Buck Godfrey doesn’t cringe when he looks at Southwest DeKalb’s remaining schedule.
Jockeying for position in one of the toughest regions in the state (6-AAAA), the Panthers close the regular season with Marist, Tucker and Stone Mountain. In all likelihood, those are the three teams that will join the Panthers in the state playoffs as the top four teams in the region. The three have a combined record of 18-3.
Up first is Marist on Oct. 23 at Hallford Stadium. The War Eagles (6-1, 6-0) will test the Panthers (6-1, 6-0) with their ground game. Marist is averaging 266 yards rushing per game. Four players have at least 250 yards rushing and have accounted for 26 of the team’s 29 rushing touchdowns.
Instead of looking at that stretch with dread, Godfrey is full of anticipation. A soft midseason schedule has allowed the Panthers to recover from injuries and give plenty of underclassmen some game experience.
“I think it’s going to help us,” Godfrey said. “The whole time we’ve been able to get real solid with our depth. A lot of kids have had the chance to play.”
One of those players is sophomore quarterback Jalil Young, who filled in for the first half of the season while starter Stephen Coates recovered from an ankle injury. Young set a school record two weeks ago with a 94-yard touchdown pass to Marques Dixon.
Coates was hurt on the Panthers’ first play of the season and returned two weeks ago.
“If our schedule had been different when Coates was hurt, we may not be in the position we’re in now,” Godfrey said. “It’s going to work out. We got a chance to do some things (Friday, Oct. 10 in a 36-6 win over Chamblee) that we hadn’t done before. We threw in some reverses, screens and even some options.”
Southwest is more balanced offensively than Marist or Tucker, but likes to get what it can on the ground. Georgia commit Ken Malcome has 14 touchdowns and nearly 900 yards rushing.
Defensively, both Marist and Southwest have been stingy with points. Marist is allowing about 10 points per game. Since losing to Class AAAAA’s ML King 13-9 in the season-opener, the Panthers have outscored the competition 206-37.
The Panthers have been able to score on special teams and defense, as well. Two weeks ago against Chamblee, Toran Davis returned a blocked field goal attempt 75 yards for a score, and Sharrod Golightly returned a fumble 25 yards for a touchdown.
Also, the Panthers have returned four kickoffs for touchdowns – three by Dixon and one by Jonathan Mincy–and lead the county with eight touchdowns by defense or special teams.
“We’re scoring all different kinds of ways, and that is going to be the key for us,” Godfrey said.