Class AAAAAAA blog: Region 1 football preview

Spring sports aren’t finished yet, not officially. The GHSA is keeping that door open for now. 

But until that flame is rekindled, the Class AAAAAAA blog will look ahead to football season with eight region previews beginning today with Region 1.

Teams (4): Region 1 is the only region in the highest class that will feature the same teams it had in 2019. It’s been the same since 2016, in fact – Camden County, Colquitt County, Lowndes, Tift County. All will make the playoffs as the GHSA has reverted to  taking everyone’s top four teams regardless of region size. For the past four seasons, only three were guaranteed berths out of a four-team league, and the classification’s 32nd playoff berth went to the highest-rated team statewide that didn’t qualify automatically.

New coaches (1): Randy McPherson surprised some with his retirement in December just days after his most successful season at Lowndes in over a decade. The state runner-up to Marietta, the Vikings finished 14-1. McPherson won 181 games, eight region titles and three state titles in 18 seasons at Lowndes. In January, Lowndes hired Jamey DuBose out of Alabama. DuBose has been the head coach for three state championship teams in his home state. His teams at Prattville outside of Montgomery won Class 6A in 2008 and 2011. He came to Central outside of Columbus, Ga., in 2014. His teams there were 66-11 and finished 14-0 in 2018. DuBose’s overall record is 137-39. Also worth noting is that Lowndes’ coordinators took head-coaching jobs at other AAAAAAA schools. Byron Slack (defense) is at Hillgrove now. Tommy Watson (offense) is at Lambert.

Best games: Colquitt County opens its season at defending state champion Marietta on Aug. 21, a Friday. The next night, Lowndes opens against Hoover, Alabama’s most prominent team, in the Corky Kell Classic. Those two have other marquee games. Lowndes will play Class AAAAAA power Lee County on Sept. 11, and Colquitt is playing at Northside-Warner Robins on Sept. 25. Both will play Valdosta, whose coach has not been announced. What if it’s Rush Propst? The former Colquitt County coach has expressed interest in the Valdosta job, and Valdosta plays at Colquitt on Sept. 11.  That wold be something. That same night, Camden will be playing at home against Marietta. Camden also will play at home vs. Coffee on Sept. 25 and at Warner Robins on Oct. 2. The Wildcats’ schedule is noticeably tougher now that the GHSA has abandoned the GHSA points system (which punished teams with more strident schedules) and will allow all four teams in the playoffs in 2020. Tift County will be playing at Class A public-school champion Irwin County for the first time since 1964. Tift also will play AAA runner-up Crisp County, Valdosta, Coffee and Dothan, Ala.

Forecast: 

-Lowndes (14-1, 3-0) won the region in 2019 and returns nine first-team all-region players, the most of any team. Defensive tackle Thomas Davis was the region’s defensive player of the year. Jacurri Brown, who will be a junior, rushed for 1,559 yards and passed for 1,330. Safety D.J. Quinn is the consensus No. 75 prospect among Georgia seniors this season. Lowndes didn’t have anyone in the top 100 last year. ...

-Colquitt County (9-3, 2-1) has four returning first-team all-state players and must replace all-time leading rusher Daijun Edwards, now at Georgia, and quarterback Jaycee Harden, who passed for 3,250 yards and 39 touchdowns. The team’s best player is probably wide receiver Lemeke Brockington, a three-star recruit who got some all-state recognition last year after catching 53 passes for 923 yards.

-Camden County (8-3, 2-1) is trending up. Running back Jamie Felix, a four-star recruit according to 247Sports, rushed for 767 yards last season. Offensive tackle Micah Morris is a top-100 national recruit. Wide receiver Shawn Hardy is a top-75 state recruit. ...

-Tift County (3-7, 0-3) is coming off its weakest season in some time but should be better. Watch for junior defensive lineman Tyre West, who had 10 tackles for losses as a sophomore. He’s the No. 1 junior prospect in the state, according to 247Sports.

Players: Below are those returning who made first-team all-region in 2019. 

Defensive player of the year: DT Thomas Davis, Lowndes, Sr.

Utility player of the year: Cade Anders, Tift County, Sr.

QB - Jacurri Brown, Lowndes, Jr.

RB - Jamie Felix, Camden County, Jr.

RB - Israel Mitchell, Lowndes, Sr.

RB - Justin Lee, Lowndes, Sr.

TE - Mallen Pope, Lowndes, Sr.

OL - Micah Morris, Camden County, Sr.

WR - Tajh Sanders, Colquitt County, Jr.

WR - Le’Meke Brockington, Colquitt County, Sr.

WR - Shawn Hardy, Camden County, Sr.

P - Azaria Smith, Tift County, Jr.

DL - Leon Williams, Lowndes, Sr.

DL - Jacques Hunter, Lowndes, Sr.

DL - Zy’Kerious Brockington, Colquitt County, Sr.

DL - Tyre West, Tift County, Jr.

ILB - J.D. Bengston, Tift County, Sr.

OLB - Jalon Baker, Lowndes, Sr.

DB - Omarion Daniels, Colquitt County, Sr.

DB - T.J. Quinn, Lowndes, Sr.

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