Class 5A blog: Wrapping up a great football season

Dec. 30, 2020 - Atlanta, Ga: Warner Robins quarterback Jalen Addie (1) celebrates one of his two rushing touchdowns in the first half against Cartersville in the Class 5A state high school football final at Center Parc Stadium Wednesday, December 30, 2020 in Atlanta. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Dec. 30, 2020 - Atlanta, Ga: Warner Robins quarterback Jalen Addie (1) celebrates one of his two rushing touchdowns in the first half against Cartersville in the Class 5A state high school football final at Center Parc Stadium Wednesday, December 30, 2020 in Atlanta. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

A final look at Class 5A reveals strength and tradition. The teams that began the season in the state rankings pretty much stayed there. Those powerful teams remained in control, with few exceptions or surprises along the way. Here’s a look at 2020 season:

The best team: Warner Robins had something to prove and accomplished that mission. The Demons were unstoppable in the state championship game and tied a state record for most points scored in a title game with its 62-28 victory over Cartersville. The offense ran up 601 yards in total offense and amassed 33 first downs.

Cartersville had early momentum by returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but that had no effect on the Demons. They just settled in and scored and kept scoring. The only time Warner Robins didn’t score was when the second group entered the game late in the fourth quarter and turned the ball over.

Warner Robins lost two games – to Valdosta in the season opener (an outcome reversed by forfeit) and to Lee County, the runner-up in Class 6A. During the regular season the Demons beat Class 7A No. 10 Archer, rival Northside, and playoff teams Houston County and Camden County. In Region 1, they won a close game with then-No. 1-ranked Ware County. The biggest moment was the 35-28 win over Blessed Trinity in the quarterfinals, a contest that many felt was the state championship game.

Side note No. 1 on Warner Robins: Did anyone notice what the Demons did when they scored a touchdown – and they scored plenty? The player who scored ran the ball to the official and handed it to him. Gee, what a concept! Didn’t see any ball spinning. Didn’t see any showboating or two-stepping before they reached the end zone. Didn’t see any preplanned celebrations – or any celebrations at all. The Warner Robins kids acted like they’d been there before … and they had. It was refreshing to watch. Just another feather in the cap of coach Marquis Westbrook.

Side note No. 2 on Warner Robins: There’s a whole different set of qualifications for college football … however … Why isn’t Warner Robins QB Jalen Addie covered in offers? He’s got good size (6-3, 210), respectable speed, throws a nice pass and understands how to make the right call. Plus, he’s a winner. Some school is going to get a prize.

The breakthrough teams: There were a handful of teams that made their presence known as the season progressed. It was just impossible to break into the rankings since none of those guys ever lost. Decatur (7-2) won its first six games before losing the Region 5 showdown against St. Pius and hammered Greenbrier in the playoffs. Eastside had a senior-laden team that went 10-3 and New Manchester emerged from a scramble to win the Region 6 title, the first in school history. Ola went 9-2 and had the misfortune of drawing Coffee in the first round. But the Mustangs appear to be built for the long haul.

Most exciting player – Senior division: Receiver Nono Mack of Clarke Central was used as a runner – tough to stop in the wildcat – and was a threat to take any reception to the house. An electric guy with tons of upside who was the Player of the Year in Region 8. Mack has the speed to get past the defense on deep routes, is comfortable playing catch-and-run in the flats and has great hands. Charlotte may have gotten the steal of the signing period.

Most exciting player – Junior division: Quarterback Thomas Castellanos of Ware County is capable of beating you in so many ways. His passing skills have improved greatly over the last two years, so he’s no longer an athlete plugged into the QB position. And when it comes to running, Castellanos is a guy who ties defenders in knots and makes their knees give way.

Most exciting player – Sophomore division: Running back Justice Haynes of Blessed Trinity is likely to challenge all the state records. A rare blend of power and speed that is a constant threat to take it to the house. He’s already got more than 50 college offers, including Georgia, where his feather Verron Haynes starred. Haynes has even more options – he’s a big-time baseball prospect, too, as a left-handed pitcher with a sweet swing.

Steadiest guy on the field: Cole Bishop of Starr’s Mill is an unflappable guy who can play anywhere. A four-year starter at safety, Bishop helped the Panthers win another region title and reach the second round of the playoffs. He decommitted from Duke and signed with Utah. Starr’s Mill, the marquee program on the Southside, will miss his leadership and his grit.

Looking ahead to 2021: Who will be the team to beat this fall? Good question. Warner Robins loses its great senior class, so the Demons won’t likely be the favorite right out of the box. Cartersville lost some big-time playmakers, but the ‘Canes will always be in the mix.

The two program most likely to get the early nod are Blessed Trinity and Ware County. Each one has a big-time playmaker returning and plenty of other help to go along with them.

Here’s the unofficial-far-too-early-preseason-top-25 for Class 5A:

1. Blessed Trinity

2. Ware County

3. Warner Robins

4. Cartersville

5. Calhoun

6. Jones County

7. Coffee

8. St. Pius

9. Clarke Central

10. Dutchtown

11. Starr’s Mill

12. Griffin

13. Decatur

14. Veterans

15. Woodward Academy

16. Ola

17. Eastside

18. SW DeKalb

19. Wayne County

20. New Manchester

21. Creekside

22. Harris County

23. Whitewater

24. Loganville

25. Jonesboro

About the Author

In Other News