Class 2A blog: Paladins to focus on self following loss, exit from rankings

Fellowship Christian fell 21-18 to Mount Pisgah in Kell Classic

Fellowship Christian Paladins coach Tim McFarlin said having his team outside the limelight while it focuses on improving might be what’s best after their 21-18 season-opening loss to Mount Pisgah.

“We should not have been in a position where you have to rally,” he said. “We knew Mount Pisgah had 10 of 11 starters returning on offense, so we knew they were going to be good. We’re young. Still, you’ve got to play better in those situations. There too many dropped balls, and that’s on us. We’ll be OK.

“The best thing that can happen to us is to take the loss, fall out of the rankings and just go to work on us. That’s a hint for you guys (AJC pollsters).”

Fellowship played on Friday at Barron Stadium in Rome, as part of the 31st annual Kell Classic.

The Paladins trailed 21-10 when they scored a touchdown and 2-point conversion with 5:04 left. Mount Pisgah went three-and-out the next possession and punted back to the Paladins, but the potential game-winning drive stalled at the 50 on fourth-and-4 with an incomplete pass.

Though the Paladins rallied, McFarlin knows his team is capable of playing better.

“It’s early and we were not very good,” he said. “We were bad on offense, defense, and kicking game wasn’t very good.”

The Paladins went 12-2 last season reached the Class 1A Private semifinals in McFarlin’s second season with the team after winning championships at prior stops Blessed Trinity and Roswell. They’ll compete with Athens Academy in a Region 8 that no longer includes eight-time defending region champion Rabun County.

For more from McFarlin and the Paladins, including the controversy surrounding the end of their game Friday, check out this week’s episode of The Class 2A Blogcast, which will go live Tuesday.

With the loss, the Paladins dropped out of the new 2A rankings from No. 5.

Below are the rankings, with each team’s ranking from the previous week and their record in parenthesis.

1. (1) Eagle’s Landing Christian (1-0)

2. (2) Fitzgerald (1-0)

3. (3) Appling County (0-0)

4. (4) Pierce County (0-0)

5. (6) Callaway (0-1)

6. (7) Rockmart (0-1)

7. (8) Putnam County (0-0)

8. (9) South Atlanta (0-0)

9. (NR) Columbia (1-0)

10. (10) Washington County (0-0)

Out: No. 5 Fellowship Christian

Aside from Fellowship Christian, Callaway and Rockmart lost and not only stay ranked, but each move up one spot in place of the Paladins. The No. 5 Cavaliers lost to Alabama 7A’s No. 10 Opelika, 29-28, and No. 6 Rockmart lost 27-14 to 4A’s No. 3 Cedartown. Interestingly enough, Cedartown hosts Callaway next week.

The Columbia Eagles got the state’s attention with their 13-10 win at 7A’s Camden County, which GHSF Daily dubbed as the top surprising/notable game from Week 1. They debut in the rankings at No. 9.

Columbia is following up an 8-4 season in which it won a playoff game for the first time since 1997. The season win total was the most for the program since they went 8-3 in 2005. Third-year coach Greg Barnett and the Eagles are making it known early that they will be contenders alongside Callaway and top-ranked ELCA for the Region 5 title.

ELCA survived a 50-49 game at Brentwood (Tenn.), a team ranked No. 16 overall in Tennessee heading in, according to MaxPreps.

The defending-champion and No. 2-ranked Fitzgerald Purple Hurricane once again beat Irwin County, this time 28-20. The Cane have now won three straight in the series and are 20-2-1 against the Indians since 2000.

Appling County’s opener against Ware County was canceled due to weather and will reportedly not be made up. The Pirates now hope to debut Friday at home against Aikens (S.C.).

Other ranked teams making their debut this week are No. 4 Pierce County, No. 7 Putnam County, No. 8 South Atlanta and No. 10 Washington County.