Photo by Brian Paglia / New Creation quarterback B.J. Cash calls out the snap before a play during a recent practice.
McDONOUGH — As New Creation football goes into the first round of the Independent Christian Schools of Georgia and Alabama playoffs, Crusaders coach Jonathan Brown is feeling one of the struggles that come with a small league and familiar opponents.
Young American awaits New Creation for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Friday. The Crusaders defeated Young American, 26-0, in the regular season.
“Sometimes it’s harder to motivate kids having to do that. If they had beat us in the regular season, we’d probably be more motivated,” Brown said. “But I think our kids are mature enough to keep themselves motivated.”
That hasn’t been a problem for the Crusaders all season. Not after their season ended on the 10 yard line with a chance to take a lead in the semifinals a year ago against Unity Christian. Or the half-inch line the season before looking for the go-ahead score.
It was the same motivational ploy a senior-laden group used for inspiration during the program’s most successful offseason. And it didn’t dwindle during a 7-1 regular season that gives New Creation home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“That’s something that our kids talk about every day,” Brown said. “I’m proud of them for that. We’re not forgetting how painful the last two years have been.”
But as the season progressed, Brown was worried the Crusaders had forgotten something called the forward pass.
“It’s no secret,” Brown said, “we love to run the football.”
And New Creation has run it well. Zac Godwin, the team’s returning leading rusher, has elevated his performance the past few weeks, according to Brown. Take last week’s 25-12 win over Griffin Christian. Godwin rushed for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries.
Brown said that’s a product of the Crusaders’ veteran offensive line continuing to develop into a dominant unit. The group of Brown’s son, Connor, Ricardo Green, D.J. Brack, Derek Lynch and Sam Camp have led New Creation’s overpowering rushing attack.
But Brown doesn’t think that’s going to be enough come playoff time. He said New Creation must be able to throw effectively to get past the semifinals.
“You start a playoff run, you’re going to come up on some good defense that can shut your running game down,” Brown said. “You’ve got to be able to throw the ball.”
So the Crusaders made an concerted effort to throw more during the final weeks of the regular season with a playoff spot already sealed.
Try the first play against Griffin Christian. B.J. Cash connected with Nick Wells for an 83-yard touchdown. Cash finished with 118 yards passing and the touchdown, which is right around the amount of production Brown hopes to get from the passing game.
“I wouldn’t call it a deficiency, just a lack of doing it,” Brown said. “We’ve concentrated on that every week in our game plan.”
The added passing dimension has New Creation playing closer to its full potential.
“I think we’re picking it up at the right time,” Brown said.