Cedar Grove wide receiver Jadon Haselwood (11) makes a move on Peach County defensive back Otiserion French on a kickoff return in the first half of the Class AAA State Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Tuesday, December 11, 2018, in Atlanta. The play was called back on a penalty by Cedar Grove. (Jason Getz/Special to the AJC)

Class AAA blog: Expect the same football faces in lofty places

It seems that the same high school football programs stay near the top in Class AAA, and rarely is there a clear front-runner before the first snap of the season.

Expect the same this season. If you are looking for a bit of prognostication, here's a list of preseason favorites:

Peach County: Once again, the Trojans are at the top of the list of teams to watch. Peach has had two state titles slide from its grasp in heartbreaking fashion during the past two seasons.. In 2017, there was the Calhoun debacle. Last year, Cedar Grove’s Jadon Haselwood, the nation’s No. 1 receiver, got free in the final seconds for a game-winning touchdown reception.

In 2019, the Trojans return arguably their most talented team in years after placing four players on the preseason all-state team. Quarterback Jaydon Gibson, a preseason all-state selection, is expected to lead the Trojans. Gibson, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior, was 179-of-254 passing for 2,329 yards and 19 touchdowns last season.

Peach also features two preseason all-state selections on the offensive line -- Terrence Ferguson and Octavious King. Ferguson is a 6-4, 282-pound four-star defensive tackle with numerous D-1 offers. King is a 6-2, 325-pound guard who helps anchor Peach County’s iron curtain.

On defense, the Trojans are led by AJC Super 11 selection and Clemson commitment Sergio Allen. Allen, a 6-5, 217-pound four-star recruit, is listed as the No. 8 inside linebacker in the nation. He led the Trojans last season with 82 solo tackles and 40 combined tackles with 11 tackles for loss and 8.1 tackles per game.

Cedar Grove: No list of teams to watch this year would be complete without the defending state champions. Cedar Grove’s 14-13 victory against Peach in the 2018 title game marked the second state championship in two years. After coach Jimmy Smith’s departure to Georgia State, Miguel Patrick will lead the Saints into 2019 with hopes of a title defense.

Cedar Grove also placed four players on the preseason all-state team. On offense, Keon Watson’s 6-3, 315-pound frame will help fill holes in the line. On defense, Alvin Williams, Isaiah Ratcliff and Tennilius Denson are the top D-1 recruits. Williams is a 6-4, 220-pound three-star weakside defensive end who committed to Colorado. Ratcliff is a 6-1, 205-pound three-star inside linebacker. Denson, who committed to Pittsburgh, is a 6-1, 172-pound senior cornerback.

Greater Atlanta Christian: Since moving from Class AA to AAA in 2016, GAC always has been a factor. It lost to Cedar Grove in the 2016 finals, made it to the semifinals before losing to Peach County in 2017, and then lost in the second round to Westminster last season. GAC has been in the playoffs each season since 2011.

GAC placed three players on the preseason all-state team. On offense, Myles Hinton is the anchor. The four-star offensive tackle, at 6-6, 308-pounds, committed to Stanford. On defense, Choe Bryant-Strother (6-2, 230) is a three-star inside linebacker who has offers from Nebraska, Miami, Mississippi and UCLA, to name a few. Defensive back Tyler Bride helps complete the Spartans’ smothering defense. Bride, a 5-10, 172-pound defensive back, committed to Georgia Southern.

Calhoun: For the first time since 1998, Calhoun will not be led by coach Hal Lamb. Under Lamb's direction, Calhoun won 18 consecutive region titles and three state championships – 2011, 2014 and 2017 – and became part of a legacy that will live in Georgia high school football history. The new coach, Clay Stephenson, will try his best to fill those hefty shoes. For the first time since 2003, Calhoun does not have a player listed on the preseason all-state team. But it does return experience on offense with quarterback Jake Morrow and running back Jerrian Hames. On defense, the Yellow Jackets will be led by linebacker Zeke Brown and linemen Jaeden Curtis and Kendez Griffin. Kicker Eduardo Fajardo also returns.  

It’s worth noting that in the Maxwell preseason playoff projections, which simulates the AAA season 1,000,000 times, Cedar Grove is projected the champion 330,289 times. Peach County is predicted the champion 234,475 times. Calhoun ‘should’ be the champs 142,040 times. Benedictine finished on top 125,309 times. Greater Atlanta Christian won the title 88,125 times,  Westminster took the crown 21,013 times and Monroe Area was predicted on top 20,475 times.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author