Class A Blog: Football is done, basketball in full swing

First, let’s put a bow on the 2019 football season. 

Irwin County is the public champ, thanks to a 56-14 thumping of Marion County. The Indians finished the season 13-0. The last time they did that was in 1975, which is the last time they won a state title. In six seasons at the helm, Irwin County head coach Buddy Nobles, who is battling stage-four stomach cancer, has led the Indians to the state finals five times. 

Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (13-1) won an unprecedented fifth consecutive state championship with a 33-13 win over Wesleyan. Ironically, the Chargers had their streak of consecutive Region 5 titles snapped at nine this season, as the only loss of the season they suffered was to eventual region champ Holy Innocents’, 42-41, on September 20. ELCA avenged that loss with a 21-7 win in the semifinals.

Here are the final top 10 composite rankings from Georgia High School Football Daily, based on rankings from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Score Atlanta, Max Preps and the Maxwell Rankings:

PRIVATE

  1. ELCA (13-1)
    2. Holy Innocents (12-1)
    3. Athens Academy (11-1)
    4. Wesleyan (12-3)
    5. Fellowship Christian (12-1)
    6. Prince Avenue Christian (9-3)
    7. Hebron Christian (8-5)
    8. Darlington (9-2)
    8. Savannah Christian (8-4)
    10. Christian Heritage (9-2)

PUBLIC

  1. Irwin County (13-0)
    2. Clinch County (11-2)
    3. Marion County (11-3)
    4. Pelham (11-2)
    5. Mitchell County (10-2)
    6. Wilcox County (9-3)
    7. Lincoln County (9-3)
    8. Commerce (9-3)
    8. Manchester (10-3)
    10. Johnson County (8-3)

Now it’s time to turn our attention to basketball fulltime. Here is a look at five boys and girls teams to watch this season (alphabetical order):

PRIVATE BOYS

Christian Heritage. The Lions aren’t getting a lot of love from the pollsters. Even though they are one of the few undefeated teams in the state at this point (11-0), the Dalton-based school is no higher than No. 7 in most polls. The team is led by senior guard Drew Clements, junior guard/forward Evan Lester and sharpshooter Braden Koneman.

Greenforest. The Eagles are 6-8, but that is mostly due to the fact that they were forced to forfeit their first four games for playing an ineligible player. It has been speculated the player is 7-foot freshman Gai Atem, who has not had any stats posted for him on MaxPreps since the first four games. Not to worry, though. Greenforest is loaded with tons of talent, like 6-6 senior Lamar Oden Jr.

Providence Christian. At 14-0 the Storm may be the most disrespected team in the state as they don’t show up in any list of Top 10 teams in the classification. Providence, which hasn’t played any teams outside of Class A, is led by 6-6 guard/forward Elijah Williams.

St. Francis. The defending private champions are picking up where they left off last season. The Knights’ (12-3) losses this season have come at the hands of Class AAAAAAA No. 5 Wheeler, Dorman, the top-ranked team in the South Carolina, and Long Island Lutheran, the top-ranked team in New York. Senior captain, guard Dwon Odem, leads the way averaging 20 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals per game.

Whitefield Academy. The Wolfpack is just 9-5 and barely in the Top 10 at No. 9. But they have two solid wins over schools from Class AAAAAA, Mundy’s Mill and M.L. King. 

PRIVATE GIRLS

Greenforest. After a five-point loss to defending private champion Holy Innocents’ back on November 29, the Lady Eagles (10-4) have won eight straight, including a big win over Class AAAA No. 4 Woodward Academy, 63-57, on December 28. They are led by senior guard Marieme Diouf and junior forward L’Or Mputu.

Hebron Christian. The Lady Lions (15-0) are ranked No. 2 after winning the Jim Clark Holiday Classic. Their combined record the previous two seasons was 20-33. But legendary head coach Jan Azar, who won 13 state titles in 19 seasons at Wesleyan, is in charge now. Four new players who transferred into the program, including Azar’s daughter, junior guard Nicole, have Hebron primed to join the list of elite teams in Class A.

Holy Innocents’. The defending champs are 10-4, which includes a huge win over Class AAA No. 2 Beach of Savannah, 61-49, on December 27. 

St. Francis. The Lady Knights (9-3) have the No. 1 spot in the rankings after big wins over two teams from Class AAAAA: Griffin (69-41) and Columbia. St. Francis is led by senior guards Savannah Samuels and Amirah Abdur-Rahim. 

Wesleyan. For the first time in 19 years, the Wolves are being led by someone other than Jan Azar. New head coach Carolyn Whitney has Wesleyan 10-2 and ranked No. 4 after a win over Class AAAAA Carrolllton.

PUBLIC BOYSCalhoun County. After an undefeated season last year (32-0), the Cougars are off to a 9-2 start this season and ranked No. 4. 

Terrell County. The Greenwave (9-0) is one of three public teams that are still undefeated. Ranked No. 3, one of their wins is over defending state champion Calhoun County.

Treutlen. The Vikings lost just two games last season. Both were to Calhoun County, with the last one coming in the public state title game on shot at the buzzer. But Treutlen is back, ranked No. 1 and off to another torrid start (13-0), which includes a win over Class AA No. 9 Dublin (50-42).

Warren County. The Screaming Eagles are undefeated (7-0) and have already equaled their win total from last season. Warren has a deep, experienced team led by a group of six seniors looking to get their school back into the state playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Wilcox County. The Patriots are also undefeated with a win over defending champion Calhoun County (66-63), back on December 13. Though Wilcox is one of the state’s most consistent programs, having missed the state playoffs just five times in the past 20 years, the Patriots have not won it all in 52 years.

PUBLIC GIRLS

Central-Talbotton. Longtime Lady Hawks head coach Calvin Epps put together one of the most successful runs ever from 1984-1986, when he led Central-Talbotton to a three-year record of 82-1 with three consecutive state titles. He might have a team that can win it all this season, as the Lady Hawks are 11-1 and ranked No. 3, led by junior guard Bernyla Sparks and senior Shakemia Marshall. 

Greenville. The only team to knock off Central-Talbotton this season is the Lady Patriots, 10-3 and currently ranked No. 1. Greenville, the 2018 champs, is led by junior guard Jabrica Leslie, who is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Marion County. The defending state champs are off to a bit of a slow start at 3-2, with one of the losses a 63-point blowout at the hands of Class AAAA No. 3 Americus-Sumter. 

Pelham. The 2017 state champs are undefeated thus far (7-0) and ranked No. 5. The Lady Hornets have three players averaging double figures in scoring – senior Shanell Byrd (17.0), junior Quedasha Ervin (14.8) and senior Taniyah Johnson (13.3).

Wheeler County. The Lady Bulldogs are off to one of the best starts in school history at 13-1, ranked No. 2. The only blemish thus far is a 53-48 loss to private No. 9 Calvary Day on December 7. Wheeler also has three players averaging double figures in scoring – Sameria Bryant (19.6), Keonya Mincey (16.9) and Lela Wright (12.4), all seniors.

Here are five boys and five girls players to watch this season.

BOYS

Brady Burnett, Trinity Christian. The 6-6 senior guard, along with 6-8 forward Giancarlo Bastianoni, has the Lions ranked No. 5. He is committed to North Georgia University.

Jeremiah Johnson, Clinch. Though his future is as a tight end at Florida, the 6-7, 210-pound senior forward is one of the state’s most dynamic athletes.

Jordan Meka, Mt. Bethel. The 6-8 senior power forward will look to help Georgia Tech get its program back on track next season. But before that, he has work to do getting his team back to the state playoffs this season, as the Eagles are off to a 4-9 start.

Lamar Oden, Greenforest. The 6-5 senior guard has signed with Drexel.

Dwon Odom, St. Francis. Considered by many to be one of the best point guards in the nation, the 6-2 senior hopes to lead the Knights to back-to-back state titles before heading off to Xavier next season.

GIRLS

Avoynce Carter, Wesleyan. Widely considered one of the best all-around players in the state, the 6-foot senior guard is headed to Georgia Tech.

Weronika Hipp, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy. The 5-10 senior guard is averaging 18 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds per game. She has signed with Clemson.

Jillian Hollingshead, Holy Innocents’. The 6-4 junior is one of the most coveted recruits in the nation with several offers from Power Five schools, including Georgia. 

Layla Hood, Elite Scholars Academy. The 6-foot sophomore forward is one of the state’s most complete players, averaging 20 points and 15 rebounds per game. 

Bernyla Sparks, Central-Talbotton. The junior guard leads the classification in scoring at 25.5 points per game.

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