Published Sunday, November 11, 2012

Prep Football: Despite opposite nights, first-year QBs show promise for playoffs


With the regular season now in the books for both the Newnan Cougars and the East Coweta Indians, one thing is for sure, their two first-year quarterbacks have done a lot of growing up over the past season.

Newnan's Bailey Bryant might be a sophomore, but he's no longer the inexperienced kid that first lined up under center when he led the Cougars to a victory at Marietta back in August to open the season.

Bryant has helped engineer an 8-2 season for Newnan, including Friday night's come-from behind 21-7 victory against rival East Coweta on the Indians' own turf.

Comeback wins are nothing new for the Cougars. Newnan's first three wins over Marietta, LaGrange and Troup all saw the team respond to deficits.

"I was really worried about how he was going to handle the pressure of playing here on the road in such a big game, but he did a really good job of handling everything," Newnan head coach Mike McDonald said. "He has grown up and he is only going to get better."

Newnan's seniors, however, have done their part to surround Bailey with the veteran leadership to succeed. On Friday, receiver Traon Moss added to his season totals of 20 pass receptions for 412 yards and five touchdowns. Against East Coweta, he turned in a 54-yard score and a 100-plus yard effort. He has bettered his 2011 effort of 17 catches for 172 yards.

Seniors Tray Matthews and running back Quinton Dix have also helped their quarterback mature. 

Bryant and Gemmel will have to continue to show pose this week as the second season—the first round of the GHSA playoffs — opens Friday.

By way of Friday's win, the Cougars (8-2) will host Alcovy. East Coweta (4-6) heads on the road to face Newton in an equally winable game against the 5-5 Rams.

East Coweta's Bryce Gemmel might have thrown three interceptions against the Cougars on Friday, but he still has a command of the offense. The junior had only four picks to go with 1,200-plus yards passing heading into the annual rivalry game.

Just a week ago in the team's win at Douglas County, Gemmel threw for 300 yards and three scores while also finishing just shy of 100 yards rushing.

• Defense plays role for Cougars

The Newnan Cougars' defense is equally a big reason the team is headed to the playoffs as Region 3-AAAAA's second seed, forcing four East Coweta turnovers including three interceptions. The unit has allowed just 20 points in Newnan's last three games.

Rodney Tennie's two interceptions against the Indians gave him five for the season and leading tackler, linebacker Tonaris Portress, added his second.

• Game changer

East Coweta's Dee Godfrey does a little bit of everything for the Indians playing offense, defense and special teams. With his ability to pick up yardage out of the backfield, he is about to finish as the Indians' leading rusher for the third straight year.

Godfrey finished the regular season with 14 touchdowns. He is also a threat to catch the football out of the backfield for the Indians. Against Newnan, he had catches of 17 and 21 yards.

• What to know

When Newnan hosts Alcovy in the first round of the state playoffs, they will face a team that is 4-6 overall and coming off a 56-0 loss to Lovejoy. The most points Alcovy scored in a game this season was in its 30-13 victory against Morrow. This is just the third time in school history the Tigers are going to the playoffs.

East Coweta takes on a Newton team it should very familiar after both played in Region 2-AAAAA last year.

The Rams earned the right to host East Coweta after going 5-5 overall. All five of the Rams' wins came against fellow Region 2-AAAAAA opponents as they earned the No. 3 seed with a 5-1 region record.

Newton County has won its last two games including a 40-0 win against Morrow Friday.

East Coweta swept Region 2-AAAAA games against the Rams the last two years, beating the Rams 23-8 in 2011 and 20-14 in 2010.

Indians head coach Clint Wade has challenged his team to face the playoffs as if it's the start of the second season.

"We are still playing and that is a good thing," he said.

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