Corky Kell Preview: Sandy Creek vs. Archer

Photo by Sonny Kennedy

Emergent Class AAAAAA Archer faces a Class AAAA Sandy Creek program in the backend of the Day 1 double-header. Sandy Creek has played in a national spotlight for years where the young Archer program looks to be building a foundation capable of a championship-level of success in the not so distant future. Not many teams in the state are riding more momentum into 2014 than Archer. Like North Paulding, the Tigers finished with a school-record 11 wins last season. They were the only undefeated team in Georgia’s highest classification heading into the playoffs and fell short to state runner up North Gwinnett 34-32 in a second-round heartbreaker that easily could have been theirs.

Last season ended in disappointment, but it was also assurance for what the program would be capable of this season. With tons of returning starters and the school’s first playoff victory, Archer displayed its talent throughout the offseason. The Tigers claimed the inaugural Corky Kell Classic 7-on-7 tournament this past June while quarterback Gabe Tiller put on a show.

The 6-foot tall passer is athletic, smart with the football, and he has incredible field awareness. Tiller’s ability to improvise and make plays suits an offense with plenty of options to get the football to. His top playmakers will be running back Dylan Singleton, tight end Connor Redmond and rising junior Kyle Davis. These three can get Archer down the field in a hurry and the chemistry is there with Tiller.

Defensively, Singleton can step into the secondary and linebackers Quinn Miller and Dillon Bliss lead an improved unit that has some difficulties getting off the field on third downs last year. Cal Burton, Kobe Smith and Robbie Armstrong make up the trenches on the defensive side.

Class AAAA Sandy Creek is up for a challenge matching the size and depth of Archer but there is plenty of talent dotting the Patriots’ roster. Sandy Creek won back-to-back state titles in 2009-2010 and returned to the podium in 2012 with a perfect 15-0 season, including a 45-10 rout over Ridgeland in the state championship. The 2012 campaign was so dominant that the Patriots managed to outscore their final six opponents 266-43. The only game that was even within two touchdowns was a 31-20 victory over Burke County in the quarterfinals. The 15 victories in 2012 averaged out to a 35-point average margin of victory.

Last season, the Patriots dominated once again, but finally met their match with eventual state champion Griffin in the quarterfinals. The Bears upset Sandy Creek and snapped the Patriots’ streak of 27 games without a loss.

This year Sandy Creek lost several starters including quarterback Cole Garvin (Marshall) and wide receiver Demarre Kitt (Clemson) that were a part of the school’s last two state championships. The Detroit Lions All-Pro and record-setting receiver Calvin Johnson put Sandy Creek on the map and the school’s traditionally potent passing attack will see new faces this year.

Trey Walker steps in at quarterback after competing 8-of-21 passes last season for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Christian Branch, Korey Banks and tight end Sam Beard are penned as the starting receiving targets and Banks led with 24 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown last year.

The ground game will be strong with this year’s team but it will be built a lot different than the past two seasons. Eric Swinney and Delvin Weems were a two-headed monster in the backfield together, with both guys rushing for more than 2,000 yards apiece and just south of nine yards per carry during their reign. Swinney will have to do it alone this year as Weems packed up and transferred to Tucker. The result could be a huge senior year for Swinney, the Ole Miss commit. Swinney will likely see those rushing and passing numbers increase and he was good for 24 rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns last season with a team-high 1,289 yards. Weems finished with 1,233 rushing yards off 136 attempts for 21 touchdowns last year.

On defense, pass rusher Trent Sellers is already committed to Georgia Tech and stands 6-foot-3, 230 pounds. His teammate Javonte Lain is pledged to Old Dominion and he is another big-bodied 6-foot-3 force on the edge. Al Cooper is a force at nose guard and led the team with 8.5 sacks in 2013.

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