No. 10 Mt. Paran vs. No. 4 ELCA top kickoff weekend slate; New era begins in Lincolnton

Here's what to look for this weekend as the season gets underway...

No. 10 Mt. Paran Christian vs. No. 4 Eagle's Landing Christian Academy (Saturday). In one of the top games in the state in any classification, Mt. Paran and ELCA, both in the AJC preseason Top 10, will be one of three games in the Battleground Kickoff Classic in Columbus, at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium. Mt. Paran, one of the surprise teams of 2013, finished 9-3 and advanced to the second round of the Class A private school playoffs, where they lost to eventual champion Aquinas (35-32). The Eagles are led by two preseason all-state senior players -- receiver Emoni Williams and linebacker Nick Sbravati. ELCA, the 2012 private champions, finished 10-2 last season after a loss to eventual runners-up Calvary Day in the second round of the playoffs, 35-34 in overtime. In that game, QB Jordan Long, now a junior, had to take over for region Player of the Year Dalton Etheridge (now at Jacksonville State), who broke his ankle the previous week. This season, Long will lead a relatively young team that could feature as many as five freshman starters. Senior receiver/safety Jordan Scott should help, along with seniors Chase Burdette and Nick Dawson,  also a preseason all-state selection and one of the most highly recruited players in the nation.

Other top games include ...

Landmark Christian vs. Christian Heritage (Saturday).  The second game of the Battleground Kickoff Classic pits a traditional power against an up and comer.  Landmark, a state finalist in 2012, began last year 8-0, including a win over eventual state runner up Calvary Day (30-22) in the season opener.  But the War Eagles lost their final three games of the season.  They return several starters, including junior QB Stockton McGuire and preseason all-state TE Sam Dobbs, a Vanderbilt commit, and should be back in the state title hunt this season.  Christian Heritage of Dalton finished 8-3 as well in just its fourth season of varsity football.  But the Lions were dumped in the first round of the playoffs, 41-17, by Darlington.  Seniors Evan Townsend, Bryce Delozier and Spencer Robbins hope to give the program its first win over a big time program.

5 Mt. Pisgah Christian at Brookstone (Saturday).  The Patriots are in the preseason Top 10 for the first time in school history, after posting a 12-1 record in 2013, also a program best.  Mt. Pisgah came within seconds of advancing to the private school title game but gave up a touchdown in the final moments of the semi finals to defending champion Aquinas in a 17-16 loss.  This season the Patriots will look to solidify their standing as one of the top teams in Class A with senior preseason all-state players QB Aaron Winchester and DL Chingi Chinwere leading the way.  Brookstone, which had a bit of a down year by the program's standards at 6-5, will provide a stern early-season test.  The Cougars return 16 starters including two-way standout LB/WR Ben Jones. The game is the last one of the Battleground Kickoff Classic triple header.

Banks takes over for legendary Campbell in Lincolnton

Lincoln County at McCormick (S.C.).  For the first time since 1972, a Georgia football season will kickoff without Larry Campbell on the sidelines as the head coach at Lincoln County. The all-time winningest coach in Georgia high school football stepped down in the off season with a final record of 477-85-3. Taking over for Campbell will be Kevin Banks, an assistant coach at Lincoln County for 21 years. He had changed the Red Devil offense to a wing-T and increased the level of expectations for his seniors. "We've asked more out of them, more dedication to the program than maybe we have in the last few years," Banks said.