There was a little more pep in the step of Berkmar football players as they walked around school on Monday. The Patriots have a lot to be proud of right now as they sit 3-0 and atop the Region 8-AAAAAA standings after their 29-14 win over Shiloh on Friday.
It’s the first time Berkmar is 3-0 since 2007, when it began the year 4-0.
“You can tell someone how to win, but until they figure it out on their own they really don’t know how to do it,” Berkmar head coach Jonathan Sanks said. “They fought and pulled it out. They figured it out on their own.”
The football program hasn’t had much success in recent years. At least not the American version. The boys soccer team won the state championship in the spring. Now the football team is trying to have its first winning season since 2007, when it went 6-4. This year’s senior class was in sixth grade when that last happened. The Patriots haven’t won more than three games since 2007.
When you add in Berkmar’s win in the final game of last season, the Patriots are on a four-game winning streak. That’s the longest in Region 8-AAAAAA.
“The difference is the dedication of the kids,” Sanks said. “We went right back to work after the season. I didn’t have to go chasing kids. They were there every day.”
Berkmar doesn’t have a traditional youth feeder system like other Gwinnett County schools. So when students reach high school and come out for football, it’s often their first exposure to the sport. When Sanks, who is 9-24 at the Lilburn school, took over the program he was forced to play a lot of kids that had little or no football experience. Many of those players are now three-year starters and the experience is starting to show in a region that has produced two the last three state champions.
“This is a tough man’s game. You have to be tough to play this game,” Sanks said.
One of the biggest differences in the team is the defense. The unit is allowing just eight points a game. It had six sacks in Friday’s win over Shiloh and Rashad Hall had two interceptions. The unit is guided by Berkmar alum Jason Threat, who was the Daily Post’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1998 and now serves as defensive coordinator.
Berkmar’s win over Shiloh was its first since 2008. The Patriots have just a handful of region wins in recent years. A few more of them and they could be talking about the playoffs.
A postseason berth isn’t unrealistic. Traditional powers Brookwood and Parkview are 0-3. Region 8 champion Grayson just got its first win of the year on Friday. Archer is the only other unbeaten in the region, leaving the playoff picture wide open early in the season.
“It’s too soon to talk about that, but I can guarantee we’re going to play hard every game,” Sanks said. “I don’t care who we are playing.”
Lanier off to 3-0 start
Fourth-year program Lanier is off to a 3-0 start, the best in the school’s brief history. The Longhorns used a 27-0 non-region victory over Franklin County on Friday to reach the 3-0 start. It was the third shutout in team history.
Lanier is in its second year of region play and will open 8-AAAA action against Madison County, which they beat 14-7 last year. The Red Raiders are 2-1 this season.
Grayson offense comes alive
During the first two games of the year, Grayson managed just over 400 yards of offense and six points. In the Region 8-AAAAAA opener against Parkview, the offense finally broke through.
The Rams had nearly 400 yards of offense, including 370 yards rushing in a 34-10 win over the Panthers.
Aares McCall led the offensive attack with 177 yards and one touchdown. Cameron Brent had 109 yards rushing and one TD, while Mohamed Barry rushed for 64 yards and two scores.
Scoop and score
Mill Creek’s Andrew Sciara is used to carrying the football as a fullback. He finally got to score on Friday night, but it was on the other side of the ball.
The starting linebacker had two fumble recoveries for touchdowns in the Hawks’ 42-3 win over Mountain View on Friday. Sciara had a fumble return of five yards and 18 yards.
Spreading the wealth
Buford had nine different players score touchdowns in its 63-0 win over Hancock Central on Friday.
The defending Class AAA state champions got rushing TDs from Thomas Wilson, Ryan Coleman, Joshua Thomas, Tyler Ship man, Austin Simpson and Martin Mangram. Tre Neal and Steven Reese caught touchdown passes, while Evyn Cooper had a punt return for a score.
Two of Gwinnett County’s most successful programs are still winless this season. Brookwood is 0-3 for the first time since 1986, while Parkview is 0-3 for the first time since 1998.
Since 1996, they have combined to win six state championships and have for 31 playoff appearances. The Broncos’ last 0-3 start was in the fifth-year of the school’s football program and they finished 1-9. The only win came over Parkview.
After Parkview started 0-3, it rallied to win the next nine games and reach the state quarterfinals.