The Newnan Times-Herald


Northgate graduate Skalski helps lead Clemson into Sugar Bowl

  • By Doug Gorman
  • |
  • Dec. 31, 2017 - 2:00 AM

For the second year in a row, the Clemson Tigers football team could bring home a national title.

In order for that to happen, the Tigers have to get past Alabama on Monday night in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and then beat the winner of the Rose Bowl game between Georgia and Oklahoma the following week when the National Championship game heads to Atlanta.

There should be very little mystery between Alabama and Clemson heading to Monday’s showdown.

It was just about 365 days ago when the two teams clashed in last year’s national title game with Clemson holding on for a 35-31 victory.

One of the players who will try to make an impact in Monday’s game for Clemson is James Skalski, who was a standout linebacker at Northgate High School.

Skalski earned Newnan Times-Herald Player of the Year/Defensive Player of the Year honors his senior year at Northgate.

Skalski saw limited playing time as a freshman at Clemson last year, but his playing time has increased this year for the Tigers.

Skalski has had to deal with plenty of adversity since arriving as one of the Tigers’ top recruits in 2015.

Skalski’s father, John, passed away suddenly of a heart attack before the the Tigers’ game with N.C. State last year.

With the support of his teammates and coaches, the Northgate graduate surrounded himself with football.

"No matter what you’re going through or facing in life or how hard it can get, you know you've got guys you can lean on, guys that’ll help pick you up," Skalski told the Independent Mail last year. "It’s a family here, so yeah, I lost my dad and it’s a hard thing to get through, but with the support I have here and back at home, there’s nothing I can’t get past."

The Clemson linebacker is starting to put up some very impressive numbers for the Tigers as he heads into the Sugar Bowl.

Skalski was in on 149 plays and made 33 tackles, including two for a loss, during the regular season.

Kickoff for Monday’s Sugar Bowl is set for 8:45 on ESPN.

Auburn’s Tray Matthews comes home for Peach Bowl

 After losing to Georgia in the SEC title game, the Auburn Tigers’ hopes of playing in the four-team college football playoffs were crushed.

However, there is still plenty for the Tigers and Newnan High School graduate Tray Matthews to play for when the Tigers battle Central Florida on New Year’s Day in the Peach Bowl.

Kickoff is set for 12:30 on ESPN.

Auburn brings a 10-3 record into the contest, while Central Florida, one of college football’s most surprising teams, is 12-0.

It will be Matthews’ last college football game.

The Tiger linebacker comes into the game as Auburn’s leading tackler. Matthews has 76 tackles.

Spencer Smith and Memphis take on Iowa State in Liberty Bowl

The Memphis State Tigers didn’t even have to leave town to play in their bowl game.

After finishing 10-2, the Tigers accepted an invitation to play Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers enjoyed a successful season with special teams being an important part of the squad’s double-digit wins.

Former East Coweta High School standout Spencer Smith has shared punting duties for the Tigers.

Smith punted 21 times for an average of 40 yards.

Virginia Tech’s Facyson ends career with loss to Oklahoma State

Northgate High School graduate Brandon Facyson’s next football stop could be the NFL.

If not, there is always medical school for the young man, who wants to be a cardiologist.

Thursday night, Facyson, who played in the defensive secondary for the Hokies, ended his college career as his team fell to Oklahoma State 30-21 in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando.

Facyson finished the game with three tackles. He had 22 for the season.