Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Surprise teams, good and bad

With a third of the season in the books and region play set to begin over the next two weekends, we take a look at teams performing unexpectedly well … and uncharacteristically badly.

Good

Christian Heritage. The Lions from Dalton are 3-0 for the first time in the program’s seven-year history. Head coach Jay Poag was just 3-17 in his first two seasons after taking over for his brother Preston, who was the program’s first head coach and led the Lions to three state playoff appearances in four years and the Lions’ lone state playoff win in 2015. But Jay picked up a signature win of his own last week, as Christian Heritage scored 35-unanswered points in the second half to stun Class AAAA LaFayette last week, 35-26. The Lions trailed 26-0 at halftime against a team that was also undefeated at the time (3-0).

North Cobb Christian. The Eagles are also 3-0 for the first time in program history. While NCC has been competing in football since 2007, the program played a non-region schedule until 2016, when the team finished 0-10. Last week NCC went to Class AA Monticello and knocked off the Hurricanes 27-23, in a game that had five lead changes. 

Pelham. The Hornets probably should not be included in this list because of the job Dondrial Pinkins has done since he took over in 2015. Pelham finished 6-5 that season, after going a combined 9-21 the previous three years. The next two seasons, Pinkins and the Hornets won 9 games in each. But what is distinctive about this year is not that the Hornets are winning again, rather, it’s how they are winning. Pelham has yet to allow a point while scoring a total of 161 points in three games, an average of more than 53 points per game.

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Bad

Emanuel County Institute. The Bulldogs are 0-3 for the first time since 2001 when they finished 3-7. No one saw this coming. ECI, state champions in 2007 and 2012, has won three consecutive Region 3 titles, and has gone 33-5 in those three seasons, including two trips to the state semi-finals. ECI started the season ranked No. 3 in the preseason Class A Public poll. But the winless Bulldogs are not as bad as their record would indicate. The three teams that have defeated them – Dublin, Vidalia and Metter – are all in Class AA and all 3-0. Dublin (No. 8) and Vidalia (No. 10) are both ranked in the AJC Top 10.

Stratford Academy. The Eagles started the season ranked as well, No. 7 in the preseason Class A Private poll, and proceeded to lose their first two games by a combined score of 56-7. Stratford has made the state playoffs every year since 2007 – five in the Georgia High Schools Association (GHSA) and seven in the Georgia Independent Schools Association (GISA). But last week, Stratford erased a 13-0 deficit and got its first win of the season, 28-27, over Washington-Wilkes. 

Washington-Wilkes. Speaking of Washington-Wilkes, the Tigers are 0-3 for the first time since 2015. They started off the season ranked No. 5 in the public Top 10. Washington-Wilkes has one of the state's longest streaks of making the state playoffs – 20 years (1998). 

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