Class 2A blog: In brief — South Atlanta shakes up Region 6

When the GHSA reclassification was finalized to take affect for the 2020-21 school year, it was assumed by many — including myself — that the Lovett Lions and Pace Academy Knights would be fighting for the Region 6 championship. The two Buckhead private school powerhouses, located less than three miles apart, could technically still finish 1-2 in the final region standings, but the road for the Knights was just made a lot more difficult by the South Atlanta Hornets.

The Hornets defeated then-No. 7 Pace Academy 22-14 on Friday in a game where the Hornets were 24-point underdogs according to Maxwell’s projections.

For a recap of Friday night’s Class 2A action, go here.

Now, the Hornets are firmly planted in second place in 6-2A, and if they can win their remaining games against Therrell, Towers, McNair, KIPP and Columbia then they’ll host their first playoff game in a program history that dates back to 1994. Only Columbia (2-0) has a winning record among those teams and it finished 4-7 last year as a member of 5A.

The Pace Academy game symbolizes the program’s signature win under Brad Stephens, who is in his fifth season at South Atlanta. Stephens took over the Hornets program in 2016, when they were a season removed from a 1-9 record and a 7-33 mark from 2012-2015. He was the Hornets' fifth coach in 10 seasons. After going 3-7 in Stephens' first season, the Hornets have been in the playoffs three years in a row.

The Hornets are still seeking the first playoff win in program history and nearly got it last season in the first round at Union County, leading in the fourth quarter before eventually falling 19-15.

(More on South Atlanta from GHSF Daily: Hornets record major upset; 4 questions with Brad Stephens)

For the Knights, the loss booted them from the rankings. However, they can make things interesting with a win next week over the Lovett Lions, ranked No. 4. The Lions have already beaten South Atlanta, so if they lose to the Knights, a potential three-way tie for first place could happen. The week after they play Lovett, the Knights play 1A Private’s No. 3 Eagle’s Landing Christian in a game rescheduled from earlier in the season when Pace Academy postponed it due to a wet field. The game will now be played at Eagle’s Landing Christian.

Should the Knights win both games, they could re-enter the rankings but their primary focus is likely winning a playoff game, which they haven’t done since winning the 2A title in 2015. They’ve spent the past four seasons in 3A, where they never won more than six games in a season and went 0-4 in the state tournament.

In the updated polls, the top six remain intact. Haralson County and Thomasville each moved up a spot to Nos. 8-9, respectively. The Toombs County Bulldogs re-enter the rankings at No. 9 following their 17-14 road win over 1A Public’s No. 3 Macon County. (ToombsNow has details on the win.)

Debuting in the rankings at No. 10 are the Cook Hornets, who are off to a 3-2 start. Their first three opponents were against ranked teams — they lost 38-6 to 5A’s Ware County, beat defending 1A Public champions and No. 4 Irwin County, 21-20, and lost 25-20 to A Public’s No. 1 Brooks County — and their last two games were wins over unranked opponents in 1A Public’s Randolph-Clay (42-14) and 3A’s Brantley County (40-23). They’re ranked for the first time since 2015, when they were No. 10 for one week before losing 41-14 to Pierce County.

With the Cook Hornets ranked, that gives Region 1 four teams in the top 10, along with Fitzgerald, Early County and Thomasville.

Here’s a full look at the rankings, with last week’s ranking and current record in parenthesis:

1. (1) Callaway (4-0)

2. (2) Fitzgerald (5-0)

3. (3) Rabun County (4-1)

4. (4) Lovett (3-1)

5. (5) Early County (3-0)

6. (6) Bleckley County (4-1)

7. (8) Haralson County (5-0)

8. (9) Thomasville (2-3)

9. (NR) Toombs County (4-1)

10. (NR) Cook (3-2)

Out: No. 7 Pace Academy, No. 10 Heard County

At some point within the next 48 hours, the latest episode of The Class 2A Blogcast will be released. I’ll talk more about South Atlanta and Region 6, the depth of Region 1 and Callaway among other 2A topics, plus I’ll briefly touch up on the Falcons and Braves. You can listen and subscribe to the Class 2A Blogcast on Apple or Spotify, among other platforms. Thanks for listening!

In brief:

  • Former Callaway standout and current Auburn running back Tank Bigsby is taking college football by storm, gaining national attention. In his latest performance against Arkansas, he posted 268 all-purpose yards, which were the most by an Auburn player since Tre Mason in 2013. Pro Football Focus notes that he made 14 would-be Razorbacks tacklers miss, with a few coming on this incredible run.
  • The Lovett Lions headline a very impressive list of “most wins vs. top 10 teams from higher classifications” in a season with a 4-1 record, set in 2013.
  • There are 29 GHSA teams with the nickname “Bulldogs” and three of them — Thomasville, Toombs County and Washington — are in 2A.
  • I mentioned the possibility that programs may not be forthcoming or transparent when it comes to COVID-19 cases — especially once the state playoffs begin — in Episode 3 of The Class 2A Blogcast. Already, it appears some programs are struggling with transparency according to the latest GHSA statement on the coronavirus situation.
  • Banks County freshman football player Landon Tench recently went to the emergency room after passing out and becoming unresponsive, but according to Leopards coach Jay Reid, an MRI on his brain came back normal and, according to Peyton Hart, other tests results were positive and he was released to his home to recover.
  • Dodge County senior quarterback-defensive lineman Noah Cummings is doing well after leaving Fridays' game on a stretcher due to severe hydration.
  • As is the case with many programs across the state, Gordon Central has had its schedule affected by the pandemic. Here’s their latest adjusted schedule. The Warriors are 1-4 and 0-1 in Region 7 play.
  • The Fannin County Rebels are 4-0 after beating Gordon Central 57-6 in their Region 7 opener. Fetch Your News has highlights. The Rebels are 4-0 for the first time since 1995, when they finished 12-1 and reached the 2A quarterfinals. Here’s Rebels coach Chad Cheathem discussing their latest win with Fetch Your News. The Rebels play Pepperell (2-3, 1-0) this week in a pivotal region game that could factor into who wins 7-2A.
  • Here’s Episode 3 of the Rebel Wrap-up, covering Fannin County football.
  • The Putnam County War Eagles are 5-0 for the first time since 1994, when they went 11-2 and reached the 1A quarterfinals, after beating Laney 24-8. They’re 2-0 in Region 4 play.
  • The Washington County Golden Hawks, who started 0-2, are on a three-game win streak after beating Lamar County 31-6 in their Region 3 opener. They started the season ranked No. 7 but lost their opener, 20-14, to the Swainsboro Tigeres, who they beat 27-22 in a rematch played two weeks later.
  • Here’s how Chattooga’s two-week quarantine has affected the Region 7 schedule.
  • Former Dodge County lineman Colby Lee is earning recognition at the next level, where he plays for LaGrange College.
  • Union County’s game against 5A’s Woodland-Cartersville was canceled on Woodland’s end. Here is the Panthers' remaining schedule. The Panthers are 2-2 and won’t play again until Oct. 23 at Banks County, which will mark a three-week gap since their last game, a 28-14 win over 4A’s Pickens on Oct. 2.
  • This week’s GHSF Daily top performers from 2A are Rabun County quarterback Gunner Stockton (18-of-22 passing for 422 yards and six touchdowns, 55 yards and two touchdowns on three carries); Bleckley County running back Jahvon Butler (243 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries); Fannin County quarterback Luke Holloway (9-of-12 passing for 231 yards and four touchdowns); Haralson County linebacker JoJo Chandler (10 tackles, three for losses, a sack, a caused fumble and a fumble recovery); Putnam County quarterback Gerald Kilgore (13-of-19 passing for 163 yards and two touchdowns); Temple running back Phillip Johnson (200 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries)

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