GAC's awesome year still fell short with Buford

In the nine years Jimmy Chupp has been head coach at Greater Atlanta Christian, the Spartans had never done as well as this year. Even so, the coach will need to assess what went wrong after a season of rights.

GAC's football program is in its infancy, only 12 years old, extremely young when assessing Georgia prep football history. This year produced a high water mark for the Spartans. The next best year was in 1998 when they lost by one point in the Georgia Dome to Lincoln County.

Friday night, the Spartans ran into a Buford team that was ready to play and had the tradition of winning firmly implanted into the players' psyche. Sometimes that is enough to make a difference.

The error-filled night is illustrated by the quarterback record. Jeremy Chupp committed 4 turnovers. Three of the turnovers resulted in Buford scoring.

From there, GAC couldn't come back. GAC had one loss in the regular season, to none other than their arch-rivals Buford.

Make that two losses. On Oct. 4, in Norcross Buford and GAC met in a state title preview. The Spartans lost that game 35-10, and Coach Chupp remembers it all too well.

"The best film you can watch is film of your team against them. We are watching it with a critical eye," Chupp said before the state championship game. "We weren't ready to play that night. We won one quarter, they won three, so they're up 3-1 on us now."

Now Buford is up 2-0 against GAC. With the win, Buford now wins state titles in two different classifications in two straight years.

The loss wasn't because of the work of Micah Andrews. The Spartan tailback led AA in rushing this season with 871 yards. On Friday, he amassed 141 yards, but the end zone eluded him.

"We've played at Buford twice in my time here, and we're 1-1", says Chupp before Fridays game. "I'm happy it's there to be honest. When you're at home, there are a lot of distractions. We've won three games on the road in the playoffs. I like our routine and the kids like the white jerseys."

Since these schools are only 15 miles apart, the players know each other and that creates a natural rivalry. Most of the team members grew up together and have played with or against one another since they were old enough to stand. That adds to Buford's bragging rights for the next 365 days.

As Chupp reflected on the past year with his team, he acknowleged that no one moment defined the 2002 team as special, but the game between the Spartans and the Calhoun was the biggest stepping stone because that win propelled GAC into the finals.

"If we were fortunate enough to win on Friday night, it would have been a great feeling," Chupp said. "I'm actually more excited about Christmas and everything that goes along with that."


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