From his time as a Sprayberry player in the 1980s, coach Billy Shackelford knows the perils of getting caught up in a winning streak.
Special photo by Cecil Copeland
Sprayberry hasn’t seen this kind of success in a long time.
Off to its best five-game start since 1989, the Yellow Jackets are 4-1 and tied with Riverwood atop the Region 7AAAAA (B) standings following a convincing 37-7 win against North Atlanta on Friday.
Sprayberry held the Warriors to 9 first-half rushing yards and led 20-0 at halftime. The Yellow Jackets didn’t turn the ball over, and the defense totaled an interception and two fumble recoveries.
London Roberson played under center for injured quarterback Andrew Pereira and rushed 12 times for 95 yards and three touchdowns. Roberson scored touchdowns in each of the first three quarters as the Yellow Jackets staked a 34-0 margin entering the fourth.
The last time Sprayberry started 4-1 was during coach Billy Shackelford’s senior season, so he knows about what his team is going through. That year, the Yellow Jackets won four straight to begin the year before losing to Pope.
One thing Shackelford doesn’t want his team to believe in is its own hype, which is something his coach, the late John Paty, tried to instill in him back then.
“The older I get, the less I remember,” Shackelford said. “I know coach Paty had us worry about the next opponent, and that’s what I want these kids to do. You plan to be successful and you want to win every game each season, but, ultimately, you just go out there and battle on that day.
“When you get caught up in your record, you lose sight of your target, which is getting better each and every game. What I do remember about (the 1989 start), was enjoying it. Winning is fun, and you take time to enjoy it, but I assure you, it’s day-by-day and you keep your focus on your next opponent. You enjoy it, and then put it behind you.”
One team that has enjoyed putting its opponents in the rearview mirror is Mount Paran Christian, which is off to a 5-0 start.
Following a tough 35-19 win over previously undefeated Pinecrest Academy, in which senior running back Taylor Trammell had 27 carries for 340 yards and three touchdowns, the Eagles stretched their undefeated streak to 19 games, dating back to the first game of last year’s 14-0 state championship season.
Mount Paran’s winning streak is currently the second-longest in county history, behind Marietta’s 21 in the 1965 and ’66 seasons. The streak has continued largely because of Trammell, who has already rushed for more than 1,000 yards and crossed the goal line 18 times.
“I’ve had a few parents and some kids bring (the streak) up, but we, as a staff, haven’t brought up any kind of a streak to our players,” Mount Paran coach Mitch Jordan said. “It would be nice to break it, though, for this senior class.”
Entering its second bye week, Mount Paran won’t be able to add to its streak until Oct. 9, when it visits Walker for its first Region 6A (A) game.
“We want to relax this week and be ready for Walker,” Jordan said, “but the fact that we lost a great senior class and we’re able to continue to play well says a lot about our kids and the coaching staff at the midway point of the season. So far, so good. I mean, the kids are working hard each week, and the fact that we’ve won 19 in a row is a testament to that hard work.”
Walker (3-2) picked up its third win, and won consecutive games for the first time since the start of the 2013 season, after beating St. Francis 21-14. The Wolverines have already eclipsed their win total from a season ago, but they are entering a tough slate of subregion games over the next four weeks against opponents with a combined record of 16-4.
Hillgrove, in winning its Region 4AAAAAA opener against Marietta, saw one of its team records fall. John Devine put his name in the record book with a 64-yard punt in the Hawks’ 40-21 win, breaking the previous school record of 54 set by Butch Chastain against Creekview in 2007.