Dogs head to Norcross for quarterfinal showdown

  • Hart County's Kaimon Rucker pulls down the Pierce County quarterback for a sack late in the game in Blackshear on Nov. 22 in the second round of the state playoffs.
    Hart County's Kaimon Rucker pulls down the Pierce County quarterback for a sack late in the game in Blackshear on Nov. 22 in the second round of the state playoffs.

The Hart County Bulldogs are going to Norcross for Black Friday — except they won’t be shopping for the best deals, they will be playing for a semi-final state playoff bid.
An Elite Eight showdown is set for Friday when the Bulldogs hit the road to tackle one-loss Greater Atlanta Christian (11-1, 6-0), the Region 7-AAA champs.
The Bulldogs, the last remaining team in the AAA state playoffs that isn’t a No. 1 seed, have already eliminated one group of region champions and are playing at peak performance at the right time. But the Spartans are loaded with talent who will pose a challenge for the Bulldogs Friday.
Greater Atlanta Christian quarterback Jackson Hardy, a University of Richmond commit, has been a catalyst for the Spartans. The senior has completed 142-of-221 pass attempts for 2,369 yards and 25 touchdowns on the season, throwing just seven interceptions. Hardy has rushed for an additional 149 yards and three touchdowns.
Protecting Hardy is a hearty offensive line led by senior Stanford commit Myles Hinton, a 6-foot-7, 320-lbs offensive tackle.
There’s no shortage of weapons for Hardy to throw to either. Eight different receivers for the Spartans have more than 100 receiving yards on the season. The biggest scoring receiver though is senior Christian Thomas, a Georgia State commit who has totaled nine touchdown catches and 427 yards on 26 receptions this season.   
Carrying the majority of the work out of the back field for the Spartans this year is Georgia Southern commit Tyler Bride, who has accounted for 1,152 yards on the ground and 15 touchdowns on 138 carries. Running back Tre Henry is another weapon the Spartans use out of the backfield. Henry has accumulated 10 rushing touchdowns this season and 418 yards on 69 carries.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Spartans have a solid linebacker in Choe Bryant-Strother, a UCLA commit who plays both offense and defense. The senior has racked up 46 solo tackles and 37 assists so far this season. Senior Spencer Helms has been another defensive force for the Spartans as he has accumulated 10 sacks, 56 solo tackles and 19 assists.
History favors the Bulldogs in this match-up. The two teams have met just twice, 2008 and 2009, when Hart County took two-in-a-row over the Spartans in a home-away series. The Spartans gave the Bulldogs trouble at home in 2008, but ultimately Hart County won 17-14. In 2009, Hart County ventured into Norcross and took down the Spartans 55-21.
The Lake Hartwell Touchdown Club is calling on all fans to takeover Greater Atlanta Christian’s stadium in a wave of orange and white.
If Hart County claims victory Friday night, they will face the winner of Peach County and Cedar Grove in the semi-finals of the AAA state playoffs.
Directions to the game from Hartwell:
• Turn right onto GA-51 W/GA-77 N/W Howell St. Slight right onto GA-77 N.
• Turn left to merge onto I-85 S.
• Follow I-85 S. to Indian Trail Lilburn Rd. NW in Gwinnett County. Take exit 101 from I-85 S.
• Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto Indian Trail Lilburn Rd. NW. Turn right onto Huff Dr. Continue straight, destination will be on left.