Class AAAAAAA blog: Curiosity builds for Marietta

Curiosity is building about Marietta, the AJC’s No. 1-ranked team in Class AAAAAAA.

Keep in mind that only the AJC’s rankings (produced by Georgia High School Football Daily) have Marietta on top. GPB, Score Atlanta, the Georgia Sports Writers and MaxPreps all had Colquitt County as the preseason No. 1. The computer Maxwell Ratings did not rank the Blue Devils at all. That’s because Marietta was 5-6 last season.

Earlier this week, an e-mail arrived from Phil Jones, co-host of The Afternoon Sports Drive broadcast on WJEM 96.1 FM in Valdosta. He writes:

‘’I’m interested in the Marietta football team. A 5-6 team from a year ago, and are projected - apparently rightfully so - as the top dog in Class 7A. Can you offer some detail into the Blue Devils? Several returning studs? (Of course, I’ve read your comments on the newsletter, but any additional information would be appreciated).’’

Interpretation: The state – and south Georgia in particular – was justifiable skeptical at those initial rankings, but Marietta sure looked good last week against Rome. What’s up with Marietta?

Here was my response:

‘’They have a QB committed to Tennessee and a really good senior class. That class, then sophomores, led Marietta to the QF in 2017. Lost to North Gwinnett (eventual champions) 51-41. In 2018, the QB got hurt in the 9th game, out for the season. They had a WR going to Tennessee. He was injured and lost for the season in the 6th or 7th game. They have two D-I defensive backs declared ineligible before the season started. Without their QB, they lost in the first round. Now, most everybody is back and healthy and eligible. They have 8-9 D-I recruits, all seniors. The WR/TE is virtually unstoppable. This must be what Stan Rome was like. Two other WR's going D-I.’’ (Stan Rome, btw, was a 6-5 freak of nature from Valdosta in the 1970s who might still be the greatest high school wide receiver in state history.

‘’Who knows if they'll win it,’’ I continued, “but this is as talented an offense as I've ever seen. QB is averaging 300 yards passing per game for his career; started since he was a freshman, but been injured (two broken collarbones). The defense is more iffy, but has a D-lineman who committed to Tennessee the other day, couple of DB's going D-I. And they played some really good teams last year. Some out-of-state teams that were nationally ranked.’’

This week, Marietta plays St. Joseph’s Prep of Philadelphia. Perhaps some education about St. Joseph’s also is in order.

Marietta-St. Joseph's is one of the games on GHSF Daily's  Predict the Winner contest. So far, 84.3 percent of respondents (who number in the hundreds) are choosing Marietta. Is that loyalty to the Georgia team, or a failure to realize that St. Joseph's is a top-25 team nationally in both USA Today and MaxPreps? St. Joseph's was the school of Georgia running back D'Andre Swift. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

That St. Johseph’s-Marietta game, played at Marietta’s Northcutt Stadium, will give us a great read on Marietta’s position both in Georgia but the county. Should be fun to watch.

In other news …

The other teams in the highest class that looked the best last week were McEachern and Archer.

First, McEachern.

Last week, we published some comments from media statewide about teams, players and story lines and got this assessment from Marietta Daily Journal sports editor John Bednarowski:

''One player I think will be fun to watch is McEachern quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior, who recently committed to Florida, could see his numbers skyrocket under new coach Franklin Stephens and offensive coordinator Derek Cook. Del Rio-Wilson has a pair of four-star receivers to throw to in Javon Baker and Dacari Collins, a three-star running back to hand off to in Jordon Simmons, and when things break down, Del Rio-Wilson is more than able to pick up his own yardage on the ground.''

In the 48-10 win over Brookwood, Del Rio-Wilson was 15-of-18 passing for 251 yards and two touchdowns. Baker had five receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown. The new coach at McEachern is Franklin Stephens, who won a state title at Tucker. The offensive coordinator is Derek Cook, who had great success as head coach at Kell before stepping away from the game.

Archer beat Tucker 41-7 last week. Tucker is good, but unranked and rebuilding from some of its elite teams from a few years ago. Still an impressive win. Schmari Campbell rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. The underrated Carter Peevy threw for 163 yards.

Other highly ranked teams did well, but were not overwhelming.

Colquitt County, under new coach Justin Rogers, beat North Gwinnett 17-6. Colquitt took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter on Jaycee Harden's 52-yard TD pass to Montavious Ponder and limited North Gwinnett to two field goals and 206 yards of total offense with six tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and four pass breakups.

Parkview beat Mountain View 28-18. Cody Brown rushed for 164 yards on 28 carries. Jordan Williams was 13-of-23 passing for 194 yards and four touchdowns - all to C.J. Daniels, who had seven receptions for 127 yards. Daniels' 5-yard TD catch with 4:03 left put the game away.

Grayson beat James Clemens of Alabama 23-13. Ryan King caught TD passes of 77 and 4 yards, the latter for the lead in the fourth quarter. C.J. Dixon was 17-of-34 passing for 224 yards and two touchdowns. A.J. Lopez intercepted two passes.

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