There are things football teams can control: Limiting penalties, giving effort, listening to coaches and playing smart.
Brackets, unfortunately, are not included.
Burke County visits Sandy Creek on Friday in a Class AAAA state quarterfinal game between the Nos. 1 and 3 ranked teams in the state. Both are region champions and recent state champions, with Burke County winning it all in 2011 and Sandy Creek in 2009 and ‘10.
“It’s one of those games where the brackets just work that way,” Sandy Creek coach Chip Walker said. “Both teams have potential to win a state championship – they just happen to meet in the quarterfinals. There are a lot of teams left, but these two definitely have that potential.”
Top-ranked Sandy Creek is 64-3 since the start of the 2008 season. The Patriots are one of the biggest powers in the state, featuring senior offensive lineman Alan Knott, who is committed to South Carolina, and defensive back Shaquille Wiggins, who’s committed to Georgia.
Sandy Creek, the alma mater of Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, has won 14 of its past 15 state playoff games.
Burke County is hoping to build toward that long-term success.
Though fellow quarterback Antonio Harold has emerged in recent weeks, Burke County is directed by Donquell “Gator” Green. Green has rushed for more than 1,500 yards, passed for more than 1,000 and has also scored touchdowns on interceptions and kick returns. Green, a junior, has an offer from North Carolina.
“It’s a combination of his quickness and his strength,” Walker said of Green. “People talk about him being a smaller guy, but he’s a stronger guy. He looks like, on film, he’s hard to tackle. And when he does see the seam, he can have that burst.”
Last season, he led the Bears to three home victories before a road game in the semifinals and a win at the Georgia Dome. This year, the bracket – and a lost coin flip – mean there’s a road game against a powerful team in the quarterfinals.
Bears coach Eric Parker knows that’s just the way it goes.
“Sometimes you get a draw that’s in your favor, sometimes you get one that’s tough real quick,” Parker said. “I’ve been on both sides – it is what it is. But to win state championship, you’re going to go through good football teams.”