Class AAAAAA football: Morrow, a team on the rise, also moving up in class

The Morrow football team had its best season in almost two decades last year.

The Mustangs’ reward, although not actually related, is a move up in classification and into one of the state’s strongest regions (4-AAAAAA) for the next two years.

The Georgia High School Association traditionally has reclassified the state’s schools every two years, but in the most recent reclassification process moved instead to a four-year cycle, with a midpoint adjustment for schools that increased or decreased in enrollment by at least 20 percent.

That adjustment came in November, and Morrow was the only school that was moved up to Class AAAAAA, as its enrollment increased 37.3 percent in two years (from 1,332 students to 1,829). The Mustangs were placed in Region 4 with perennial powers Tucker, Stephenson and Lovejoy as well as Drew, Forest Park, M.L. King, Mount Zion-Jonesboro and Mundy’s Mill.

Morrow will be taking the place of fellow Clayton County school Jonesboro, which saw a 22.4-percent drop in enrollment (from 1,731 students to 1,343) and moved down one classification. The Cardinals will be taking Morrow’s spot in Region 3-AAAAA, which includes Fayette County, Griffin, McIntosh, Riverdale, Starr’s Mill and Whitewater.

“I’m definitely excited about moving into this region,” Morrow coach Jerome Weaks said. “With my history of being in DeKalb for so long, I’m pretty familiar with Tucker and Stephenson and those teams. That’s going to help us as far as preparation and things of that nature. I welcome the challenge. My guys are excited about playing these games, the level of competition, the amount of talent that’ll be on the field, as well as the number of scouts that’ll be at these games. They’ll be able to get seen because we’re playing such high-quality competition.”

Morrow hired Weaks before the 2016 season for the first head coaching job of his career. He was the offensive coordinator at Lovejoy and had previous stints at DeKalb County schools Southwest DeKalb and Avondale.

He inherited a team that had gone 1-9 in 2015 and 13-87 over the previous decade. Weaks’ first team was 2-8 overall and 0-6 in region play, but things improved dramatically in his second season, as the Mustangs were 5-5 overall (2-4 in region play) and missed a playoff berth by one game. It was Morrow’s best finish since the 1998 team finished 10-2 and reached the second round of the playoffs. The Mustangs have not made a playoff appearance since.

Morrow’s state title in 1987 remains the only championship by a Clayton County school.

“We’re excited about the upcoming season, as our guys have gotten better over the past two seasons,” Weaks said. “It’s a different era around here. Guys have actually dedicated themselves to changing the culture. That’s kind of why we were so successful this past season. We just missed the playoffs by one game. It’s been a total mind shift, a different way of working and just believing you can do it.”

Here’s a complete list of the schools that will be in new regions for the 2018-19 school year:

Benedictine (from 2-AA to 3-AAA)

Bremen (from 6-AAA to 5-AA)

Cherokee Bluff (new school in 7-AAA)

Denmark (new school in 7-AAAA)

Dougherty (from 1-AAA to 1-AAAA)

Flowery Branch (from 8-AAAAA to 7-AAAA)

Hampton (from 4-AAAAA to 4-AAAA)

Hephzibah (from 3-AAAA to 4-AA)

Jefferson (from 8-AAAA to 8-AAA)

Jonesboro (from 4-AAAAAA to 3-AAAAA)

McNair (from 5-AAA to 6-AA)

Morrow (from 3-AAAAA to 4-AAAAAA)

Mount Bethel Christian (former GICAA school in 6-A)

Trinity Christian (former GISA school in 5-A)

Union County (from 7-AAA to 8-AA)

Woodville-Tompkins (from 3-A to 2-AA)