Packers look to cap amazing season with GHSA Class AAAAA state title tonight in Georgia Dome

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

MOULTRIE -- Back in 1999, Rush Propst, just taking over at Hoover High in Alabama, spent several days at Brookwood High in Snellville, gleaning what he could from Broncos coach Dave Hunter about how to run a successful high school football team.

Brookwood was one of Georgia's top programs in the 1990s, winning the state championship in 1996, and Propst wanted to pick Hunter's brain.

"We kind of hired Dave Hunter as a consultant," Propst said this week as his team prepared to play that same Brookwood program tonight in the Georgia Dome for the GHSA Class AAAAA State Championship. "We knew he had the blueprint on how to run a program."

Propst learned well.

By the time he left Hoover following the 2007 season, he had won five state championships and played for two others.

After posting a 4-6 record in his first year at Colquitt County High in 2008, Propst went 11-3 last year, taking the Packers to the state semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Camden County, 19-10.

This year, the Packers have overcome an 0-3 start and a 5-5 regular season to advance to today's 8 p.m. title game against Brookwood, which is now under the direction of Mark Crews.

"It's ironic for me to be playing Brookwood," Propst said.

The Broncos are making a comeback themselves this season, following back-to-back un-Brookwood-like six-victory campaigns.

But after losing to Dacula, 24-10, in their third game, the Broncos have won 11 straight with a combination of a balanced offense and a solid defense.

Running backs Nick Tompkins (1,741 yards) and Jamaal Cole (1,048) have been hard to corral all season, while quarterback Ben McLane has thrown for 2,192 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The well-coached, well-disguised defense is led by linebacker Cameron Lynch, who has 174 tackles, and safety Nick Moore, who has intercepted nine passes, including six in the playoffs.

And the Brookwood kicking game is superb.

Since reaching the playoffs, Brookwood has disposed of Alpharetta, Norcross, Hillgrove and Collins Hill.

After the Packers scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to knock off Grayson in one semifinal in Loganville last week, a possible all-Gwinnett County championship game went by the board.

Colquitt, meanwhile, is giving up 344 yards and a little more than 30 points a game.

The Packers opened the season with a loss to Class AA Cook, fell in overtime to Class AAAA Thomas County Central and dropped two of their last four games, losing Region 1-AAAAA games to Lowndes and Valdosta.

But the Packers' defense has regained a little swagger the last two weeks, holding Mill Creek to 251 yards and Grayson to 198.

And the Packers can score.

Colquitt is averaging 35.6 points and 408 yards of offense a game. Quarterback Tyler Brown has thrown for 3,004 yards and 26 touchdowns, Tevin King has rushed for 1,842 yards and 29 scores and receiver Tommy Hudson has 91 receptions for 1,283 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Hudson, however, suffered a broken bone in his hand at Monday's practice and has been fitted with device that is expected to allow him to play tonight.

How effective he will be is unknown, but Propst was emphatic when he said, "Tommy will play. And he will be an inspiration."

And the Packers are playing with confidence after knocking off Jenkins, M.L. King, Mill Creek and Grayson the last four weeks.

Colquitt County had sold more than 5,000 tickets to the game by Thursday night and the community is energized.

And Propst said if the Packers can upset the Broncos, he will be able to trace the victory back to a Wednesday practice that he called one of the best the team has had all season.

"There were a lot of expectations this year, but the 0-3 start kind of let the air out of our tires," Propst said. "And after the Valdosta game, we found out our defense was atrocious.

"But we've fixed all that."

Since former Packer assistant Darius Dawson returned the team following a staff shakeup after the loss to Valdosta, the Packers have played with more brio.

"We have got great character kids," Propst said. "Our kids have fought all year and have just refused to lose these last four weeks. They are convinced they are the best team in the state and they want to prove it."

If they do, they will give Colquitt County its first state title since 1994, not to mention they will be first Georgia team since Thomas County Central in 1992 to win a title with five losses.