A deeper look at the top-10 teams in classes 3A-A

Class 3A

1. Cedar Grove (12-3)

The Saints are chasing their fifth Class 3A title in seven seasons. AJC Super 11 DB Kayin Lee (committed to Ohio State) joined DE Adonjiah Green (Louisville) and LB Everett Roussaw on the preseason all-state team. Sophomore E.J. Colson, who started as a freshman until an injury, is probably the program’s most talented quarterback yet. Opener: Friday at Bainbridge

2. Crisp County (9-3)

After an 0-3 start, Crisp’s young 2021 team won nine straight to reach the quarterfinals, where it lost to Cedar Grove. Seven GACA all-state players are back. Those include A.J. Brown, an Ole Miss commit who can play quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back and everything in between. Lawrence Smith was promoted to head coach to replace Miguel Patrick, who joined Ohio State’s support staff. Opener: Friday vs. Dooly County

3. Carver-Columbus (13-2)

Carver was the Class 4A runner-up to Benedictine last season. Graduation losses took the team’s offensive leaders and best player (OL Elijah Pritchett), but OL Kelton Smith (committed to Georgia) and DL Darron Reed (LSU) are two of the best in the class. Pierre Coffey came from Chattahoochee County to replace Corey Joyner as head coach. Opener: Thursday vs. Hardaway (at Columbus Memorial)

4. Carver-Atlanta (11-3)

Carver was the runner-up to Cedar Grove in 2021. Returning is QB Bryce Bowens, who became the starter in midseason and still passed for 1,812 yards. WR DeAndre Buchannon made preseason all-state. Carver did graduate two 1,500-yard rushers. Opener: Friday at South Cobb

5. Oconee County (10-2)

The Warriors hired Flowery Branch coach Ben Hall to replace Travis Noland, who led them to two region titles the past three seasons. Oconee County’s top player is Georgia Power 100 LB Whit Weeks. Opener: Friday vs. North Oconee

6. Calvary Day (12-1)

Calvary made the Class A Private semifinals last season and now has its most talented team in history with four preseason all-state players – QB Jake Merklinger (four-star prospect), TE Michael Smith (four-star prospect), LB Troy Ford (committed to Central Florida) and DL Terry Simmons (Duke). Opener: Friday at Islands

7. Sandy Creek (9-2)

The Patriots averaged 40 points per game in 2021 and return Georgia Power 100 QB Geimere Latimer and WR/DB Kaleb Cost (committed to North Carolina). Opener: Saturday vs. Newnan

8. Peach County (8-4)

QB Colter Ginn and WR Isaiah Mitchell are Division I prospects, and RB Chris McMillian, OL Andrew Cliett, LB/TE Skielar Mann and DB Jayden Parker are three-year starters on a traditional 3A power on a streak of six quarterfinal-or-better finishes. Opener: Friday at Baldwin

9. Dougherty (10-3)

The Trojans made the quarterfinals last season for the first time since 2005. Their best player, QB Kameron Davis (committed to Florida State), is back, along with DL Stantavious Smith (Florida Atlantic) and preseason all-state OL Anthony Mereas. Opener: Friday vs. Westover (at Hugh Mills Stadium)

10. Monroe Area (11-1)

The Purple Hurricanes placed three players on the preseason all-state team – RB Alan Jones and LB Jakyri Jones, who are brothers, and OL Max Thurston. Opener: Friday at Loganville

Class 2A

1. Eagle’s Landing Christian (7-7)

The six-time former Class A Private champion is playing up one classification and brings back four of the state’s top-75 senior prospects, and that doesn’t include Wake Forest-committed QB Charlie Gilliam. The four are OL Zechariah Owens (committed to Clemson), OL D.J. Chester, WR R.J. Johnson (Arkansas) and CB Colton Hood. Opener: Friday vs. Brentwood Academy, Tenn.

2. Fitzgerald (13-2)

Fitzgerald returns about half its starters from its first state championship team in 73 years, the best of which are probably preseason all-state LB Daniel James and OL Xavier Walker. Opener: Friday vs. Irwin County

3. Appling County (12-2)

The Pirates are dropping down in class after reaching the Class 3A semifinals. RB Jaylen Johnson, a three-star recruit, played only four games last season and missed the semifinals. QB Dayton Griffis passed for 1,800 yards as a freshman. DL Darion Smith made preseason all-state. Opener: Friday vs. Ware County

4. Pierce County (11-3)

The Pirates won Class 3A in 2020 and reached the semifinals in 2021. QB/RB D.J. Bell, now a senior, has rushed for 3,408 yards over those two seasons despite missing five games. Opener: Aug. 26 vs. Jeff Davis

5. Fellowship Christian (12-2)

Fellowship averaged 11 wins over the past four seasons in Class A and made the semifinals last season. Four GACA first-team all-state players return. QB Caleb McMickle is committed to Houston. Opener: Friday vs. Mount Pisgah Christian (at Barron Stadium)

6. Callaway (10-3)

The Cavaliers have won 10 or more games each of the past seven seasons, winning Class 2A in 2020 and reaching the semifinals in 2021. Defensive linemen Elijah Gunn and Sam Williams (committed to Wake Forest) are preseason all-state. Opener: Friday vs. Opelika, Ala.

7. Rockmart (9-2)

The Yellow Jackets have won five consecutive region titles, the past two in 3A. They return all-region QB J.D. Davis and preseason all-state WR Dennis Sims. Opener: Friday vs. Cedartown

8. Putnam County (12-1)

The War Eagles are coming off their first region title since 2010. All-state WR Jalon Kilgore returns. He’s committed to South Carolina. Opener: Aug. 26 vs. Baldwin

9. South Atlanta (11-2)

It’s more than just RB Keyjuan Brown, who rushed for 2,757 yards last season. DL Cevan Edwards is committed to Memphis, and LB Taye Seymore is committed to East Carolina. All three were preseason all-state. Opener: Aug. 27 vs. Chapel Hill

10. Washington County (5-5)

Robert Edwards, the new head coach, is back at the alma mater that he helped bring to glory in the 1990s before playing at Georgia and the NFL. He can build around preseason all-state RB Dontavius Braswell (committed to South Carolina). All five 2021 losses were against top-10 opponents. Opener: Aug. 26 vs. Swainsboro

Class A Division I

1. Prince Avenue Christian (13-2)

The 2021 Class A Private runner-up returns QB Aaron Philo (4,540 yards passing) and 1,000-yard receiver Bailey Stockton. DB Josh Britt and DL Uriah Howard made preseason all-state. Opener: Friday vs. Hammond, S.C.

2. Brooks County (12-2)

The 2021 Class A Public champion must replace 6,000-yard career rusher Omari Arnold, now at Arkansas, but returns QB Jamal Sanders, who passed for 2,310 yards and 28 touchdowns and rushed for 541 yards. Opener: Friday vs. Thomasville

3. Rabun County (11-2)

Rabun County has a new coach, Michael Davis, to succeed Jaybo Shaw, and a new quarterback, Keegan Stover, to replace Gunner Stockton. Previously in Class 2A, the Wildcats have won at least 11 games and reached the quarterfinals of better seven consecutive seasons. Opener: Friday at Haralson County

4. Irwin County (12-3)

Cody Soliday is a three-year starting quarterback for the Indians, leading them to a 2020 Class A Public championship and 2021 runner-up finish. Irwin has reached the state finals five straight seasons and seven of eight. Opener: Friday at Fitzgerald

5. Metter (13-1)

The Tigers have gone 13-1 and reached the Class A Public semifinals the past two seasons, each ending with losses to the eventual champion. They’ve held 20 of 28 opponents to a touchdown or less in that time. Opener: Friday at Swainsboro

6. Swainsboro (11-3)

Swainsboro was a Class 2A semifinal team last season. Senior QB/DB Ty Adams, who is committed to East Carolina, rushed for 1,778 yards and passed for 451 last season. Opener: Friday vs. Metter

7. Bleckley County (11-1)

JahVon Butler, who rushed for 1,460 yards last season, is the key figure on a 2021 Class 2A region champion that moved down in class. Opener: Friday vs. Dodge County

8. Whitefield Academy (6-5)

Whitefield, a former Class A Private team, sports three of the state’s top-100 senior prospects – DB Ayden Duncanson, OL Ian Geffrard and LB/RB Caleb Lavalle. Opener: Friday at Macon County

9. Darlington (11-2)

Darlington, a Class A Private quarterfinalist and region champion last season, has a pair of preseason all-state offensive linemen – Gus Gammage and Gatlin Hancock. Opener: Friday vs. Olympia, Fla.

10. Lamar County (6-4)

The Trojans, who finished fifth in the deepest Class 2A region last year, look to break a six-year playoff drought. They have perhaps the classification’s best player, Georgia-committed LB C.J. Allen, who rushed for 1,080 yards and had 91 solo tackles in 10 games last season. Opener: Friday at Wilcox County

Class A Division II

1. Schley County (10-2)

The Wildcats are seeking their first state title. LB/RB Zayden Walker and WR/DB Jalewis Solomon are two of the best two-way performers in the class, both major Division I prospects. QB Jay Kanazawa, another underclassman, passed for 2,478 yards last season. Opener: Friday at Tattnall Square

2. Macon County (11-1)

Marlon Mitchell returns after rushing for 1,812 yards and 20 touchdowns for a Class A Public quarterfinal team. Macon County beat Schley County 54-38 last season. Opener: Friday vs. Whitefield Academy

3. Wilcox County (10-4)

Abe Stowe, a three-year starter, passed for 2,206 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. RB Dayshawn Lawson rushed for 1,506 yards. WR B.J. Gibson is a top-200 national recruit among juniors. Wilcox was a Class A Public semifinalist last season. Opener: Friday vs. Lamar County

4. Turner County (6-7)

QB Amarion Blanks (1,704 yards passing, 21 touchdowns) and seven defensive starters return from a team that reached the Class A Public quarterfinals in 2021. Opener: Friday vs. Worth County

5. Bowdon (10-2)

The Red Devils bring back five first-team all-region players. Those include QB Robert McNeal, who passed for 1,961 yards and rushed for 741 in 2021. Bowdon has won consecutive Class A Public region titles. Opener: Friday vs. Manchester

6. Clinch County (3-7)

The seven teams that beat Clinch County in 2021 went 19-6 in the playoffs, including 6-2 in Class 3A. Clinch would’ve been the seventh-best team in Division II if it had existed last season, according to the computer Maxwell Ratings. Opener: Friday at Berrien

7. Charlton County (7-4)

The Indians ended a two-year playoff drought last season largely on the legs of RB Jaylen Lilley, who returns after putting up 1,431 yards last season. Opener: Friday at Jeff Davis

8. Lincoln County (8-4)

The Red Devils return nine defensive starters. QB/DB Trey Huff had 824 yards passing, 471 yards rushing and a team-leading 93 solo tackles as a junior. Opener: Friday vs. Bryan County

9. GMC Prep (10-1)

GMC’s historic 2021 team – first region title since 1960 – produced 10 first-team all-region players who were juniors or sophomores. Opener: Friday at Wheeler County

10. Johnson County (7-4)

Five first-team all-region players are back. Senior RB Germivy Tucker has rushed for 4,015 career yards with at least 1,000 each season. TB/FS JaKelvis Whitley is a former 300-meter hurdles state champion who rushed for 241 yards against Dublin last season. Opener: Aug. 26 at Jenkins County

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