Cedar Grove might not be the top-ranked team in the classification -- it is second behind Calhoun -- but the Saints could make a statement this week when they travel to Class AAAAAAA No. 9-ranked McEachern (1-1) for the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
The second-ranked Saints, considered by some fans as the best team in the classification, spent the first two weeks of the season beating out-of-state opponents from higher classifications – Summerville, S.C., (21-7) and Hewitt-Trussville, Ala., (34-30) -- before focusing their energy on in-state opponent Columbia last week. They won 45-0.
Cedar Grove receiver Jadon Haselwood, who has been committed to UGA since his sophomore year, is the top player in the Saints’ offensive scheme. Haselwood, has 201 yards receiving, 143 yards on five kick returns and eight tackles as a defensive back. Against Hewitt-Trussville on ESPN, Haselwood had three receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown with 84 yards on two kickoff returns. The multi-talented Haselwood added six tackles on the defensive side.
Not to be overlooked, Robert Jones III helps anchor the Saints' running game with 30 carries for 289 yards and three touchdowns. Against Hewitt-Trussville, Jones rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
On defense, 4-star recruits Dante Walker, a defensive end, and Rashad Cheney, a defensive tackle, lead a talented group ready to chase the football. Three-star recruits Isaiah Ratcliff, a linebacker, and Alvin Williams, a weakside defensive end, will try to stifle McEachern’s classic running game.
McEachern picked up the pieces after losing to Colquitt County in the Corky Kell Classic at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, 41-7, and defeated South Cobb 58-12 last week. If Cedar Grove wants to silence the Indians home crowd, it should pay close attention to the strategy that Colquitt County used in the Corky Kell.
Colquitt held McEachern to 28 yards on 26 carries. Senior Paris Brown has managed 126 yards on 21 carries in McEachern’s two games after rushing for over 1000 yards last year. The 5-foot-10, 198-pound running back is listed as a three-star recruit by 247Sports.com. Colquitt held Brown to 50 yards of rushing at the Corky Kell.
Here are some of the other top games:
-- No. 1 Calhoun (2-0) vs. Sonoraville (1-1): Sonoraville has never beaten Calhoun. In fact, the Yellow Jackets have won every region 6-North/South title since, let's just say, 1895.
-- No. 3 Peach County (1-1) vs. Class AAAAAA Houston County (2-1): Peach has won 10 of the 12 meetings between the two programs dating to 1994 and will try to recover after losing to Lee County last Friday.
-- No. 4 Benedictine (1-0) at Blessed Trinity (3-0): (See below.)
-- No. 5 Westminster (2-1) vs. Class AAAA Marist (2-0): (See below.)
-- No. 7 GAC (1-1) at Prestonwood Christian, TX: (See below.)
-- No. 8 Lovett (1-2) vs. Class AAAA Mary Persons (1-2): Lovett lost its first two games – to GAC, 24-21, and Marist, 40-20 -- before getting on track against B.E.S.T., 43-0.
Here are previews of other top AAA games, provided by GHSF Daily for the AJC, as part of the "top 10 games of the week" feature located elsewhere on the website:
Marist at Westminster
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Alfred E. Thompson Stadium, Atlanta
Records, rankings: Marist is 2-0 and No. 2 in Class AAAA; Westminster is 2-1 and No. 5 in AAA.
Last meeting: Marist won 12-10 in 1997.
Things to know: These Atlanta private schools played each other each season from 1957 to 1997. This will be the first meeting since. The interruption occurred after Westminster was put in a region that gave it only two non-region games over four seasons. The series just never resumed despite good relations. (Westminster coach Gerry Romberg played at Marist.) Marist leads the series 27-18-1 and has played only St. Pius and Woodward Academy more times. Westminster has played no other school more than Marist. Westminster began this season with upsets over Woodward Academy (56-31) and Greater Atlanta Christian (22-21) but was brought to earth last week by another top team, St. Pius, 35-9. Westminster is passing the ball better than in recent seasons. Parks Harber, a baseball player committed to Georgia, is 50-of-81 for 695 yards with touchdowns to six receivers. But the Wildcats are balanced. Paul Weatherington has run for 322 yards in three games. Marist is a run-based option team, per usual, but is averaging 27.3 yards on its 10 completed passes. The most conspicuous player will be AJC Super 11 WR/DB Kyle Hamilton, a Notre Dame commit who shows up big on offense (33.8 yards on his four receptions), special teams and defense.
Benedictine at Blessed Trinity
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Blessed Trinity Stadium, Roswell
Records, rankings: Benedictine is 1-0 and No. 4 in Class AAA; Blessed Trinity is 3-0 and No. 1 in AAAA.
Last meeting: Blessed Trinity won 17-14 in overtime in 2011.
Things to know: Benedictine moved to Class AAA this year after six seasons in AA, where the Cadets were 73-9 and won two state titles. The Cadets, who have won 34 consecutive regular-season games, haven't played since a 23-22 victory against Burke County on Aug. 18. In a bit of a departure from its recent tradition, Benedictine had more passing yardage (190) than rushing yards (127) against Burke. QB Carter Geriner was 10-of-17 passing. Rico Powers ran for 91 yards and scored on a 61-yard run and a 30-yard reception. The Cadets gave up 404 yards rushing. Blessed Trinity, which won its first state title last season, is 78-18-1 since coach Tim McFarlin took over in 2011. Steele Chambers (33 carries, 369 yards, seven TDs) and Elijah Green (38-213-1) provide almost 90 percent of the yardage for a running game that averages 181.0. Jake Smith is 33-of-48 passing for 396 yards and two TDs. Green and leading receiver Ryan Davis (16-208-1) left the Titans' 43-21 victory over Woodward Academy last week with ankle injuries and will be out three to four weeks. Starters Jackson Hamilton (safety) and Ryan Dupont (fullback) also are out until at least October with injuries.
GAC at Prestonwood Christian (Texas)
When, where: 8 p.m. Friday, Lions Stadium, Plano, Texas
Records, rankings: Greater Atlanta Christian is 1-1 and No. 7 in Class AA; Prestonwood Christian is 1-0 and No. 2 in Texas' TAPPS Division I (MaxPreps)
Last meeting: This is the teams' first meeting.
Things to know: GAC will be the second Georgia team ever to play in Texas, the first at a Texas high school. Buford defeated Timberview 42-21 at Texas Stadium in Irving in 2008. The most recent game before than involving Georgia and Texas teams came in 1947, when St. James of Port Arthur played at Marist. Prestonwood is Texas' eighth-best team, according to MaxPreps, and the reigning champion in Texas' highest private-school division. (Texas' public and private schools are separated in the state playoffs.) QB Dylan Cadwallader passed for 322 yards in Prestonwood's opening win. TE Austin Stogner is committed to Oklahoma. Prestonwood will come to GAC next season as GAC continues to seek out prominent inter-state competition. GAC was 0-2 in close games to Valor Christian of Colorado the past two seasons. GAC's attractiveness to out-of-state opponents, aside from averaging 11.8 wins the past six seasons, is a history of recent major D-I recruits. The latest are DE Chris Hinton and OL Myles Hinton, both five-star prospects.