Here’s what to look for during Week 2 of the high school football season.
The new No. 1-ranked team in AAAAAA, Colquitt County, gets its shot on a national stage Friday when the Packers play Hoover, the defending Class 6A champion in Alabama. Both teams are nationally ranked, and both are No. 1 in their own states.
Hoover has won two state titles (2009, 2012) since Colquitt County coach Rush Propst resigned there in 2007. Propst won five titles at Hoover. Colquitt County’s defense was good against Grayson, but the team needs a big game from quarterback Daniel Mobley to beat Hoover.
Here are other big matchups this weekend in AAAAAA:
- No. 8 Lassiter opens at No. 4 McEachern on Friday as part of a doubleheader that pits Hillgrove and McEachern in the first game. Lassiter has become a Top 10 program for the first time in its history behind quarterbacks Hutson Mason and Eddie Printz. But they’re gone, and Lassiter’s current ranking is open to question. Also graduated are star receivers Willie Police, Ryan Jenkins and Juwan Dickey. The Trojans hope Will Anderson, a transfer from Wesleyan, or junior Russell Aarons will be the answer at quarterback. McEachern looked very good in its 31-10 victory against Brookwood with running back Taj Griffin (154 yards, 10 carries) and quarterback Ty Clemons (109 on nine).
- North Gwinnett is ranked No. 1 in a couple of polls and might take that spot unanimously if Colquitt County fails to win and the Bulldogs are impressive at Grayson. This is a rematch of North Gwinnett’s surprising 28-10 victory in the second round of the playoffs last year. Both teams have new quarterbacks. Grayson junior Hunter Schuessler was 9-for-15 passing for 50 yards with two interceptions in a 21-6 loss to Colquitt County. North Gwinnett senior Hayden Sphire was 15-for-27 for 206 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 34-14 victory against Camden County.
- The best game that nobody is talking about is Peachtree Ridge vs. Parkview. Peachtree Ridge defeated Walton last week in the Corky Kell and is ranked in the Top 10 of two polls this week despite a 4-6 finish last season. Parkview, on the other hand, is not ranked in any of six polls despite a 9-4 finish last season. Neither is ranked in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but the winner here will have an outstanding case.
- Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson, who broke the state’s career records for passing yardage (9,360) and passing touchdowns (108) as a junior in 2012, gets a chance to begin padding those stats Friday when the Red Elephants travel to West Forsyth. Watson passed for 4,011 yards and 50 touchdowns last season in leading Gainesville to its first state championship. Another season like that one will put him at almost 13,400 career passing yards. Only one other player in Georgia history has passed for more than 9,000 yards in his career — Metter’s Zach Stanford had 9,062 from 2001-04.
- On paper, No. 9 Flowery Branch at No. 4 Northside-Warner Robins looks like a good matchup. It looked that way last year, too, but Northside blew the game open in the third quarter and won 45-7. Northside lost 14 of 22 starters from last year but always seems to reload.
- It’s nice to have a Plan B. Thomas County Central played Colquitt County in Week 2 last season, but Colquitt wanted out of the return date so that it could play Hoover on television. So Thomas County Central ended up with Valdosta, which lost its date with last year’s opponent, North Augusta, S.C. Thomas Central and Valdosta both played Colquitt County last season, and both were two-point games. Valdosta won 38-36, and Thomas County Central lost 35-33.
- Cedartown running back Nick Chubb rushed for 363 yards in three quarters in a 40-14 victory against Rockmart last season. The performance was the first of five 300-yard rushing games for Chubb, a Georgia commitment. He finished with 2,721, the seventh best single-season rushing mark in state history, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.
- The Huskies of Howard enter the season on a 24-game losing streak, the longest in AAAA. They’re at East Laurens in the debut of new coach Barney Hester, who won 11 GISA state championships and 306 games at Tattnall Square. Hester starts the season in sixth place on the all-time coaching wins list in Georgia.
- Monroe will honor the three Brooks County players who were killed in a car wreck in July with a ceremony before tonight’s game. Monroe coach Charles Truitt says his team will present the parents of the deceased players with plaques as part of the tribute.
- Blessed Trinity coach Tim McFarlin goes for his 100th career victory this week when his No. 7-ranked Titans host Lovett. Blessed Trinity opened the season with an 18-0 victory against Westminster last week. McFarlin is 17-8 in three seasons at the school after spending 10 seasons as head coach at Roswell, where he won a share of the state championship in 2006.
- Bill Ballard, the coach at White County, goes for his 100th career victory this week when the Warriors host Habersham Central in their opener. Ballard is 10-11 in two seasons at White County. He was at Tucker from 2002-06 and Peachtree Ridge from 2007-10.
- No. 3-ranked Cartersville will look to extend its dominance over Class A Darlington. Since the series resumed in 1981, Cartersville has won 14 of 16 games. The Purple Hurricanes have won the past six, including 28-7 in 2012.
- The most intriguing matchup for a AA program starts at the top, with the No. 1-ranked Calhoun Yellow Jackets traveling to the Ridgeland Panthers, the No. 4-ranked team in AAAA. Both teams won their regions last year, and both reached the state title game. The Jackets edged Ridgeland last year, 42-35, and own a 3-1 advantage in the series. Aside from last year, Calhoun has outscored Ridgeland 63-16, in the series, which includes Ridgeland’s only win, a 7-0 shutout in 1989.
- Another matchup of top 10 teams features the Brooks County Trojans (No. 5, AA) and Monroe Tornadoes (No. 10, AAAA). Host Brooks County enters the game battle-tested, having beat Clinch County, 26-14, last week. Last season, the Trojans won 12 consecutive games before Calhoun brought their season to a screeching halt with a 49-14 thumping in the quarterfinals. It will be the opener for the Tornadoes, who were 8-4 last year and reached the second round.
- There are five other AA schools taking on top 10 teams from other classifications: Lovett (No. 8, AA) travels to Blessed Trinity (No. 7, AAA); Hapeville Charter travels to Prince Avenue Christian (No. 2, A); Spencer hosts Carver-Columbus (No. 3, AAA); Macon County travels to Dooly (No. 3, A); Thomasville hosts Cairo (No. 6, AAAA).
- How good is Eagle’s Landing Christian? The consensus No. 1 Chargers sent five players to Division I programs from last season’s state championship team. Last week they gave Washington County, No. 6 in AAA, all it wanted through two quarters before the game was postponed because of lightning. Perennial Alabama private-school power Briarwood Christian comes calling Friday. ELCA, led this year by quarterback Dalton Etheridge, linebacker Josh Shockley and defensive lineman Andrew Williams, won last year’s game 32-7 in Birmingham.
- In The Highway 378 War, No. 4 Lincoln County travels to Washington for a date with rival Washington-Wilkes and the 76th installment of the Highway 378 War. Lincoln County, led by running back Mike McIntire, quarterback/safety LaKeith Lockhart and wide receiver/defensive back Jamar Norman, has won eight of the past 10 meetings, but lost last year’s game, 21-6.
- Is George Walton Academy a title contender? The Bulldogs, ranked No. 5, kick off the season in Macon against First Presbyterian Day School, a team that advanced to the state private-school quarterfinals last season. George Walton Academy, which lost to eventual private-school champion ELCA in the state semifinals, is led by all-state running back Stanley Williams, who committed to Kentucky. George Walton Academy defeated First Presbyterian Day School last season 41-38.
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The high school bloggers on ajc.com include Todd Holcomb (Class AAAAAA), Chip Saye (AAAAA), David Purdum (AAAA), Stan Awtrey (AAA), Adam Krohn (AA) and S. Thomas Coleman (A).