GHSA football schedules: Champs from 5 states to challenge Georgia’s best

Buford defeated Warner Robins to win Georgia’s Class AAAAA championship last season.  Buford is scheduled to open its 2020 season against Wren, South Carolina’s Class 4A champion.
Buford defeated Warner Robins to win Georgia’s Class AAAAA championship last season.  Buford is scheduled to open its 2020 season against Wren, South Carolina’s Class 4A champion.

Georgia high school football teams are scheduled to take on state champions from South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Texas in 2020, feeding a growing appetite among Georgia schools for interstate matchups.

Georgia was 45-31 in interstate games a year ago. In 2020, there are 99 interstate games on the books – the most since the 1960s.

That’s news that excites high school football matchmaker Joe Maimone, who helped put some of those Georgia interstate games together. Maimone started Prep Gridiron Logistics for that purpose in 2015 and maintains a national database to help connect the nation’s elite programs.

For Georgia teams, Maimone helped Milton schedule games with St. John’s College of Washington, D.C., and Life Christian Academy of Virginia. He also got 2009 and 2011 national champion Don Bosco Prep of his home state, New Jersey, to play host to Johns Creek of Fulton County.

‘’For years, states like Ohio, Georgia, Texas had a perception around themselves, that they had the best high school football in America,’’ Maimone said. “Then all of a sudden, they started playing each other. Now you can’t just say my state is better than yours. How did you fare against Texas? It’s apples to apples now because teams are playing each other. It gives fans a true indication of how good their states are.’’

And it’s not just other states’ reigning champions that make Georgia’s interstate schedule sparkle. Nationally renowned powers such as Don Bosco Prep of New Jersey, Hoover of Alabama and St. John’s College of Washington, D.C., will be playing Georgia teams in 2020, as well.

Here are Georgia’s 11 best interstate games for 2020, ones that will determine how the state stands on a national level.

*Wren at Buford (Aug. 21) – South Carolina's Class 4A champion faces Georgia's Class AAAAA champion in the second game of a double-header at Buford. Georgia AAA champion Cedar Grove will play Rockledge, a top-10 Florida Class 5A team, in the opener. Wren, a Greenville-area school, is the alma mater of former Clemson and Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant. The Hurricanes won their first state title last season while scoring 51.2 points per game. Class 4A is South Carolina's second-highest. Wren beat Camden County 25-14 in 2018 and lost to Camden 52-44 last season, both games played at Mercer University. Buford is 9-2 against out-of-state opponents since first seeking them out in 2007, but has lost its last two, including one to South Carolina state champ South Pointe, 33-27, in 2017. [Note: Another South Carolina champion, Dutch Fork from the highest class, is playing at Brookwood on Sept. 25. It wasn't included in the 10 best.]

*Peach County at Central-Phenix City (Aug. 21) – Peach travels to Phenix City to play Alabama's Class 7A runner-up in 2019 and champion in 2018. Peach has averaged 12 wins the past four seasons and reached Class AAA finals in 2017 and 2018. Peach has played out of state only once. In 2004-05, the Trojans split a home-and-home series with Carver of Montgomery, winning at home, losing on the road. Central frequently plays Georgia teams and beat AAA champion Cedar Grove 24-20 last season.

*Hoover vs. Lowndes (Aug. 22) – Alabama's most storied program, Hoover, takes on the Vikings in the Corky Kell Classic at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hoover has won 11 state titles in Alabama's highest class since 2000 and was a semifinals in Class 7A last year. Hoover is 2-4 against Georgia teams. The Bucs split with Camden County (2008-09) and Colquitt County (2013-14) and lost twice to Grayson (2016-17). Lowndes is coming off a state runner-up finish. Lowndes' new coach, Jamey DuBose, was 0-2 against Hoover while at Central of Phenix City, including an opening loss to the 2019 season.

*Armwood at Marietta (Aug. 28) – Armwood made the semifinals for Florida's second-highest class, 7A, last season. The Hawks will face Georgia's defending AAAAAAA champions. Armwood came to Georgia last season and lost to North Gwinnett 26-23.

*Trinity Christian vs. Eagle's Landing Christian (Sept. 3) – Trinity was Texas' 2019 TAPPS Division I champion and 10th-ranked team overall in the state, according to MaxPreps. ELCA is Georgia's five-time defending Class A Private champion. Trinity will be the second Texas team to travel to Georgia in the past 50 years. The other was Prestonwood Christian, which lost to Greater Atlanta Christian 34-27 last year. The Trinity-ELCA game is part of the Cam Newton Classic.

*Johns Creek at Don Bosco Prep (Sept. 4) - Johns Creek will become the first Georgia team to travel to New Jersey since 1938, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.  Don Bosco won national titles in 2009 and 2011 and became a forerunner in interstate games between powerhouses. Johns Creek has won back-to-back region titles and is a rising program under Matt Helmerich, who came to value these out-of-state experiences from his time on staff at St. Thomas Aquinas.

*Prince Avenue Christian at Parish Episcopal (Sept. 11) – Prince Avenue and the consensus No. 1 dual-threat QB prospect, Brock Vandagriff, will travel to Dallas to play the 2019 Texas TAPPS Division II champions. Parish rising senior Preston Stone is rated the consensus No. 4 dual-threat QB prospect. He's committed to SMU. Parish was the No. 11 overall team in Alabama last season, according to MaxPreps.

*Blessed Trinity at Charlotte Catholic (Sept. 11) – Georgia's three-time Class AAAA champions, now playing in a classification higher, hits the road to play North Carolina's three-time 3-A champion. These two schools also are their states' only Catholic school football champions from 2019. Charlotte Catholic has won seven state titles overall.

*Milton at St. John's College (Sept. 12) – Milton is going to Washington, D.C., to play St. John's, which has finished in the MaxPreps' Xcellent 25 two of the past three seasons. Milton also is playing Life Christian. Milton became the first Georgia team ever to play in California last year, when the Eagle's lost to JSerra 17-14 outside of Los Angeles. Milton beat Cardinal Gibbons of Florida in 2018 on the way to a state title. This season, Milton also is playing Life Christian Academy of Virginia at home Sept. 18. Maimone loves working with Milton coach Adam Clack. "He wants to play the best team possible, and he doesn't care if he wins or loses by 20,'' Maimone said. "He knows they'll make his team better.'' St. John's should be familiar to local high school fans. The D.C. school defeated Marietta and Johns Creek in 2018.

*McEachern at St. Thomas Aquinas (Sept. 25) – Florida's reigning Class 7A champion is playing host to McEachern, a perennial top-10 team in Georgia's highest class. St. Thomas Aquinas was the only unbeaten state champion in MaxPreps' final top five last season. The Fort Lauderdale school has won 11 state titles and has numerous alumni who've gone on to the NFL, including Geno Atkins, Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa and Michael Irvin. Aquinas has played in Georgia once before and beat Camden County 42-28 in 2010.

Others: Opelika, Ala. at Callaway (Aug. 21), Charlotte County Day at Athens Academy (Aug. 28), Fyffe, Ala. at Fellowship Christian (Aug. 28), Columbia-Lake City, Fla. at Valdosta (Sept. 4), Greater Atlanta Christian at Christian Brothers, Tenn. (Aug. 21), Gardendale, Ala. at Calhoun (Aug. 29), North Miami Beach at Bainbridge (Aug. 21), Life Christian Academy, Va. at Milton (Sept. 18), Dutch Fork, S.C. at Brookwood (Sept. 25) [Note: Dutch Fork, S.C., and Fyffe, Ala., are reigning state champions.]

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