Ranking Class 7A is easy at first. You've got six no-brainers (in some order) – Grayson, Roswell, Mill Creek, McEachern, Colquitt County, Norcross. Then you've got Westlake, mainly because of its 10-3 finish a year ago and a couple of blue-chippers. The rest – whether it's Parkview, Hillgrove, etc. – is a matter of opinion. Check our composite rankings, and you'll see 17 teams in 7A getting at least one top-10 plug.
This week's games should help sort this out. Here's a look at five key ones. Note Maxwell's projections at the bottom. Three of the five are virtual toss-ups, and the other two should be pretty close, too.
Etowah at North Cobb: Both looked awfully good last week against other 7A opponents. Etowah beat Campbell 56-0. Game was over at halftime as Etowah put up over 353 yards in total offense in two quarters. Tyray Devezin, an all-state candidate, scored on a 79-yard run on the first play from scrimmage. North Cobb was up on Cherokee 34-0 in the 44-26 win last week. Three turnovers, one a pick six by Christian Albright, ruined Cherokee early. North Cobb RB/WR Quannie Green rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and caught six passes for 86 yards
Parkview at Shiloh: Parkview is ranked No. 9 after its 32-7 win over Christ Presbyterian, a state runner-up in Tennessee last year. QB Caleb itchell had a big game, completing 23 of 31 passes, and Parkview won in total yards 400—143. Shiloh beat Collins Hill 27-14. Shiloh scored three touchdowns with its defense. Shiloh hasn't had a winning season since 2003, nor been ranked since 2000, when David Pollack was a senior there. The time could be near.
Westlake vs. Hughes: Westlake is ranked No. 7 in all four human polls for reasons stated above. Hughes, now in 6A, is pretty tough. Westlake won this game 36-35 in overtime last year. New coach Kareem Reid makes his debut for Westlake. Bryan Love is now at Lamar County. Westlake has blue-chip recruits in LB Jaden Hunter (committed to Georgia) and CB A.J. Terrell, who is rated by one recruiting service as the top prospect in Georgia. What Westlake doesn't have is QB Malik Willis, who transferred to Roswell and looked awfully good (13-of-21 passing, 119 yards, 73 yards rushing) in the win over Buford.
Archer at Peachtree Ridge: Sorry to keep talking about transfers, but these two proud programs lost a pair of them, or more, in the off-season. Their names are Jamyest Williams, Isaiah Pryor, Breon Dixon and DeAngelo Gibbs. All will be playing in the IMG-Grayson game on Saturday. On Friday, we'll see what Archer and Ridge have left in the tank. Archer (11-2 a year ago) lost to McEachern 27-14. Peachtree Ridge (8-4 a year ago) beat McCallie 20-9. Archer is more depleted than Ridge, which is ranked No. 8 already.
Lanier at South Gwinnett: Lanier is in 6A, but a very good team. If South Gwinnett can follow up on its 54-21 victory over Central Gwinnett, the Comets will be hard to keep out of the Top 10. They were the best 2-8 team in the state last year. Really. South Gwinnet has several D-I prospects. The main ones are DL Justin Mascoll and LB Malik Robinson. Against Central, South QB Seth Johnson rushed for 112 yards, passed for 158 yards and had a hand in five touchdowns. South had 390 yards rushing in the game.
Random observation: This has nothing to do w/ rankings, but remember that the GHSA limited the highest class to the largest 48 schools this year (down from 64), the idea being there was too much difference between schools of 3,500+ students and those with 1,750. So those in the 1,750-2,000 range were excused from the new 7A. Well, that's fine, but it's ironic then that two schools with Class A enrollment – Pinecrest Academy and Pace Academy – are electing to play against Class 7A schools this week. Pinecrest is playing at South Forsyth, and Pace is playing at West Forsyth. Of course, Pace is competing in AAA, Pace's choice. Pace was the Class AA champion from 2015 and is loaded with some major-college prospects and could give West Forsyth all it wants. Just for the record, here are the enrollment numbers of the schools in question – West Forsyth (2,422), South Forsyth (2,948), Pinecrest Academy (285), Pace Academy (451).
Here are games involving 7A teams this week. They include the projected margin of victory by the computer Maxwell Ratings. The projected winner is on the left.
Alcovy at Meadowcreek -3
Archer at Peachtree Ridge -3
Blessed Trinity vs. Marietta -23
Brookwood vs. Walton -6
Cherokee vs. Sequoyah -11
Dacula vs. Central Gwinnett -13
Duluth vs. Berkmar -2
Etowah at North Cobb -1
Forsyth Central at Dawson Co. -4
Hughes vs. Westlake -1
Lambert at Mountain View -5
Lassiter at Pope -22
Mill Creek vs. Stephenson -34
Newton vs. Eastside -20
Norcross at Collins Hill -15
North Forsyth at Johns Creek -8
North Gwinnett vs. Milton -2
Shiloh vs. Parkview -1
South Cobb vs. Campbell -12
South Forsyth vs. Pinecrest Acd. -27
South Gwinnett vs. Lanier -7
South Paulding vs. North Paulding -4
Starr's Mill at Newnan -3
Tift Co. vs. Cook -23
West Forsyth vs. Pace Academy -11
Wheeler vs. Centennial -15
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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC