“Nobody wants to play us,” Gess said. “I guess in a way that’s good because people respect our program. I get it. To be honest, [schools in larger classifications] really don’t have anything to gain by playing us. If you beat us, you were supposed to because we’re Class A. But if you lose to us, your community and your fans are going to criticize you for losing to a Class A school.”
As it was, Woodward had a vacancy as well, as their opener with Class 7A Newton County had to be cancelled, due to a coronavirus case in Newton’s program. The teams will meet to open the 2021 season, this time at Woodward in College Park.
But while the win over the War Eagles was a big one, Gess knows it was just one win. While he knows the talk is out there about winning six state championships in a row, there is a lot of work yet to be done. Besides, he said, teams like Prince Avenue Christian (which almost knocked the Chargers out of the second round of last year’s playoffs, before losing 62-57) and Athens Academy (which gave ELCA all it wanted in last year’s third round, 28-10). Especially Athens Academy.
“They are so go, so physical, so well coached,” Gess said of the Spartans. “They play tough defense. They have my utmost respect. I’ll tell you what, to me, if you’re going to win a state championship, at some point, you’re going to have to beat Athens Academy.”
Speaking of the Spartans …
Athens Academy (1-0) traveled south and won their 15th consecutive season opener, 17-10, over a tough squad from Trinity Christian (0-1) of Sharpsburg. The Spartans jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead and used that physical defense Gess admires to hold on. Senior QB/DB Palmer Bush scored on a 58-yard run, junior RB/DB Wally Terrell had a one-yard score, and senior K Dru Hunt made good on a 47-yard field goal.
As for Prince Avenue …
After last season’s heartbreaking loss to ELCA in the state playoffs, the Wolverines are on a mission to prove they are to top team in the classification. And Super 11 senior QB Brock Vandagriff is determined to make it happen.
Vandagriff, considered by some to be the top QB in America, accounted for all six Prince Avenue (1-0) touchdowns in a 42-7 win over Calvary Day (0-1) of Savannah. He led the Wolverines to a 21-0 halftime lead with a touchdown pass to Logan Johnson and scoring runs of three and four yards. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in the second half.
Holy Innocents' starts 2020 with a loss
The Bears enjoyed the best season in their 14-year history last year, finishing the regular season undefeated, and ending ELCA’s run of 10 consecutive region titles after they knocked off the Chargers 42-41 in Week Four.
But after losing to ELCA in the rematch in the state semifinals (21-7) to finish the season 12-1, Holy Innocents' (0-1) has now lost its last two games as the Bears, ranked No. 6, dropped their season opener, 14-7, to Pace Academy, ranked No. 4 in Class 2A. Holy Innocents' went up 7-0 in the third quarter after senior RB/DB Tyquann Alexander’s 78-yard touchdown run. But the Bears gave up two fourth quarter touchdown passes and couldn’t mount a comeback in the game’s final minutes.
Look out for Metter
The top two teams from Class 2A last season, Dublin and Brooks County – who met in the finals (Dublin won 42-32) – reclassified into single A public for this season. But another team that reclassified from 2A might be the team to watch: Metter.
The Tigers (1-0) continued their rise to prominence under third-year head coach Rodney Garvin by winning their fourth consecutive season opener, while taking down rival Swainsboro, 28-0. Senior RB/LB Aaron Collins ran for 113 yards and scored two touchdowns in the win. It was the first time Metter won in the 25-game series, one that dates back to 1925, since 1955.
The Tigers were 5-14 in the two seasons prior to Garvin’s arrival. In his first year in 2018, after coming over from Vidalia, where he was defensive coordinator, Garvin led Metter to a 6-4 record. Last season, he led the Tigers to their first 11-win season and first region title since 2002.