Marietta High School football players wait to take the field before a football game against Lassiter High School, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, in Marietta.
Photo: Branden Camp/For the AJC
Photo: Branden Camp/For the AJC

Marietta, 5 defending champions start season atop football rankings

Five defending champions join Marietta, Peach County and Callaway as No. 1 teams in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s preseason high school football rankings.

Winning championships last season and starting on top again are Lee County (Class AAAAAA), Bainbridge (AAAAA), Blessed Trinity (AAAA), Eagle’s Landing Christian (A private) and Clinch County (A public).

Marietta starts No. 1 in the highest classification ahead of 2018 winner Milton, which is ranked No. 6, still the highest ever for the Eagles in the preseason after their surprise championship.

Marietta finished 5-6 last season, but has seven players ranked among the consensus top 100 recruits in Georgia. Those include quarterback Harrison Bailey and lineman B.J. Ojulari, both committed to Tennessee, and tight end Arik Gilbert, an AJC Super 11 pick. Marietta’s struggles last season were partly attributable to Bailey’s late-season injury and a challenging schedule.

» More: Meet the 2019 AJC Super 11

Marietta opens Thursday at Rome, the No. 2 team in AAAAA, in the Corky Kell Classic. Marietta last won a state title in 1967.

Marietta also is the only Georgia team ranked in the top 25 by USA Today (No. 9) and MaxPreps (No. 24), the two most widely known national polls.

At No. 1 in AAA is Peach County, the state runner-up the past two seasons. Cedar Grove, ranked No. 2 in preseason, defeated Peach 14-13 in the 2018 final on a last-minute touchdown pass to AJC all-classification player of the year Jadon Haselwood, who is at Oklahoma. Peach County placed four players on Georgia High School Football Daily’s preseason all-state. Those included AJC Super 11 linebacker Sergio Allen.

Callaway, a semifinalist in 2018, is No. 1 in AA ahead of defending champion Heard County, which beat Callaway 13-10 in a Region 5-AA game last season. Callaway returns AJC Super 11 running back Tank Bigsby, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season. Bigsby is committed to Auburn.

Callaway, which has never won a state title, has a tough opener Thursday at Opelika, a perennial playoff team in Alabama’s Class 6A. Two other No. 1 teams could be threatened on their home fields this week. Blessed Trinity plays No. 8 St. Pius, and Clinch County plays Hebron Christian, the No. 1 Class A private school.

Class AAAAAAA

1. Marietta
2. Colquitt County
3. Parkview
4. Archer
5. Grayson
6. Milton
7. Lowndes
8. North Gwinnett
9. Hillgrove
10. McEachern

Class AAAAAA

1. Lee County
2. Dacula
3. Valdosta
4. Northside-Warner Robins
5. Allatoona
6. Coffee
7. Harrison
8. Glynn Academy
9. Stephenson
10. Creekview

Class AAAAA

1. Bainbridge
2. Rome
3. Buford
4. Carrollton
5. Warner Robins
6. Dutchtown
7. Stockbridge
8. Jones County
9. Clarke Central
10. Wayne County

Class AAAA

1. Blessed Trinity
2. Cartersville
3. Troup
4. Marist
5. Sandy Creek
6. Cairo
7. Mary Persons
8. St. Pius
9. Eastside
10. Woodward Academy

Class AAA

1. Peach County
2. Cedar Grove
3. Calhoun
4. Westminster
5. Benedictine
6. Greater Atlanta Christian
7. Pace Academy
8. Pierce County
9. Jefferson
10. Crisp County

Class AA

1. Callaway
2. Hapeville Charter
3. Fitzgerald
4. Dublin
5. Heard County
6. Rockmart
7. Rabun County
8. Washington County
9. Brooks County
10. Swainsboro

Class A (private)

1. Eagle’s Landing Christian
2. Athens Academy
3. Prince Avenue Christian
4. Darlington
5. Aquinas
6. Savannah Christian
7. Hebron Christian
8. Fellowship Christian
9. North Cobb Christian
10. Calvary Day

Class A (public)

1. Clinch County
2. Irwin County
3. Pelham
4. Marion County
5. Commerce
6. Schley County
7. Mount Zion-Carroll
8. Mitchell County
9. Charlton County
10. Greene County

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