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
6. Jones County
8. St. Pius
9. Clarke Central
11. Starr’s Mill
15. Woodward Academy
18. SW DeKalb
19. Wayne County
20. New Manchester
22. Harris County