Class 5A blog: Chamblee’s 3-1 start signifies good things ahead

The three biggest wins and three top performers

From 2014-19, the once-proud Chamblee football team went 7-52. It got so bad that the decision was made to play a non-region schedule for two years just to help rebuild and restart the program. This season the Bulldogs have returned to league competition and are looking more and more like a team that can make the playoffs – or even be in the conversation for the Region 4 championship.

Scott Schwarzer arrived in 2019 to begin the transition and left after two seasons to take the job at Northview, a school much closer to his home. Bob Swank, who came with Schwarzer to begin the turnaround, was promoted in 2021 and went 9-1 in the final year of the non-region schedule.

This year the Bulldogs are 3-1 after last week’s 55-23 victory over Riverwood. Their only loss has been against Class 7A Duluth.

“It was the right decision to make,” Swank said. “Those two years helped build confidence, helped us get better and now we’re a veteran team and we’re playing pretty decent football.”

The offense is led by quarterback Fabian Walker Jr., who has thrown for 804 yards and 13 touchdowns. He passed for 204 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another against Riverwood. He is the son of Fabian Walker Sr., who set most of Georgia’s high school passing records when he played at Americus. The elder Walker is also the team’s quarterbacks coach and has worked along with offensive coordinator Michael Freeman, who Swank called a “young offensive guru.”

Walker’s favorite target is Jordan Thornton, who had six catches last week and now has 20 for 295 yards and three touchdowns. He is the school’s all-time leading receiver. Thornton is also a starting defensive back. Levi Bradham is another outstand target with good hands and Larry Harris is the most productive running back.

The defense is led by seniors Daniel Chavez (a four-year starter), Miller Meeks and Mason Carrington. Meeks has 12 tackles, two for loss, and a sack against Riverwood and Carrington had 11 tackles, one for loss. Quay Wright, a transfer from Elbert County, has been a force on the line and had eight tackles, three for loss and caused a fumble last week.

The special teams have done their part, too. The Bulldogs have blocked a punt in each of their first four games, all by a different player.

The team’s resurgence has caused some of the school’s former players to get in touch with Swank. Some have come by the school to watch practice. He’s waiting for Roddy Jones, the former Georgia Tech star and last great player to emerge from the program, to reach out.

Chamblee doesn’t play this week. The Bulldogs return with a game on Sept. 30 against King, followed by a Thursday night game against Tucker on Oct. 6.

Three top performances last week

Dutchtown produces signature win: The No. 4 Bulldogs (5-0) knocked off two-time defending champion Warner Robins 14-7 thanks to its typical tough defense and present first-year head coach Niketa Battle with a signature victory.

The big moment for Dutchtown came in the fourth quarter. Warner Robins had pushed the ball to the ball to the 4, but Dutchtown held on fourth down. The Bulldogs had to punt and survived when Warner Robins turned the ball over on downs after a bad snap on fourth down at midfield.

Dutchtown got its points on a 5-yard run by Amarion Yarbough and a fourth-down 29-yard pass from Josiah Jarrett to Tishaun Brown. Jamal Bing went over 100 yards rushing for the fifth time this season.

Northside Columbus improves to 4-1: The Patriots celebrated a 48-27 over Sumter County with an outstanding offensive performance from quarterback Caden Cay, who was 16-for-22 for 215 yards and three touchdowns, and Malachi Hosley, who carried 19 times for 202 yards and three touchdowns and caught three passes for 79 yards and one touchdown. Kean’dra Davis added a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The defense was led by Eric Cowling Jr. with eight tackles, two tackles for loss and three hurries, Jamil Garner with four tackles, two tackles for loss and three hurries, and Ward Walker, who had seven tackles, one for loss, two hurries and one sack.

Creekside’s offense shows up: The No. 3 Indians have been living off their stone-cold defense, but Friday they got their offense cranked up in a 35-14 win over Lithia Springs in the Region 5 opener. Coach Maurice Dixon’s offense produced a pair of 100-yard rushers – Travis Terrell ran 17 times for 180 yards and one touchdown and Roderick McCrary ran 25 times for 133 yards and one touchdown. It may have also been a breakthrough for first-year quarterback Vinson Berry, who threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns.

Top three performances

Kenai Grier, Eastside: The running back came up big against Ola, running for four touchdowns in the 42-14 win over Ola. Grier carried 12 times and picked up 115 yards. He also caught two passes for 18 yards to help the Eagles improve to 3-1 and solidify their profile as a playoff contender.

Tate Morris, McIntosh: The senior quarterback (also a top baseball player) threw for 248 yards and three touchdowns in the 23-14 win over Landmark Christian. Morris has thrown for more than 1,500 yards yards and 12 touchdowns. The Chiefs are 2-3 and expected to contend for the Region 3 championship.

Trey Townsend, Calhoun: The first-year starter at quarterback came up big in a 40-7 win over rival Sonoraville. Townsend completed 21 of 26 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns. He spread it around, too, with each scoring pass going to a different receiver. He’ll get a stiffer test the next time out when the Yellow Jackets travel to No. 1 Cartersville.

The Top 10 (plus five others to watch)

The official AJC Top 10 for Class 5A is: 1. Cartersville, 2. Ware County, 3. Creekside, 4. Dutchtown, 5. Kell, 6. Loganville, 7. Coffee, 8. Calhoun, 9, Jefferson and 10 Warner Robins.

The very unofficial next five teams waiting to get in are: 11. Jones County, 12. Eastside, 13. Northside-Columbus, 14. Chamblee, 15. Maynard Jackson.