Woodland faces another powerhouse with trip to Carrollton

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With each passing week, Carrollton’s football team looks more and more like one of the top contenders for the Class 5A state championship. That’s been the case for the past few years, but the quarterfinals has remained a hurdle the Trojans can’t quite clear.

For three consecutive seasons, Carrollton has simultaneously won 10-plus games and failed to reach the semifinals. Since winning its seventh state title in 1998, the program has fallen in the Elite Eight on 10 different occasions. Only twice in that time have the Trojans advanced beyond the stage, losing in the finals in 2010 and 2013.

If Carrollton gets over the hump this year, Woodland head coach Tony Plott thinks he knows what the difference maker would be: defense. The Trojans have two of the best linebackers in Georgia — Kevin Swint and Chaz Chambliss — leading a much improved defensive unit.

“I think they’re better on defense this year than they have been in the past,” Plott said. “You’ve got the two linebackers that everybody talks about — 14 [Swint] and 32 [Chambliss]. They’re as good as advertised.

“They have a defensive lineman, 5 [Robert Johnson Jr.], just incredible, and then you have the other guys. Just the overall team speed makes them much improved from where they were last year as a football team.”

Swint, a senior, is committed to Clemson, while Chambliss, a junior, will have his choice of top-notch collegiate programs. Carrollton (6-0, 4-0 Region 7-AAAAA) also has studs on the offensive side of the ball, as well. Mecose Todd leads a stable of running backs as impressive as any team in the state. A three-star recruit, Todd will be playing high-major football next fall. Perhaps the best player of the bunch is sophomore quarterback Myles Morris. The dual-threat QB ranks among the best players in the country for the Class of 2022.

“He’s the real deal,” Plott said of Morris. “… They’ve got the Todd kid, but they have other backs who are good also. Their offensive line is big and physical.

“Since coach [Sean] Calhoun has been there, it’s a typical Carrollton offense. They have a big offensive line, they have skill guys and they have a good scheme.”

Carrollton’s offense has put up at least 23 points in every game this season. The Trojans racked up 50 points in a victory over Cass last week and will look to continue that success this Friday against Woodland (1-5, 0-4). Having faced Rome last week, Plott echoed his sentiments about preparing to face such a tough opponent.

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “We try not to get too caught up in the opponent. We know we have things we need to work on, and we focus on those things and try to get better. … The only thing we can focus on right now is us and not worry about everybody else.”

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the team will once again be without its top offensive playmaker, as senior Demarcus Williams will miss a second straight game since an injury against Hiram on Sept. 27. With an open date upcoming, Plott seemed confident that Williams will be healed in time for Woodland’s home stretch of games against Villa Rica, East Paulding and Kell.

“He’ll be out this week, but he should be back for Villa Rica,” Plott said of Williams. “We have the off week, which will give him an extra week to rest, and he should be good to go for the last couple of games.”

Even without Williams in the fold, Plott has seen his team take strides the past few weeks. Despite a small senior class, the head coach has seen leadership out of one vocal linebacker, in particular, help the team.

“Blake Cash is stepping up and becoming a big leader for us,” Plott said. “He holds kids accountable. When he thinks someone isn’t giving full effort, he’ll go over and say something to them, give them a pat on the back, and get them going. … It’s showing. You can see the improvement.”

Plott will hope to see his team take the next step forward on Friday. It won’t be easy against such a talented group, but in some ways, it’s good for a young Woodland team to face that caliber of competition.

Granted, it can be discouraging to face the Romes and Carrolltons of the world. But if the players can focus on the positives, they’ll see a blueprint for what it takes to be among the elite teams in the region and in the state.

“On the good side of it, it shows them what it takes to be successful at this level,” Plott said. “… I think right now now, it’s been good. Our kids want to be good, and they get to see it. They realize, ‘This is what I need to work on, this is where I need to be.’ I think it’s been a real eye-opener for some of them.”