Class 5A blog: Top games to watch this week

Ware County continues killer schedule with trip to Benedictine

Looking for cupcakes in Ware County? Don’t come to the football games. The Gators haven’t seen one all year.

“One thing I’ll say for our area is our fans are rabid football fans,” Ware County coach Jason Strickland said. “They love football and they want us to be playing some pretty good folks, so we try to help them out. But right now we are banged up because of who we’ve played and how physical they are.”

The No. 2-ranked Gators are 4-0 – they’re still looking for a game for Oct. 1 to replace the contest against Thomson that was cancelled because of COVID – and have beaten three state-ranked teams. After opening with a rout of Cook, Ware County has taken down Eagle’s Landing Christian (No. 2 in Class A Private), Baldwin (No. 9 in Class 4A) and Bainbridge (which had been ranked earlier this season).

This week Ware travel to play Benedictine, the No. 4-ranked team in Class 4A. The Cadets are 2-2, losing to a pair of strong out-of-state teams and are coming off lopsided wins over North Oconee and Wayne County.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge from a mental standpoint of keeping our kids up every week,” Strickland said. “But they like playing good people and getting tested. They’ve handled it on the scoreboard side, but right now we are severely banged up.”

Ware quarterback Thomas Castellanos has completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 1,062 yards and 10 touchdowns and run for 278 yards and five touchdowns. Running back Cartevious Norton leads the team with 535 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

Benedictine is led by quarterback Holden Geriner, who has committed to Auburn. He has thrown for 764 yards and seven touchdowns.

Ware County won 43-21 in the first-ever meeting between the two schools in 2020.

In other top games this week:

Lee County at Warner Robins: This could be one of the top regular-season matchups of the season. Warner Robins is 4-0 and No. 1 in Class 5A and Lee County is 5-0 and No. 1 in Class 6A. Both teams are loaded with weapons. Warner Robins features running back Malcolm Brown (549 yards rushing, nine TDs) and quarterback Christon Lane (762 yards passing, 10 TDs) and Victor Burley is one of the most impactful defensive linemen in the state. Lee County features freshman running back Ousmane Kromah, who has rushed for 663 yards and averages 13 yards per attempt. Lee County won 27-7 last year.

Camden County at Coffee: No. 5 Coffee (5-0) steps up in weight class to challenge Class 7A Camden (4-1). Coffee’s Maurice Turner has been a beast this season. The Louisville commit has run for 128 yards and four touchdowns and caught 19 passes for 263 yards and five touchdowns. Quarterback Justin Swords has thrown for 645 yards in his first season as starter. The Coffee defense must find a way to prevent Camden’s wing-T attack – which has five players with at least 150 yards rushing -- from holding the ball and controlling the clock. Coffee won 37-13 in 2020.

Whitewater at Northside-Columbus (Thursday, Kinnett Stadium): This game highlights the opening of league play in Region 2. Northside (3-0) brings a powerful running game led by junior Malachi Hosley (448 yards, nine TDs) and sophomore Devaughn Scott (273 yards, three TDs). Whitewater (3-1) is a ground-oriented wing-T team and features three players with at least 200 yards rushing – Braxton Mueller (285 yards, two TDs), QB Austin Williams (249 yards, five TDs) and Adeoluwe Erinle (205 yards, two TDs). The winner will have a big advantage toward making the playoff, since both must still face region favorites Starr’s Mill and Griffin. Whitewater won 43-0 in 2020 when the teams met for the first time.

Stone Mountain at Decatur: Stone Mountain (4-0) will get its first real challenge when it travels to play No. 10-ranked Decatur (4-0). Decatur has played a challenging schedule and the Bulldogs have produced a powerful passing game (264 yards last week against Arabia Mountain. QB Harrison Hannah continues to impress; he threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns last week. Receivers Kenric Lanier, Mekhi Lloyd and Curran Brant each have big-play potential. Stone Mountain is led on offense by quarterback Devonte Cemexan (371 yards passing, four TDs; 2343 yards, four TDs) and receiver Saquan Bailey (12 catches, 19.8-yard average, two TDs). The Pirates’ top defensive players are linebackers Ronel Thomas (41 tackles, eight tackles for loss and five sacks) and Ali Diakite (35 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and six sacks). Stone Mountain hasn’t won its first five games since the 2000 team started the season 6-0. Decatur won last year’s game 30-0, the first renewal of the series since 1977.

Cedartown at Calhoun: This contest features two contrasting styles. No. 6 Calhoun throws it around behind quarterback Christian Lewis, who has thrown for 819 yads, and receiver Cole Speer, who has committed to Georgia. Cedartown, No. 6 in Class 4A, keeps it on the ground and depends on Georgia commit C.J. Washington, who also stars at defensive end. Calhoun won last year’s game 14-7 when they resumed the series after a 35-year pause.

New Manchester at Lithia Springs: The two Douglas County rivals open play against each other in Region 6. The close proximity of the schools makes this game like “the Super Bowl,” according to New Manchester coach Cedric Jackson. The Jaguars (1-3) are the defending region champ. They return talented tailback Chris Morgan (401 yards, four TDs) and a defense led by lineman De’andre Jones, a 6-4, 255-pound Georgia State commit. Click here to read Tuesday’s post about New Manchester. Lithia Springs (1-3) features quarterback Jai’que Hart (1,092 yards, nine TDs) and running back Demarco Brownlee (282 yards, three TDs). Lithia Springs won last year’s game 20-14 for its first victory in the series.

Lithonia at Southwest DeKalb (Godfrey Stadium): Southwest DeKalb (1-3) finally broke into the win column last week against Tucker and will try to continue its dominance of the series with neighboring rival Lithonia (0-3). Southwest leads the series 19-2 and won 27-9 in 2020. Southwest’s Billy Johnson (376 yards rushing) and James Carswell (209 yards rushing) lead the ground attack and sophomore lineman Chase Kerns has 22 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Lithonia’s defense has been outstanding, particularly linebackers Damarion Davis (39.5 tackles, nine for loss) and Keyshawn McCoy (25 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and five sacks) and lineman Josiah Peterson (21 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and five sacks).