Class AAAAAAA blog: Region 5 football preview

The new Region 5-AAAAAAA brings together the three largest Cherokee County schools and the three largest north Fulton schools.

Those are Cherokee, Etowah and Woodstock from Cherokee, and Alpharetta, Milton and Roswell from Fulton.

Milton and Roswell won football region titles last season. Three others made the playoffs.

Etowah has Roswell’s 2019 coach. Roswell recently named an interim coach. Alpharetta also has a new coach.

Here’s a quick football preview of the six.

-Alpharetta (7-4 overall, 7-1 in region play last season): Alpharetta is moving up from AAAAAA, where it was the Region 7 runner-up to Johns Creek. The Raiders have hired Hoover (Ala.) offensive coordinator Jason Kervin to replace Jacob Nichols. Kervin was part of six Alabama state-championship teams in his 12 seasons at Hoover, the past five running the offense. He's also coached at Shelby Academy, where his father, DeWayne Kervin, was head coach for 28 seasons. Alpharetta won three region titles (2011, 2013, 2014) while in the highest class and produced an NFL quarterback, Josh Dobbs. Alpharetta returns five players who got some all-region recognition in 2019. They are leading rusher Dylan Merrell, second-leading receiver Kevin Howard, defensive backs Jaden Slocum (offers from Georgia and Alabama) and Nicholas Haven (second-leading tackler in 2019) and defensive lineman John Jenness. The new quarterback figures to be Ben Guthrie, the athletic freshman who backed up quarterback Will Gerdes, who threw for 1,657 yards and 19 touchdowns.

-Cherokee (8-4, 3-2): This should be a fun team to watch, again. Etowah beat eventual region champion Roswell last season but suffered tight losses to Etowah and Walton, else the Warriors would've been the region champs. They beat Region 2 champion Westlake in the playoffs. Returning are rising juniors A.J. Swann (2,400 yards passing, 20 touchdowns), Keith Adams (1,128 yards rushing) and Adarrius Harshaw (626 yards receiving). All were first-team all-region. The defensive was more senior-oriented. Gone is all-state defensive back Patrick Dahlen. The defensive leader should be linebacker Braesen Parker.

-Etowah (5-6, 3-2): Etowah has hired Roswell coach Matt Kemper to replace Dave Svehla, who became head coach at West Forsyth. Kemper's Roswell teams won region titles the past two seasons and beat Etowah 48-14 last year. Etowah was 49-41 under Svehla but had slumped in recent years with four straight losing seasons, although each ended in a playoff berth. Etowah has three returning all-region players – wide receiver Brock Rechsteiner, linebacker Austin Skinner and defensive back Trevor Fair. Running backs Klivert Many and Remington Adams, wide receiver Blake Bohannon and linebacker Lane Cantrell were honorable-mention all-region. Etowah will miss QB Dalton Miller and WR Jackson Manns, one of the region's best passing duos in 2019.

-Milton (9-4, 5-0): Milton is just two years removed from a state title. The Eagles will remain a state contender and even a national presence. They are playing St. John's of Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12 and Life Christian Academy of Virginia on Sept. 18. Milton returns rising junior quarterback Devin Farrell, who threw for 1,054 yards and rushed for 808. Other returning all-region players are tight end Jack Nickel (offers from Georgia Tech, Kentucky and others), defensive back Bryce Thornton (started as a freshman last season), kicker Jason Aussin, wide receiver Matt Evert and linemen Cameron Dye and Zack Tumminia. The biggest graduation losses will be 1,000-yard rusher Ahmad Junearick, all-state linebacker Jack Rhodes and region defensive player of the year Zander Barnett. The five leading tacklers (and nine of the top 10) are graduating, so there's some concern there.

-Roswell (8-3, 4-1): Roswell lost its coach, Matt Kemper, to region rival Etowah. Chris Prewett, the defensive coordinator last season, was named interim head coach last month. Roswell hopes to make a hire this spring. Roswell graduated 12 all-region players including region player of the year John Copenhaver, a tight end, and fellow all-state player Trey Zimmerman, an offensive lineman. Both signed with North Carolina. Returning all-region players are lineman Antietie Ntekop and wide receiver Marquis Willis. Michael Fitzgerald, who stands 6 feet, 5 inches, is expected to get his chance at quarterback in place of graduating Ethan Roberts. Wide receivers Ryan Hill and free safety Dillon Holifield also should emerge as playmakers.

-Woodstock (2-8, 2-3): The Wolverines are bring back leading passer Walker Ormsby (1,114 yards), leading rusher V'ontae Hampton (643 yards), leading receiver Wes Bruno (39 receptions) and five of its leading tacklers. Bruno, Hampton, defensive lineman Brett Stefan and defensive back David Daniel made the all-region team last season.

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