Class 5A blog: Here are the biggest surprises of the first half of season

The first half of the high school season is complete. Some teams have even played six games. And nearly every region has already played a league game or will begin this week. So, as the footsteps of the posteason can already be heard, it’s time to take a look at what we’ve learned to this point.

Biggest surprise -- Warner Robins’ 1-4 start: The Demons have faced a killer scheduled and have paid the price. They dropped out of the state rankings this week. The most alarming factor is the last of offensive production. The team has had trouble putting points on the board – 13 total points over the last three games. This is alarming for a club that scored 716 points last season while going 14-1 and winning a second straight state championship. Odds are good that they’ll figure it out and be a factor in the playoffs, but they still have to play Jones County and could end up as the No. 3 seed in Region 2.

Biggest emergence – Northside Columbus: The Patriots are off to a 5-1 start and have become the favorite in Region 3. Northside’s only loss came against Class 4A LaGrange. While much attention deservedly goes to its high-scoring attack and talented running back Malachi Hosley and QB Caden Clay, the defense behind Ward Walker and Eric Cowling has been outstanding – two shutouts and twice allowing one touchdown. Looks they got themselves a contender in Columbus Town.

Biggest improvement – Loganville: The Red Devils, now ranked No. 6, haven’t started with a 5-0 record since Huey Magoo’s came to town with their tasty chicken. Actually 1974 was the last time. Although the crazy over-the-head pass that won the season opener against Monroe Area still gets the attention, this team has beaten a couple of solid Class 7A teams and are 2-0 in Region 8. Solomon Leslie is a two-way standout at running back and linebacker and guard Dylan Robbins has size (6-1, 265) and the temperament of a winner. Now comes the hard part: The last four games are against region contenders, starting this week with Eastside.

Best coaching change – Niketa Battle, Dutchtown: Battle came from Mays, where his teams won three region championships, and has the Bulldogs ranked No. 4 in the state and in contention to win Region 2. They’ve already beaten Warner Robins and still have to play Jones County (Oct. 14), but this looks a well-rounded team with the ingredients needed to contend for a prize bigger than a region championship. Honorable mentions go to Mike Coe, who came from Florida and has Coffee back in contention in Region 1, and Bobby May, who moved from Westlake to Kell and has the Longhorns in position to win Region 6.

Don’t sleep on these guys: They may not be ranked, but the guys are going to be players before the dust settles – Jones County, Jefferson, Cambridge, Eastside, Greater Atlanta Christian.

Three most important wins from last week

Eastside defeats Flowery Branch: The Eagles are 2-0 in Region 8, the deepest in Class 5A. Kenai Grier ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns to lead the offense in the 34-14 win, a win that helped get Eastside into the state rankings at No. 10. Coach Jay Cawthon’s team still has to play contenders Clarke Central and Winder-Barrow before finishing the season at Jefferson, which could determine the region title.

Lithia Springs derails Maynard Jackson: The Lions have faced a difficult schedule, losing to mighty Lee County, Douglas County and Creekside. The 49-26 win over the Former Mayors does a couple of things: It puts the Lions ahead of Jackson in the playoff tiebreaker and elevates the importance of this week’s game against Villa Rica. Quarterback Jai’Que Hart threw for 393 yards and four touchdowns – two of them to Jeremiah Battle -- against Jackson and Christopher Parks ran for 72 yards and one touchdown.

Villa Rica’s offense has a night: The Wildcats ran for 351 of their total 419 yards in a 44-23 win over Banneker. Villa Rica quarterback Jake Herrera leads the way and the two running backs Caiden Reed and big James Hunter ran the ball effectively. The road win gives Villa Rica a 2-0 start in Region 5 and makes this week’s game against Lithia Springs quite large, if the Wildcats can expect to challenge Creekside for the regular-season title.

Three of the most impressive performances from last week

Malachi Hosley, Northside Columbus: It was another big-time performance for the senior in the 35-0 win over Westover. He ran 23 times for 204 yards and two touchdowns, caught three passes for 47 yards and threw a 21-yard touchdown pass. He did not, as some reports suggest, work the concession stand at halftime or act as drum major for the band. He did announce a visit to Western Kentucky.

Joshua “Big Bear” Barker, Kell: This guy is truly disruptive. In last week’s 26-9 win over Centennial, he beat the tackle, sacked the quarterback, forced a fumble and scooped it up and ran it for a touchdown. He moves pretty fast for a bear, too.

Skyler Zimmerman, Jefferson: The junior spearheaded an impressive defensive effort in the 17-7 win over Clarke Central. Zimmerman had five solo tackles, two assists and came up with one of the team’s two sacks. Zimmerman is second on the team in tackles behind all-state linebacker Sammy Brown.

Top 10 (plus another five)

The official AJC Top 10: 1- Cartersville, 2. Ware County, 3. Creekside, 4. Dutchtown, 5. Kell, 6. Loganville, 7. Coffee, 8. Calhoun, 9. Jefferson, 10. Eastside.

The very-unofficial next five: 11. Jones County, 12. Warner Robins, 13 Northside-Columbus, 14. Cambridge, 15. Villa Rica.