Class 2A blog: What to watch in Week 1

Fitzgerald Purple Hurricane at Cairo Syrupmakers*

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, West Thomas Stadium, Cairo

Records, rankings: Fitzgerald was 8-4 in 2019 and is No. 4; Cairo was 8-3 in 2019 and is unranked in 4A.

Last meeting: Cairo won 12-8 in 2003.

Maxwell’s projection: Even

Notes: Fitzgerald last beat Cairo in 1980, though the schools have met only four times since, most recently in 2003. They first played in 1930. “We played back in the day, and Tucker Pruitt [Fitzgerald’s coach] and I wanted to get the game back going,” Cairo coach Steven DeVoursney said. The Maxwell Ratings pick Cairo to finish second to Bainbridge in Region 1-4A. Fitzgerald is the favorite in Region 1-2A, according to Maxwell. Cairo returns five first-team all-region players and 11 who got at least honorable-mention recognition. One is preseason all-state punter/kicker Noah Jones. Another is running back Tay Solomon, who is expected to have a big year. Junior Kevin Speed and sophomore Braylon Robinson, both pocket passers, must replace current Navy quarterback Matthew Peters, who led Cairo in rushing and passing last year. The defense is solid with defensive tackle Ty Glenn and linebacker Ricky Walker. Fitzgerald’s weapons will be running back Kevon Clark and 2019 region offensive player of the year Chance Gamble, a wide receiver/defensive back. Four all-region linemen are back.

*Courtesy of GHSF Daily

Rabun County Wildcats at Ridgeland Panthers

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Ridgeland Stadium, Rossvile

Records, rankings: Rabun County was 12-1 in 2019 and is No. 1; Ridgeland was 6-5 in 2019 and is unranked in 4A.

Maxwell’s projection: Rabun County by 12

Notes: The Wildcats are ranked No. 1 for the first time in program history and will be put to the test on the road against a Panthers team that has won its region three of the last four years (2019, 2016-17) and seven since 2008. They won 6-4A last year in Kip Klein’s first season as coach. The Wildcats, who have won six consecutive region titles, are led by 5-star junior quarterback and South Carolina-commit Gunner Stockton, who has put up big numbers passing and rushing in second-year coach Jaybo Shaw’s high-powered spread offense, which is derived from his predecessor and father Lee Shaw. One of Stockton’s top weapons is 6-foot-4 senior receiver Adriel Clark, who holds offers from Air Force, Army and Marist. The two teams have never played and are on opposite sides of the state’s northern border, with the Wildcats taking a three-hour bus ride west to play the game.

Thomasville Bulldogs at Brooks County Trojans

When, where: 7:30 p.m., Veterans Stadium, Quitman

Records, rankings: Thomasville was 9-5 last season and is No. 3 in 2A; Brooks County was 10-5 last year and is No. 2 in 1A Public.

Last meeting: Thomasville won 31-20 in 2019.

Maxwell’s projection: Brooks County by 5

Notes: Both teams made deep playoff runs last season as members of 1-2A, and Thomasville, which won the region title, was a semifinals win away from meeting the Trojans in the state championship, where the Trojans lost to Dublin. Though the Trojans reclassified to 1A Public, the two perennial powers decided to keep their rivalry alive, as they’ve played every season since 2004. Before that, they played six times from 1962-97. Thomasville leads the all-time series 15-9. The Trojans are led by AJC preseason all-state selections in senior quarterback Ni’Tavion Burrus, junior running back Omari Arnold and senior defensive lineman Jayshawn Baker. Thomasville has two preseason all state selections in senior receiver Ricardo Johnson and junior linebacker Ty Anderson, a 3-star who holds six offers including Georgia Tech and South Carolina. Bulldogs sophomore all-purpose back Ricky Fulton holds an offer from FAU.

Holy Innocents’ Golden Bears at Pace Academy Knights

When, where: 7:30 p.m., Riverview Road Athletic Complex, Mableton

Records, rankings: Holy Innocents’ was 12-1 in 2019 and is No. 5 in 1A Private; Pace Academy was 5-5 in 2019 and is No. 5.

Last meeting: Pace Academy won 26-0 in 2015.

Watch the game: NFHS Network

Maxwell’s projection: Pace Academy by 1

Notes: These teams played every year as region opponents from 2008-15 before going their separate ways after reclassification. Friday’s meeting will be their first non-region matchup, and the first time they play while both are ranked. The Knights are led by 4-star junior quarterback MJ Morris, who transferred from Carrollton. He holds 24 offers including Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, LSU and Michigan. His go-to receiver is another 4-star in senior Jayden Thomas, who has 23 offers and a top five of Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State. Junior 3-star defensive tackle Xavier Agostino holds a Virginia Tech offer. Holy Innocents’ has three preseason all-state selections in senior tight end Landon Kardian, senior offensive lineman Conor Swennumson and senior placekicker Marshall Nichols. Kardian holds an offer from Air Force and Nichols has one from N.C. State.

West Laurens Raiders at Bleckley County Royals

When, where: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Royal Stadium at Shelly Hayes Field, Cochran

Records, rankings: West Laurens was 11-2 in 2019 and is No. 4 in 4A; Bleckley County was 7-4 in 2019 and is No. 9

Last meeting: West Laurens won 42-7 in 2015.

Maxwell’s projection: West Laurens by 14

Notes: This is the first time these teams, 25 minutes apart, meet up since a four-year stint from 2012-15, of which the Raiders went 4-0. The Raiders have beaten the Royals six times in a row dating back to 2004 and lead the all-time series, which began in 1977, 12-8-1. This will be the first senior class for Raiders fourth-year coach Kagan McClain, who is 22-13 with the program. Raiders tight end Caleb Appleby, a 6-foot-6 senior, holds an offer from Florida Atlantic. The Royals have one of the top overall players in the country in 6-foot-7, 315-pound senior offensive lineman Amarius Mims, a preseason all-state selection and a 5-star. He has 20 offers and a top five of Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia and Oklahoma. Royals defensive lineman Willie Harris is another preseason all-state selection and holds five mid-major offers.

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