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The battle cry for the Coffee Trojans since beating the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes last Friday has been “Finish!” The Maxwell Ratings, as published in The Georgia High School Football Daily on Thursday morning, believe the Trojans are going to do just that.
The ratings have Coffee as six-point favorites heading into Wednesday’s state championship game against the Creekside Seminoles in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Trojans and the Seminoles have a history – albeit a short one. In 2021, Creekside ended Coffee’s season in the first round of the state playoffs 28-18.
In that game, Creekside had a 21-0 lead over Coffee in the second quarter. The Trojans got on the board with a 29-yard field goal in the second quarter then scored again a few minutes later on an eight-yard run by Brady Skipper. The score remained 21-10 until the fourth quarter when Skipper scored his second touchdown of the night. Coffee went for two and quarterback Justin Swords hit Tyriq Edwards for a successful conversion. That made the score 21-18 late in the fourth. On the Seminoles’ ensuing possession, the Trojans had their opponents in a precarious position. Facing fourth down on Coffee’s 35, Creekside went for it and got the first down. The Seminoles scored a touchdown a little later that increased the Seminoles’ lead to 28-18. The Trojans attempted a late field goal that missed its mark. Creekside took over and ran out the clock for the win.
In 2021, the Seminoles were a faster, more athletic team. That was apparent from the first possession. After getting behind early, the Trojans fought back and had opportunities. But the damage had been done. Over the last eight years, Coffee has made the quarterfinals each year but one – 2021. A significant percentage of the 2023 team was on the field that night and several saw playing time. They remember that game well. They’ve already exorcised one demon in Cartersville; they’d love to do the same with Creekside.
It’s not going to be easy. This time, the teams are much more evenly matched, even if they rely on different schemes. The Trojans have always been strong, tough, and physical. If they’ve had one Achilles heel, it’s been speed. Historically, Coffee hasn’t been a very fast team.
That has changed this season.
One of the first issues head coach Mike Coe knew he had to fix when he came to Douglas was team speed. He’s mentioned it several times this year. The players and coaching staff were on board with his plan and it has paid off tenfold in 2023. The Trojans are still as strong as they’ve ever been. The addition of speed, however, has proved lethal to 14 previous opponents.
While speed is important, it’s going to take more than that to add a 15th victim to the schedule. Coffee will need flawless execution, excellent clock management, and attention to detail. In a game between the two best teams in the state, the difference between winning and losing often comes down to the small things, the seemingly insignificant moments in a game that end up being game changers when the clock zeroes out.
Of the two teams, Creekside is the more balanced. Vinson Berry, the Seminoles’ quarterback, has completed 148 of 242 passes for 2,412 yards and 39 touchdowns to four interceptions. They’ve got a running back who is 41 yards shy of 2,000 for the season (Roderick McCrary) and another 24 yards short of 1,000 (Travis Terrell Jr.).
The Trojans, meanwhile, make no apologies for being a run-first, throw-if-necessary team. The offense runs through back Fred Brown – figuratively and literally. He is Coffee’s primary weapon; he’s rushed for 2,305 yards on 323 carries and scored 24 touchdowns (23 rushing, one receiving). Tyrese Hansley has amassed 731 yards on 116 carries and added another 11 touchdowns of his own. Quarterback Maurice Hansley has been efficient and consistent all year long – he’s completed 97 of 137 passes for 1,422 yards and 15 touchdowns to just two interceptions.
The talk, of course, is centered around the Trojans’ defense. Coffee’s defensive unit has been among the best in the state. Through 14 games, they’ve allowed just over six points per game – and that’s after Cartersville put up 18 points last week (the most the Trojans have allowed but the fewest Purple Hurricanes have scored all year). The Seminoles’ defense is talented as well – they’re big, fast, and athletic. Still, Coffee has the advantage on the defensive side of the ball.
While these numbers certainly look good and paint a picture in Coffee’s favor, projections, predictions, and pre-game analysis don’t win games. The Trojans rely on a simple yet effective game plan – keep the other team out of the end zone, control the tempo and clock with a strong running game, and physically beat their opponents from whistle to whistle.
It’s worked like a charm 14 times this year. Let’s make it work one more time. Go Trojans!