Class 6A blog: Hughes, Lee County establishing themselves as the teams to beat

It’s not unusual for the state runner-up from the previous season to earn the No. 1 ranking the following year, especially when the defending champion has moved on to a new classification, as Buford did this season.

However, No. 1-ranked Hughes is proving to be a lot more than a default choice for the top spot.

The Panthers (2-0) rolled to their second consecutive victory, overwhelming McEachern with big plays in a 47-21 victory Friday night in Powder Springs. Hughes made quick work of Spartanburg, S.C., in the season opener, winning 47-16.

Hughes scored five touchdowns of 51 yards or more, including two by the defense, against McEachern. Quarterback Prentiss “Air” Noland threw touchdown passes of 75 yards to Robert “C.J.” Lockhart, 58 yards to Terrance Love and 51 yards to Jelani Thurman, and the Panthers scored on a 75-yard fumble return by Ahmad Howard and a 73-yard interception return by Dmitry Wells. Thurman also caught a 28-yard touchdown pass, and Jekail Middlebrook scored on a 41-yard run.

“We were able to be successful in a couple of different ways tonight,” Hughes coach Daniel Williams said. “Our offense did a good job of just finding the holes and coming together to see what would really work for us.”

Hughes has one non-region game remaining, this week at home against Mays, before taking a week off on Sept. 9. The Panthers begin play in Region 5-6A on Sept. 16 at home against New Manchester.

Here are some other observations of Class 6A after Week 2:

- Second-ranked Lee County is making a strong case to be Hughes’ top challenger in the classification. After knocking off two-time defending Class 5A champion Warner Robins 26-10 in the season opener, the Trojans took care of Hapeville Charter last week. Lee County led 30-0 at halftime, and the second half was played with a running clock. Ousmane Kromah rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and Nemo McCloud returned a fumble for a touchdown. Lee County plays at home against Lithia Springs this week.

- No. 9 South Paulding came up just short of beating a Class 7A team for the second consecutive week, losing to eighth-ranked Carrollton 28-21. South Paulding had the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie, but Carrollton intercepted a pass and ran out the final 4:11. Running back Jamarion Wilcox had his second straight big game, rushing for 165 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He ran for 236 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-20 victory against Harrison, putting him at 401 yards for the season.

- Houston County had the most dramatic victory of the week, scoring late to defeat Perry 57-56. Trailing 56-49 in the closing seconds, Antwann Hill threw a touchdown pass to Ricky Johnson to pull within one point, and Ryan Taleb completed a pass on the two-point conversion for the victory. Hill was 34-of-50 passing for 414 yards and four touchdowns, giving him 674 yards and six touchdowns in two games. Taleb ran for 200 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries, giving him 298 yards and five touchdowns for the season.

- The word on the Allatoona Buccaneers has often been that if you’re going to get them, you better get them early because they tend to get better as the season goes along. The Bucs are hoping that will be the case again this year after losing to Kell 21-9 to fall to 0-2, and this week they will face Class 5A No. 1 Cartersville. Last year, Allatoona started the season 0-3 with losses to Harrison, Hughes and Kennesaw Mountain but went on to win their final six regular-season games and finish in second place in the region.

- Other noteworthy victories in Week 2 belonged to Etowah, which is 2-0 after going 1-9 in Class 7A each of the past two seasons; Grovetown, which is 2-0 for the first time since 2011 after defeating Greenbrier 17-7; Morrow, which is 2-0 after going 2-16 over the past two seasons; Lakeside-DeKalb, which is playing a non-region schedule this year but is 2-0 for the first time since 2005; and Paulding County, which is 2-0 under first-year coach Umbrah Brown after winning just 10 of 40 games over the past four seasons.