-13
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Thomson won 36-27 last year
Directions to Thomson High School: I-20 east to Exit 172/U.S. Hwy. 78/Ga. Hwy 17 toward Thomson/Washington. Turn right on Washington Road, left on Harrison Road and left on White Oak Road. School is on the left.