Collins Hill Eagles (8-AAAAAAA)
Coach: Lenny Gregory
Record: 7-0, 1-0 region
Last week: Had a bye
North Gwinnett Bulldogs (8-AAAAAAA)
Coach: Bill Stewart
Record: 3-4, 0-1 region
Last week: Had a bye
The GEICO ESPN High School Football Showcase lands in Suwanee for a nationally televised game Thursday night, though the event producers got rough news when Collins Hill phenom Travis Hunter, the nation’s No. 1-ranked senior recruit, injured his ankle on Oct. 1. That said, the 2020 state runner-up Eagles are plenty talented without Hunter on the field.
Missouri-bound quarterback Sam Horn, highly recruited junior Ethan Davis and an explosive Collins Hill offense will get their share of air time (and Hunter will get plenty of discussion on the broadcast), but defense has been the story of late for Class AAAAAAA’s top-ranked team. The unit is on a run of four straight shutouts over Rome (34-0), Alpharetta (42-0), East Coweta (34-0) and Peachtree Ridge (63-0), a 16-quarter scoreless streak that dates back to a fourth-quarter touchdown by Greenville Christian (Miss.) on Sept. 3.
In the most recent shutout two weeks ago against Peachtree Ridge, Asani Redwood continued his risruptive ways with nine tackles (four for losses), three sacks and three quarterback hurries. Teammates Jaylen George (six tackles, two for losses) and Richard Ransom (10 tackles, one for loss, one pass breakup) also played well.
Collins Hill represents a huge challenge, the third straight, for North. The Bulldogs’ past two games have been losses to the other top three-ranked AAAAAAA teams, North Cobb (40-19 loss) and Mill Creek (36-17 loss).
The setback to Mill Creek had its encouraging moments, particularly after building a 14-13 halftime lead. But North surrendered 23 third-quarter points, sparked by Mill Creek’s special teams play, and never recovered.
The Bulldogs had more success against the stout Mill Creek defense than most behind Marcus McFarlane (16 rushes, 102 yards, touchdown) and Marek Briley (six catches, 83 yards). Jordan Buchanan (four tackles, interception, two pass breakups) and Grant Godfrey (12 tackles) stood out defensively in that game.
When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
Last meeting: Collins Hill won 42-21 last year
Location: North Gwinnett High School