But with improvements to the defense and a high-powered offense the Raiders circled the wagons in region play and closed out their season with six straight wins — including a 35-32 victory over Johns Creek last Friday that gave them the No. 2 seed in 6AAAAAA and a home playoff game against Mill Creek this Friday.
“We’re starting to really gel on offense and defensively we are playing with a lot of effort and starting to play really well together,” said Alpharetta head coach Jason Dukes. “We played some awfully good people in those first four games to make us a better team in the long run. I think we did that and right now we are really starting to hit our stride.”
Alpharetta’s stride includes six wins where their offense is averaging just less than 35 points per game, but it’s the Raider defense that has made the biggest leap forward — allowing just 17 per game in their last six compared to 37.5 in their first four.
“The defensive improvement has been tremendous,” said Dukes. “That unit is really gelling, trusting each other, trusting their coaches and getting 11 hats to the football.
“But the best thing is that we can still improve, which is good because I think our best football is still ahead of us.”
On the immediate horizon for the Raiders is a date with Mill Creek (7-3) — the No. 3 seed from 7AAAAAA. The two teams played in each of the last two years, with the Hawks winning each matchup 31-12 and 42-7.
Alpharetta is making their third straight appearance in the state playoffs but still looking for their first win, a fact not lost on Dukes or his veteran team.
“The last two years we’ve been in hard-fought and competitive games so it’s good to have some kids around with that experience,” said the Alpharetta coach. “As a program we want to keep progressing, we know we have the capability to play with anybody in the state and we want to take that next step, win a playoff game and move on further.”