High School Sports

Westside, Peach County battle in early Region 4-3A showdown

Peach County quarterback Antonio Gilbert (12) will face an aggressive Westside pass defense when the teams meet Friday at Anderson Stadium in Fort Valley.
Peach County quarterback Antonio Gilbert (12) will face an aggressive Westside pass defense when the teams meet Friday at Anderson Stadium in Fort Valley. jvorhees@macon.com

Scheduling during reclassification periods can lead to lulls in competition or rugged stretches of play during the next season.

Sometimes, contenders in a region don’t play until late.

But GHSA Region 4-3A will open with a quality showdown of favorites when Westside visits Peach County at 8 p.m. on Friday.

Last year in Region 2-3A, Westside played eventual region champ Jackson in its sixth game and Peach County two games and three weeks later. Peach County played Jackson in its eighth game and Westside in the Trojans’ regular-season finale.

Spencer, which finished third, battled Peach County early and Westside fairly late.

Central and Jackson begin region play on the other end of the spectrum Friday, hoping to avoid upsets by winless Kendrick and one-win Rutland.

Friday’s matchup in Fort Valley is followed up in a week by much of the same, with Central traveling to Peach County and Westside hosting Jackson.

So a good head start is huge in a region that also includes an improved Pike County team that dropped down from Class 4A and is 3-1.

Westside is 2-2 and comes in off a solid 42-6 win over B.E.S.T. Academy on Saturday, a week after losing 28-14 to Northside.

“We’re not displeased with the way the kids are playing right now,” Westside head coach Spoon Risper said. “We played Northside better than anybody has all year. And our offense finally showed up last Saturday and put some points on the board.”

The Seminoles followed a distressing 8-3 loss to Southwest with the morale-boosting loss to Northside, the No. 2 team in Class 6A and state Class 5A champion in 2014. Westside led 14-6 three minutes into the fourth quarter, thanks to Northside turnovers, only for the Eagles to sharpen up and score 22 points.

Risper said he’s not one for moral victories, but ...

“That game, I didn’t not feel down,” he said. “Normally, I’m down after a loss. Even the kids, you could see the look in their eyes. ‘Wow, we’ve got a chance to be really good.’ ”

Westside followed up the performance by handling a B.E.S.T team by a little more than expected.

Risper said the Seminoles have made some position tweaks — including moving running back Donta Pate to wideout — to strengthen the perimeter, and cited Landon Emery as playing well lately.

Peach County is on a three-game winning streak, each win different than the previous one.

The Trojans earned head coach Chad Campbell’s wrath with poor play in surviving Warner Robins 20-19, thanks in part to the Demons’ inability to execute what would have been the game-tying PAT in the final minute.

Peach County was sharper in thumping Perry by 32 points a week later in a decent effort, and then the Trojans struggled for three quarters before charging through the fourth quarter with all of their points to take a 20-19 win over Class 4A Mary Persons.

Which team Campbell sees on a given Friday — and within a Friday — keeps things suspenseful.

“We’re not making enough plays that we’re capable of making,” said Campbell, whose team survived eight dropped passes last week. “We made them in the fourth quarter, but that don’t make it right.”

The Trojans had a number of chances to score earlier but couldn’t execute. Then came the final 12 minutes.

“I was proud of the kids and the way they came back,” he said. “That’s a quality opponent to put 19 points on in the fourth quarter. That says a lot about the character and everything, but damn, where was that stuff at?

“It’s all about lack of focus. They’re not focusing on each play and what their assignment is.”

Campbell said he couldn’t remember a time in his long career at Peach County when he saw so many dropped passes. Match that with the Westside pass defense that he said was good and aggressive, and Peach County quarterback Antonio Gilbert will have a challenge.

“Defensively, they’re going to make you make throws,” Campbell said. “They’re going to play a tight man, and you’ve got to make plays. ‘You’re going to have to make those throws.’

“They’re pretty good. You don’t see folks running by folks and getting open.”