Best of the rest: Who deserves top-10 consideration in AA?

Very little raises the dander of sports fans like polls. Top 10, top 25, etc. Whatever the number, somebody is bound to have a gripe ... which makes sense. In sports we deal in objective realities, like final scores. Nothing subjective about it, no room for interpretation. Just a cold, unflinching fact. Meanwhile, the polls are something else altogether; a patchwork of best-guesses and speculation.

The good news is they really don't matter in high school football -- the playoffs will let us know who's belongs where -- but they do make for a fun talking point and a fine way to give recognition to teams that have performed well.

We've talked plenty about the top 10 teams this year and will continue to do so. This week, though, let's give some time to the teams on the outside looking in and examine some of the teams who could be waiting in the wings.


Macon County (2-2)

Region 4

Resume strength: The Bulldogs showed they could go toe-to-toe with some of the state's best in a 41-34 loss to Fitzgerald last week.

Resume weakness: The season-opening loss to Americus-Sumter (28-23) is a bit curious, though the Panthers (2-2) are a AAAA team and already had the benefit of one game under their belt.

Players to know: LB Roquan Smith (6-0, 205, Sr.); QB K'hari Lane (6-0, 221, So.); WR Devontae Hudson (5-10, 170, Sr.); DL Malik Walker (6-2, 265, Jr.). Smith is the headliner, a highly recruited prospect with scholarship offers to the nation's best college football programs. Lane leads the Bulldogs' wide-open offense; in the loss to Fitzgerald, he threw for 330 yards, with Hudson accounting for 216 on four catches. Walker has offers from Tennessee and Clemson, among others.

Proving ground: If Macon County is a top-10 team, it could enter the season finale against No. 8 Lamar County on a five-game winning streak. The Bulldogs' game against Heard County this week had the look of a showdown earlier in the season, but the Braves have struggled and will be without star RB/DB Duranta Dunson. Other than Lamar County, no team in 4-AA has a winning record right now, though Bleckley County is coming off an upset of No. 10 Dublin.

Screven County (4-0)

Region 3

Resume strength: No. 4 in AA in scoring offense; No. 3 in scoring defense

Resume weakness: Georgia teams on schedule have a combined record of 1-6-1.

Players to know: RB/LB Tavarius Johnson (5-9, 190, Sr.); RB Malik Prescott (5-11, 200, Jr.), QB Donta Wilburn (5-10, 170, Sr.). The Gamecocks operate out of the I-formation primarily with Johnson and Prescott spearheading a potent ground attack.

Proving ground: This week at No. 7 Jefferson County. It's the region opener for both teams, with the winner to be established as the team to beat, now that Dublin is looking vulnerable after last week's loss. A win here, and the Gamecocks would have to be considered a clear top-10 contender.

Washington-Wilkes (3-1)

Region 8

Resume strength: The Tigers' only defeat came via a 14-7 loss to No. 7 Jefferson County; it dropped the Tigers from No. 2 all the way out of the top 10.

Resume weakness: The schedule. Though the Tigers scheduled a tougher non-region slate this year, with the departure of Jefferson for Class AAA, there aren't any teams left in 8-AA with the respect of the rest of the state. Washington-Wilkes is the only team in the region that has won a playoff game since 2006.

Players to know: DL Tremond Ferrell (6-2, 280, Sr.); QB Deandre Harris (6-4, 200, Jr.); OL Nikita Fair (6-5, 285, Sr.). Ferrell leads a big, athletic front for a Tigers defense that has given up more than 18 points only once in the last 16 games.

Proving ground: The postseason. That what it comes down to for the Tigers, who won their first 11 games last year before getting bounced by Bowdon in the second round.

Model (4-0)

Region 7

Resume strength: 4-0 for the first time since 1981; No. 6 in Class AA in scoring defense.

Resume weakness: Opponents' cumulative record is 8-8, but none have been highly regarded, and none of the wins have come by the kind of margins that grab the attention of onlookers statewide.

Players to know: RB/LB Nakyle Watkins (5-10, 215, Sr.); QB/DB Tyler Dean (6-3, 185, Sr.), RB/DB Chris Dublin (So.). Watkins missed his junior season with an ACL injury, but is making up for lost time, rushing for over 100 yards in each game and topping 200 in the the Blue Devils' win over Bremen two weeks ago.

Proving ground: A win this week over Dade County, a 2013 playoff team, would be a step in the right direction and would certainly put a bigger spotlight on the Oct. 3 game with Darlington.

Thomasville (1-3)

Region 1

Resume strength: All nonregion games came against Class AAAA teams or bigger. Opponents' cumulative record: 12-5. Defense has played well since giving up 42 to West Laurens.

Resume weakness: Three losses

Players to know: WR/DB Jay Bowdry (6-0, 185, Sr.); QB/DB Kenneth Hayes (5-8, 162, Sr.); RB Jalandin Jones (Sr.).  Bowdry is a D-I prospect at safety with scholarship offers from Duke, Indiana and Minnesota, among others. While the offense has struggled at times this season, the Bulldogs have a pair of playmakers in the backfield with Hayes and Jones.

Proving ground: Region 1 is looking like it might be the deepest in AA, so there won't be many (if any) easy outs. The next two weeks should tell us a lot about the Bulldogs, as they face Seminole County and No. 2 Fitzgerald. It's too early to call any one game a must-win, but a split seems necessary.

Seminole County (2-1)

Region 1

Resume strength: Back-t0-back games with 40-plus points; 31 wins in last three seasons in Class A

Resume weakness: Season-opening loss to Class A Pacelli

Players to know: RB/DB Javon Wiggins (5-8, 175, Sr.), QB/DB Alex Fudge (5-6, 145, Sr.). Wiggins ran for 284 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries in last week's 45-20 win over Miller County.

Proving ground: This week vs. Thomasville. A win over a respected opponent like the Bulldogs would let the rest of Region 1 know that the Indians are for real.

Union County (4-0)

Region 8

Resume strength: No. 1 scoring offense in Class AA.

Resume weakness: The schedule, lack of football tradition. The Panthers' three Georgia opponents have a combined record of 4-8 this season, and last year's trip to the playoffs was the first for Union County since 2001. According the Georgia High School Football Historians Association records, the Panthers are 1-10 all-time in postseason games (region playoffs included).

Players to know: QB Joseph Mancuso (6-3, 195, Jr.); WR/LB Jacob Rogers (6-2, 182, Sr.); LB Chase Barnett (Sr.);  Mancuso is one of the most prolific QBs in AA, throwing for 942 yards with 15 TDs and no interceptions through four games. He also leads the Panthers with 211 rushing yards.

Proving ground: Season finale vs. Washington-Wilkes. The Panthers will have a chance to beat each team in Region 8, but until they knock off the defending champs, they'll have very few believers beyond the North Georgia Mountains.


Which of these teams most deserves a top-10 spot in your opinion? Who did we leave off of this list who could end up in the top 10 soon?