Class AAAAA blog: Five non-ranked teams that started with a bang

Kell coach Brett Sloan
Kell coach Brett Sloan

When the season began, Kell was not ranked among the top 10 for the first time since 2010. That could change in a hurry.

The Longhorns began their campaign last week with a 17-12 rise-and-shine win over Mays at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday. Based on the performance of their new backfield and their audacious defense, coach Brett Sloan’s team appears ready to contend with Carrollton and Rome in Region 7.

“It feels good (to win the first game),” Sloan said. “It gives the kids some confidence, because Mays is as athletic as anybody we’ll play and we’ve got some good teams in our region. It’s good to come out on top.”

The Kell defense kept Mays off the board in the first half. The Raiders scored 304 points last season and has a roster full of speedy players. Kell ended up limiting Mays to 264 total yards and forced two turnovers.

“I think we’ve got a lot of speed (on defense),” Sloan said. “I feel like we’ve got a good defense. When they’re playing hard, we’re hard to handle in the box. I hope we can continue to get better. I love the way they play … they play hard, we attack people and I’m proud of their effort.”

Avery Baron, Branson Hall and Nate Woghiren were the top tacklers against Mays and Cam Ball made some big plays in the secondary, particularly defending the pass on fourth down. Mays was only 2 of 12 on third-down conversions.

The offense got a huge boost from new quarterback Corbin LaFrance (162 yards, two touchdowns), new wide receiver Jaylon Brown (six catches) and new running back David Mbadinga (109 yards rushing, one touchdown reception).

Here are four other big debuts this week. Perhaps one or more of these teams will make a move toward the top-10 before the season is finished:

Griffin: The Bears rolled to a 40-0 win over rival Spalding in the season opener to make coach Kareem Reid's debut a success. That wasn't really surprising, though, since the Bears are 11-1 against Spalding and have won four straight in the series. Darshavious Foster completed 17 of 25 passes for 232 yards and threw two long touchdown passes to get the season started right for the Bears and Mo King, who ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns, looks like the real thing at running back. Davion Westmoreland had five tackles, three for loss, and recovered a fumble.

Decatur: The Bulldogs haven't made the playoffs since 2004, but appear to be headed in the right direction after the season-opening 51-0 win over Lakeside. A year ago, Decatur dropped a 21-20 decision to Lakeside in the season opener. Quarterback James Swank threw for 85 yards, including a 46-yarder to Marshall Toole, and receiver Isaac Dimmrock caught a 28-yard touchdown pass. Kristopher Williams returned an interception for a touchdown and Mekhi Lloyd added a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Riverwood: The Raiders lost a lot of players – including 11 offensive starters -- from last year's 8-3 team, but you couldn't tell it from their 46-10 win over Chattahoochee. Quarterback Avery Smith threw for 142 yards and two touchdowns and receiver Austin Smith caught four passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns. Big running back Quinterio Lawson rushed 12 times for 84 yards. The defense was led by Kaleb Patton, who had 6.5 tackles, including a strip sack he recovered and returned for a touchdown. Jonathan Brown had two sacks.

Villa Rica: The Wildcats presented first-year coach Christian Hunnicutt with a win in his debut, a 44-7 victory over Campbell. A year ago, Villa Rica was beaten 34-20 by the Spartans. Tailback Phillip Zachery and quarterback Tristen Allen have adapted well to the new spread attack and Zachery did some impressive running in the opener. Villa Rica ran for 195 yards.