Camden County preserved in what is considered the toughest region in Georgia high school football to earn a spot in the in the state football playoffs for the first time since 2015.
The Wildcats (7-3) are a No. 3 seed and will travel to Marietta to face Walton High School (9-1) in a first-round, Class 7A playoff game at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Camden head football coach Bob Sphire traveled with his top 40 players to Macon last night. The team planned a walk-through at a local school before it left for Atlanta today. The remainder of the team boarded a bus this morning and will meet with the rest of the team for a 3:30 p.m. dinner at a church in the Marietta area before the game.
Sphire said the tough schedule this season, where the team faced eight teams that qualified for the playoffs, helped prepare them for post-season play.
“We had a brutal schedule, particularly at the end,” he said.
Sphire, who coached in the Atlanta area for more than a decade before accepting the Camden County job, said he is very familiar with the Walton football program.
“They went 20-2 the past two seasons,” he said. “They have good, young, really solid coach. They’ve got great skill kids. You won’t find a better collection of athletes with a pedigree.”
Raiders’ wide receiver Dominick Blaylock, son of former NBA player Mookie Blaylock, who played for several teams including seven years with the Atlanta Hawks, is among the best high school football players in the state, Sphire said.
Walton’s quarterback Austin Kirksey has accepted a scholarship to play at University of Nevada.
“He’s a big-time quarterback,” Sphire said.
After the hard work to earn a playoff berth, Sphire’s concern is his players may believe they’ve already accomplished the goal for the season.
“I’m worried about them being satisfied,” he said. “I hope they don’t feel satisfied.”
Camden may be “flying under the radar” because the program has been undergoing a rebuild under the second-year head coach.
“I’d like to think so,” he said. “I came here because of Camden County’s reputation.”
Camden won three state championships in the 2000s and it’s likely Walton will be wary coming into tonight’s game.
“It’s not that far removed,” he said. “Everyone in the state knows Camden County football. Walton will not take if for granted.”
The playoffs are the best time of the year for high school football and Sphire said he and his coaching staff are enthusiastic about the challenges ahead.
“This is a blast,” he said. “This is the time of year when you’re proud for your team, proud of your program.”
Most people are picking Walton to in the game handily, but Sphire said his goal is to earn an upset win and advance in the playoffs.
“We’re looking forward to a business trip,” he said. “We’re playing with house money. Walton’s supposed to win by 30 points.”