The Pelham Hornets (11-1) are one win away from playing for a state football championship, and they will be looking to ground some soaring Eagles for the second week in a row. Last week the Hornets stopped Mitchell County’s Eagles and will now travel to Buena Vista to face the Marion County Eagles (10-2). A win means the Hornets would play for the state championship at the Georgia State football stadium in Atlanta next week.
This is the second year in a row the Hornets have made it to the state semifinals. Last year Irwin County defeated the Hornets before losing to eventual state champion Clinch County. Those two teams play again Friday night in the semifinals, so if the Hornets defeat Marion County, they will play either Clinch County or Irwin County for the state championship.
The Marion County offense has some serious playmakers including senior quarterback Trice McCannon who has scored 40 times this year and running back Brandon Thomas. McCannon has thrown for 1954 yards with 28 touchdown passes this season, and he has rushed for 894 yards and 16 more touchdowns. Thomas has gained 886 yards rushing and 529 yards receiving with a total of 14 touchdowns.
Marion County has won seven straight since losing two in a row in September to ranked teams. Manchester beat the Eagles 43-14 and Bleckley County won 43-28 prior to that game. Both Manchester and Bleckley County have been knocked out of the playoffs.
Marion County coach Chris Kirksey knows what Pelham has and is working to get his team ready.
“We’ve put in a lot of hours studying,” Kirksey told Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Jon Nelson. “We haven’t played them but twice in our history I think — and not in the last ten years. When we played Schley County and Lincoln County, it was like playing in a phone booth — everything was tackle to tackle. This week, though, it’s the other end of the spectrum. They spread it out. Their quarterback, Kendrick Patterson, can throw and run very well. They’re very powerful on offense, so I think for us, our best defense will be having a good offense ourselves. Defensively, we just have to make sure we tackle in space against their quality athletes.”
Pelham head coach Dondrial Pinkins was unavailable for comments Thursday, but quarterback Kendrick Patterson has put up similar numbers to McCannon, though he played sparingly this season as Pelham had blow out after blow out until the end of the season. Patterson has thrown for 1814 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 624 yards. During the last three games where he has played the entire game, Patterson has rushed for 382 yards and three touchdowns and has thrown for 554 yards and six touchdowns.
The two teams have had one common opponent – Macon County. The Hornets beat Macon County 32-6 to open the season while Marion County beat Macon County 37-20 on Nov. 8.