Stephenson has started a season 0-2 only once in its 20-year history, but the Jaguars face a tall task this week if they are going to avoid doing it again this year.
The Jaguars opened 2016 with a 34-23 loss to Class AAA No. 4 Cedar Grove last weekend. The Saints led 34-9 entering the fourth quarter before Stephenson got touchdowns by D’Vonn Gibbons and Jaylen Marson-Knight to close the gap.
This week, Stephenson travels on Friday to Mill Creek, a state semifinalist in the highest classification in 2015 and ranked No. 4 in Class AAAAAAA this season. That’s the same Mill Creek that ended Colquitt County’s 30-game winning streak on Saturday in the Corky Kell Classic. The computer Maxwell Ratings have Mill Creek projected as a 34-point favorite. It is unlikely that Stephenson has ever been that big of an underdog.
The only other time Stephenson opened the season with consecutive losses was in 2004, when it rebounded from an 0-3 start (losses to McEachern, Southwest DeKalb and McNair by a total of nine points) to finish 7-5 and reach the second round of the playoffs.
Stephenson isn’t the only strong program in the classification that’s trying to avoid an 0-2 start. Here are some of the other top games involving AAAAAA teams this weekend:
*Allatoona at Alexander (7:30 p.m. Friday): Allatoona lost its opener last season but rebounded with 14 consecutive victories and a state title. The Buccaneers can only hope history repeats itself after they lost to Class AAAA No. 1 Cartersville 30-14 last weekend. Alexander was one of Allatoona's top challengers in the 5-AAAAA last season, but the teams are in separate regions this year.
*Glynn Academy at Ware County (7:30 p.m. Friday): Glynn Academy, the runner-up to Allatoona last year, suffered a surprising 24-7 setback against AA No. 2 Benedictine last week. Maxwell projects AAAAA No. 4 Ware County as a 12-point favorite, but the Gators were highly regarded last year as well when they lost to Glynn twice (14-7 in the regular season and 24-16 in the semifinals).
*Rome at Harrison (7:30 p.m. Friday): Harrison once had a streak of 14 consecutive winning seasons, but that run ended in 2008 and it hasn't had another one since. Last year, Harrison lost its final three games of the season to finish 5-5. The Hoyas are hoping a drop from the highest classification will change their fortunes, but Class AAAAA No. 6 Rome will be a challenge this week.
*Westlake at Hughes (7:30 p.m. Friday): These south Fulton rivals spent the past few years battling for supremacy in 3-AAAAAA, but this game won't count toward a region title because Hughes has dropped from the highest classification. Still, it will provide a good test for Hughes (1-0 after beating Mundy's Mill 44-6). Westlake is No. 7 in AAAAAAA and the Region 2 favorite.
*Worth noting: Georgia High School Football wrote preview capsules on five more top games this weekend involving Class AAAAAA teams. Click here to read about Calhoun at Dalton, Houston County at Peach County, Lee County at Bainbridge, Stockbridge at Mays, and Woodland-Stockbridge at Valdosta.
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