Class 5A blog: Looking ahead at next year’s football races

Fog created an interesting situation at the GSHA Championships in 2020.

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Fog created an interesting situation at the GSHA Championships in 2020.

Congratulations to the Warner Robins Demons. They completed another championship run – the second straight state title – and belong in the conversation when discussing the best teams in any classification. Coach Marquis Westbrook’s team would present a problem to any of the larger schools who played for championships over the weekend.

It took maybe 30 seconds in a postgame interview with a local television reporter before Westbrook was asked about 2022. Although the timing was a little odd, the question is legitimate: Will Warner Robins have a chance to return to the championship game for a sixth straight season and earn a third straight title?

There’s no reason to believe otherwise. Although the Demons will lose a lot of key contributors on both sides – including postseason hero Fred Perry, two-way standout Daveon Walker and defensive monster Jay Carter – they will return four-star running back Malcolm Brown (who missed the playoffs with knee surgery) and five-star defensive lineman Vic Beasley.

The landscape in Class 5A will change for next year. St. Pius, Woodward Academy and Blessed Trinty – targeted by the new multiplier rule – will move up. Fayette County powers Starr’s Mill and Whitewater will both move down.

Newcomers expected to field good teams next season 5A include Statesboro, Tucker, Mays, Cambridge, Greater Atlanta Christian, Kell, Dalton. Flowery Branch and Jefferson.

The best Class 5A teams remaining in the division are the same as usual – Cartersville, Calhoun, Coffee, Ware County, Jones County, Dutchtown, Creekside, Decatur, Villa Rica and Clarke Central. That’s a pretty solid group.

Here is a quick assessment of the new region alignments:

Region 1: Bradwell Institute, Coffee, Greenbrier, Jenkins, Statesboro, Ware County. Coffee and Ware County are the teams to beat, but the league looks different without Warner Robins, Veterans and Wayne County.

Region 2: Dutchtown, Eagle’s Landing, Jones County, Locust Grove, Ola, Union Grove, Warner Robins. This is going to be a tough region. Warner Robins has been to the state title game five straight years, but Jones County reached the quarterfinals and Dutchtown has developed an outstanding program. Union Grove and Ola are both solid, too. This will be a good league.

Region 3: Drew, Harris County, McIntosh, Northgate, Northside Columbus. Not exactly a glamorous league. Harris County will be the likely favorite, although Northside has been on the rise.

Region 4: Arabia Mountain, Chamblee, Cross Keys, Decatur, Lithonia, King, Tucker. With the loss of Southwest DeKalb and St. Pius, this DeKalb-based league will be up for grabs. Decatur has developed into a region contender and expectations are high that Tucker will bounce back from a rebuilding year.

Region 5: Banneker, Chapel Hill, Creekside, Maynard Jackson, Lithia Springs, Mays, Midtown, Tri-Cities. Creekside reached the semifinals this year and will be the early favorite. Lithia Springs continues to make strides and won a playoff game this year. There are plenty of opportunities for new contenders to arise from this group. Should make for an interesting season.

Region 6: Cambridge, Centennial, Chattahoochee, Greater Atlanta Christian, Kell, North Springs, Northview. Only two of these teams played 5A football last year and the newcomers are expected to dominate. Cambridge had breakthrough year in Class 6A and GAC and Kell should contend for the region title after rebuilding.

Region 7: Calhoun, Cartersville, Cass, Dalton, Hiram, Villa Rica, Woodland. The league lost Blessed Trinity, but imported Region 6 champion Villa Rica. Until someone says otherwise, it will come down to Calhoun and Cartersville.

Region 8: Clarke Central, Eastside, Flowery Branch, Heritage, Jefferson, Loganville, Winder-Barrow. Clarke Central has won this region for the last three years, but the competition just got a lot more intense with the addition of Jefferson, Flowery Branch and Winder-Barrow. This should be one of the most competitive regions in Class 5.

Here is a way-to-early ranking of the top 25 teams in Class 5A for 2022. This is for entertainment purposes only. No wagering, please.

1. Warner Robins

2. Cartersville

3. Calhoun

4. Coffee

5. Ware County

6. Creekside

7. Jones County

8. Clarke Central

9. Cambridge

10. Greater Atlanta Christian

11. Decatur

12. Jefferson

13. Villa Rica

14. Dutchtown

15. Flowery Branch

16. Tucker

17. Eastside

18. Kell

19. Harris County

20. Dalton

21. Loganville

22. Lithia Springs

23. Jenkins

24. Statesboro

25. Mays