Wesleyan’s Jordan Weaver punts the ball during a game earlier this season against Lakeview Academy. (Photo: Kyle Hess)
Unbeaten, ranked among the best in the state and with a lot of incentive to win the region title, Greater Atlanta Christian still isn’t looking beyond its rival Wesleyan.
The young Wolves are working through some growing pains and don’t have an impressive record. But because of the vagaries of GHSA classification, they have earned the win that they needed to qualify for the playoffs.
Wesleyan’s record isn’t true reflection of its abilities anyway. Four of the losses are by a combined 18 points.
So the Spartans, who have toggled between the No. 1 and 2 state ranking this season, aren’t underestimating the Wolves in their Friday night matchup.
“It’s Game 9 and we need to play well,” GAC head coach Tim Hardy said. “We’re focused on ourselves. We want to play great for 48 minutes. We want to play with passion and emotion start to finish.”
GAC is avoiding the temptation to look ahead a week to its showdown with Lovett. The winner will claim the Region 6-AA title. It’s a jewel in the crown on its own, but projecting a little further, avoids a potential second-round matchup with perennially powerful Calhoun.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Hardy said. “It’s GAC-Wesleyan. The players look forward to it the entire season. It’s not every Friday you get to play a rivalry game.”
This is the last of a triumvirate of powerhouse teams for Wesleyan. GAC caps a three-week gauntlet for the Wolves, who have already had to face Westminster and Lovett.
“We’re having trouble getting off to good starts, really, the last couple of weeks,” head coach Franklin Pridgen said. “Because of our numbers and who we are, we don’t have the speed to simulate in practice. We’ve never been able to put as good a scout team out as the team we see on Fridays. I dare say not many teams can say that.
“So when we get to kickoff, there’s a learning curve. It’s a little bit of a shock to our system.”
Wesleyan focused on its starts this week in practice.
“And raising our level of competitive intensity,” Pridgen said. “I don’t think it’s possible to get a home playoff game unless crazy things happen. So this is the last home game for our seniors and they would like to go out having put their best on the field.
“Once we get out of this nightmare region, we feel anybody we face in the playoffs isn’t going to be better than the three teams we just played in Weeks 8, 9 and 10. They’ll be good, but they’re not going to be better.”
WESLEYAN WOLVES (6-AA)
Coach: Franklin Pridgen
Record: 2-7, 1-2 region
Last week: Lost to Lovett 41-13
GAC SPARTANS (6-AA)
Coach: Tim Hardy
Record: 8-0, 2-0 region
Last week: Beat Hapeville Charter 52-7
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: GAC won 42-20 last year
Directions to the Wesleyan School: From I-85, take I-285 west to Peachtree Industrial Blvd./Ga. 141 north exit. Veer to the left on Peachtree Parkway/Ga. 141 and turn right on Spalding Drive. School is on the left.