Class 2A blog: In brief — Northeast riding momentum of huge comeback road win

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Pace Academy, Lovett likely out of 2A after reclassification vote

The Northeast Raiders won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season — especially their opponents in Region 3 after seeing what happened last week. On the road and down 23-6 to then-No. 8 Washington County with eight minutes remaining, the Raiders closed on a 21-0 run to escape with a crucial 27-23 win in their region opener.

(Read the Week 7 recap here.)

Raiders senior quarterback Travion Solomon led the rally, accounting for all three of the Raiders’ fourth-quarter touchdowns, rushing for two and throwing another — a go-ahead, 5-yard pass to Kalik Evans in the with 14 seconds left.

The comeback began with Raiders senior Marquise Hughes forcing a turnover, leading to Solomon’s 10-yard touchdown run on their ensuing drive, and after a successful 2-point conversion, Washington County’s lead was cut to 23-14 with six minutes left.

The Raiders would stop the Golden Hawks on their next two drives and scored touchdowns both times. Solomon ran for his second score with three minutes left, and the game-winning drive was highlighted by his two fourth-down conversion runs of 14 and 15 yards.

“I hope the guys can learn from this adversity and keep the momentum going,” Raiders coach Jeremy Wiggins said. “We need to build off this and correct our mistakes, because we have a tough region.”

Solomon finished the game 19-for-27 passing for 209 yards and a touchdown and had 17 carries for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

The Raiders, who climbed two spots to No. 7 in this week’s rankings, are now 5-1 and are trying to win perhaps the deepest region in the state with four ranked teams. Joining the Raiders in the polls are No. 4 Bleckley County, No. 8 Dodge County and Washington County, which slid to No. 10.

It would be the Raiders’ first region title since winning 4-2A in 2009. However, they’re far from hoisting the trophy. Following this week’s matchup with Southwest (1-3, 1-1), the Raiders play back-to-back games at Bleckley County (6-0, 2-0) and against Dodge County (3-2, 0-1) in a two-game stretch that will determine state tournament seeding.

The Raiders have been trending upward since Wiggins’ arrival ahead of the 2018 season. Last year was the program’s most successful in years. They won their first playoff game since 2002 and — despite playing just nine regular season games — their 8-3 record matched their most wins since 2012.

A lot of the success has to do with the play of Solomon. Wiggins is Solomon’s stepfather and has him since he was 2.

“He’s a real smart player who understands the game,” said Wiggins, himself a standout for the Raiders in the early-2000s at running back, safety and return specialist. “He’s doing a great job this year of just letting the game come to him and not forcing anything.”

Building a program into a next-level contender is something Wiggins is already familiar with. He was a four-year starter and All-America safety for Appalachian State from 2003-06, and the Mountaineers won consecutive FCS championships in his final two seasons — the first two in program history.

Prior to Northeast, Wiggins served as an assistant at the middle school level, and for Southwest and Warner-Robins.

When the Raiders hired him, his plan to turn the program around worked seemingly from the start.

“It was mainly building the culture,” Wiggins said. “Everyone wanting to be a part of the football team, getting involved with the middle school and youth football, being out in the community where people can see you and know that you care. And then, on the other side, getting guys an opportunity to get to the next level and getting them exposure. And then, ultimately, competing at a high level.”

Raiders senior defensive back D’Icey Hopkins is committed to Georgia State, and junior offensive lineman Johnny Williams is a 4-star with offers from Arizona State, Florida State, Georgia and others.

For more with Wiggins, listen to his appearance on Ep. 33 of The Class 2A Blogcast, which was released today.

Here are the new rankings, with each team’s previous ranking and record in parenthesis. For the first time this season, the top 10 remains intact.

1. (1) Rabun County (5-1)

2. (2) Fitzgerald (5-1)

3. (3) Thomasville (5-1)

4. (4) Bleckley County (6-0)

5. (5) Callaway (4-1)

6. (6) Jeff Davis (6-0)

7. (9) Northeast (4-1)

8. (7) Dodge County (3-2)

9. (10) Putnam County (6-0)

10. (8) Washington County (3-1)

In brief:

  • The GHSA executive committee voted to increase the reclassification multiplier to 3.0, meaning Pace Academy and Lovett are certain to be moved out of 2A. Here are the minutes from the meeting, and here’s Stan Awtrey’s coverage of it.
  • When they needed a win most, the Pace Academy Knights beat the Lovett Lions 17-14 in 6-2A play. Christian Johnson led the Knights with 179 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. The Knights (2-4, 2-2) are now in fourth place in 6-2A, owning the tiebreaker over Lovett (3-3, 2-2).
  • Staying in Region 6, The Columbia Eagles beat Washington 28-20 to improve to 5-1, 4-0 and maintain their 1/2-game lead over the South Atlanta Hornets (4-1, 3-0). Mark Brock of DeKalb Schools has details of the Eagles’ fifth-straight win. The Hornets were on bye last week.
  • In Region 1, there were nearly 100 points scored in Cook’s 56-41 win over Worth County. Cook running back Jamarion Walker rushed for 394 yards and five touchdowns on 35 carries, according to GHSF Daily’s top performances for the week. Cook is 4-2, 1-0 and Worth County is 3-3, 0-1.
  • Dade County beat South Pittsburg (Tenn.) 26-21 to improve to 4-1. The Wolverines head back to region play, where they’re 1-0, for their remaining five games, starting Friday at home against Model (2-4, 1-1).
  • Fannin County coach Chad Cheatham spoke with The Friday Night Pressbox Podcast following the Rebels’ 40-14 win over Pepperell. The 7-2A defending-champion Rebels are 6-1, 2-0 heading into their bye week. Pepperell is 1-5, 0-2.
  • Rabun County senior offensive lineman Bear Old has been invited to play in the Georgia Elite Classic.
  • Riverside Military coach Nick Garrett was recently profiled by Robert Alfonso Jr. of The Gainesville Times. The Eagles are 1-4.
  • Thomasville alum Charlie Thomas was profiled by AJC Jackets beat writer Ken Sugiura, who spoke with Bulldogs coach Zach Grage for the story.

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