Football Final: 520 cap react; All State/All Star game participants

Hello, Class A Heads! Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and here’s to a Happy New Year for everyone!

This is our final football-focused blog of the year as we’ve got some football housekeeping left to take care of. Later this week, we’ll move our focus to basketball.

Football Housekeeping 1:  The new 520 student enrollment cap in Class A

First, congrats again to our state champions, Clinch County and Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy. Clinch head coach Jim Dickerson has returned the program to championship glory after a bit of a three-season rough patch by Clinch standards – 18-15 – from 2012-2014. ELCA head coach Jonathan Gess has led the Chargers to three of the last four private school finals, winning two. Both are truly two of the best coaches in Georgia high school football.

And speaking of great coaches, two more of the best the state has to offer – Johnson County’s Don Norton and Prince Avenue Christian’s Jeff Herron – provided their thoughts on the new increased enrollment cap of 520 students for Class A schools, which is expected to be approved in January by the Georgia High Schools Association executive committee for the 2016-2017 school year.

Additionally, the reclassification process – which will produce a seventh classification (Class AAAAAAA) – increased the number of Class A public football-playing schools from 39 to 53. Some of the teams dropping down from AA include B.E.S.T. Academy of Atlanta, Greene County, Macon County, Gordon Lee, Manchester, Washington-Wilkes and Seminole County. Class A private will grow to 36, adding four football-playing schools that drop back down from AA – Darlington, Holy Innocents, Wesleyan and state champion Pace Academy.

However, while the number of teams increased, the number of playoff spots, 24 for 2016-2017, has not. In Class A public next year there will be 14 extra schools competing for the 24 playoff spots that will be available.

Marion County head coach Mike Swaney has an interesting solution to the apparent inequity in both the public and private divisions. Swaney would like to see Class A divided by size, not public and private, so that schools with enrollments of 300 to 520 would compete in the “Large School Division,” while schools with enrollments of less than 300 would compete in the “Small School Division.”

Here are Norton’s thoughts:

“[The GHSA decision is] Bad.  520 is too high.  There is too much discrepancy between the smaller Class A schools and the larger schools.  I do not understand why the number was raised above 500.   If we are going to add a class for the upper 44 schools, maybe we should consider a classification for the smallest 44 schools.  Just an idea.  Class A increased from 16 to 24 teams to make playoffs, which is good.  But, the increase in playoff slots (8) does not equal the new amount of schools now competing in Class A.  We probably should have gone to 32 playoff slots like the other classifications.”

And here are Herron’s thoughts:

“I don’t feel that increasing the cap for Single A schools was a good idea at all. It is hard for me to understand the reasoning behind adding another classification and then making Single A BIGGER! I would like to have someone explain that one to me.

“I realize that we still might have size discrepancies in the larger classes where sometimes at the top a school might have an enrollment of almost twice as many as the schools at the bottom; as an example 4,000 students to 2,000 in 7A. However, I feel very strongly that having a 2 to 1 discrepancy in enrollment when you only have a couple of hundred students to field a team with is a MUCH bigger concern. Most of my career has been with larger enrollment schools and now that I am coaching in a lower classification and can tell you it is more of an issue and one that needs to be corrected!”

We will revisit this issue as the ramifications, which include the impact on the other sports, play out.

Football Housekeeping Part 2: All State and All Star Team participants

Congrats to all the players selected for the AJC All State Team and to those selected to participate in the prominent all-star games being played this week (Elite Junior and Elite Sophomore Games, McEachern High School, Tuesday, Dec. 29 and Rising Senior Game, Mercer University’s Macon Five Star Stadium, Thursday, Dec. 31) and in January (Under Armor All American Game, Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Saturday, Jan. 2; Semper Fidelis All American Game, Stub Hub Center, Carson, CA, Sunday, Jan. 3; U.S. Army All American Game, Alamodome, San Antonio, Jan. 9)

AJC Class A All State

Offensive player of the year: Taylor Trammell, Mount Paran Christian

Defensive player of the year: Chase Burdette, Eagle's Landing Christian

Coach of the year: Jim Dickerson, Clinch County


QB — Liam Welch, Aquinas, 6-2, 185, Sr.

RB — Lofton Tidwell, Landmark Christian, 5-11, 210, Jr.

RB — Taylor Trammell, Mount Paran Christian, 6-2, 202, Sr.

RB — Shannon Young, Clinch County, 5-10, 210, Jr.

WR — Quintez Cephus, Stratford Academy, 6-2, 185, Sr.

WR — Tamorrian Terry, Turner County, 6-4, 200, Jr.

OL — Steven Bedosky, Landmark Christian, 6-4, 265, Sr.

OL — Riley James, Clinch County, 6-1, 300, Sr.

OL — Robert Kraeling, Prince Avenue Christian, 6-8, 270, Sr.

OL — Chandler Reeves, Eagle’s Landing Christian, 6-6, 265, Sr.

OL — Zach Thompson, Emanuel County Institute, 6-4, 290, Sr.

ATH — Demetris Robertson, Savannah Christian, 6-1, 175, Sr.

PK — Ryan O’Neill, Lincoln County, 6-0, 175, Sr.


DL — Will Evans, Aquinas, 6-3, 255, Sr.

DL — Michael Dasher, Charlton County, 5-10, 290, Sr.

DL — Chauncey Manac, Clinch County, 6-3, 250, Sr.

DL — Dalton Owens, Prince Avenue Christian, 6-2, 265, Jr.

LB — Chase Burdette, Eagle’s Landing Christian, 6-0, 225, Sr.

LB — Garret Harris, Mount Paran Christian, 6-0, 200, Sr.

LB — Malik Martin, Trion, 5-10, 200, Sr.

LB — D.J. Pollard, Irwin County, 5-5, 165, Sr.

DB — Ronquez Harden, Johnson County, 5-10, 206, Sr.

DB — Jordan Hightower, Prince Avenue Christian, 5-8, 160, Sr.

DB — Khaleb Hood, Eagle’s Landing Christian, 5-10, 170, So.

DB — Lorenzo Smothers, Marion County, 5-8, 170, Sr.

P — Daniel Weaver, First Presbyterian, 6-4, 195, Sr.

Honorable mention

DE Dalton Hardeman, Eagle’s Landing Christian, Sr.; DE Allen Cater, Mount Paran Christian, Sr.; DL Jared Johns, Irwin County, Sr.; DL Teon Burroughs, Charlton County, Sr.; DL John Dussling, Hebron Christian Academy, Sr.; FB Will Thomas, Commerce, Jr.; HB/DB Cole Chancey, Commerce, Jr.; LB Keyshawn Martin, Lincoln County, Jr.; LB Daniel Anderson, Mount Zion-Carroll, Sr.; LB/DE Marquez Bembry, Mount Vernon Presbyterian, Jr.; OL Austin McDaniel, Athens Christian, Sr.; OL Jared Pate, Commerce, Sr.; OL Garrison Winter, Pinecrest Academy, Jr.; OL Reed Kroeber, Fellowship Christian, Sr.; OL Ethan Crawford, Aquinas, Sr.; QB Rhett Gay, Emanuel County Institute, Jr.; QB Drew Richardson, Athens Academy, Sr.; QB Tyson Cooper, Christian Heritage, Sr.; QB D.J. Hammond, Eagle’s Landing Christian, Sr.; QB/LB Ryan McCarthy, Pinecrest Academy, Jr.; RB Ricky Lee, Emanuel County Institute, Jr.; RB Lyn-J Dixon, Taylor County, So.; RB/DB DeAndre Bowman, Pacelli, Sr.; WB/DB O’Showen Williams, Stratford Academy, Sr.; WR/DB Cedrick Leggett, Turner County, Sr.

Elite Junior Game Participant

DE/TE Marquez Bembry, Mt. Vernon Presbyterian

Elite Sophomore Game Participants

C Kyle Carrera, Landmark Christian

RB Lyn –J Dixon, Taylor County

DB Tre Douglas, ELCA

G Al Hogan, Landmark

DE Harrison Jump, Prince Avenue Christian

LB Nolan Smith, Calvary Day (Freshman)

QB Gunnar Watson, Taylor County

Rising Senior Game Participants

RB Trevor Gear, ELCA

WR Justin Gibbs, Aquinas

DT Rahemn Price, Randolph-Clay

OT Zach Quinney, Savannah Christian

DE Evan Reese, Savannah Christian

Under Armor Game Participant

DE Antonneous Clayton, Dooly County

Semper Fidelis Game Participant

OT Robert Kraeling, Prince Avenue Christian

US Army All American Participant

ATH Demetris Robertson, Savannah Christian