Football blog: Best 10 games this year that weren’t played in 2020

Cartersville wide receiver Devonte Ross (5) catches a pass against Blessed Trinity defensive back Quinton Reese (17) in the first half of the Class AAAA Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Wednesday, December 12, 2018, in Atlanta. There was a penalty on the play against Cartersville that negated the play. (JASON GETZ/SPECIAL TO THE AJC)
Cartersville wide receiver Devonte Ross (5) catches a pass against Blessed Trinity defensive back Quinton Reese (17) in the first half of the Class AAAA Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Wednesday, December 12, 2018, in Atlanta. There was a penalty on the play against Cartersville that negated the play. (JASON GETZ/SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

The Georgia High School Association released the 2021 football schedules last week.

Since 2021 is the final year of two-year game contracts, most regular-season will be rematches of 2020 games, just played at the other team’s stadium.

But there are more 250 ’'new’' matchups. Not including inter-state games, here are the 10 best of those, subjectively compiled.

1. Milton at North Cobb (Aug. 27) – It doesn’t like a blockbuster at first glance, but these are highly promising Class 7A teams that won 2020 region titles with young star players. Each quietly believes it can make a deep run in 2020. Milton (11-1 last year) brings back DL Lebbeus “L.T.” Overton, the nation’s No. 1 rising junior recruit. North Cobb has a top-100 national player at quarterback, Malachi Singleton, who will be throwing to Brookwood transfer De’Nylon Morrissette, recently committed to Georgia. Milton hasn’t played North Cobb since 1991.

2. Brookwood at Collins Hill (Aug. 21) – This will be the main event at the Corky Kell Classic at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Collins Hill, the 2021 Class 7A runner-up, returns QB Sam Horn and WR/CB Travis Hunter, the best QB-WR pair in the state last year, or perhaps ever before they done. Brookwood will counter with an blue-chip pair of its own - QB Dylan Lonergan and Sam Mbake – both four-star recruits.

3. Cartersville at Blessed Trinity (Oct. 15) – Blessed Trinity ended Cartersville’s 41-game winning streak in Trevor Lawrence’s final game in 2017, then again for the 2018 Class 4A championship. In 2020, they were put in the same region for the first time, but their highly anticipated 2020 game never materialized. Cartersville canceled, citing COVID-19 concerns, and the region ultimately counted that as a Blessed Trinity victory, giving the Titans the Region 7-5A title, though the game stood officially as a no contest. Both were eliminated in the state playoffs by eventual champion Warner Robins as Blessed Trinity went down in the quarterfinals while Cartersville lost in the final. Cartersville finished ranked No. 2. Blessed Trinity No. 3. It’s not likely these two will share the same region next year, so their Oct. 15 game should be considered a rare gem.

4. Warner Robins at Coffee (Oct. 29) – These Region 1-5A teams each made the state semifinals last season, but like Cartersville-Blessed Trinity, their regular-season game was never played as Coffee canceled what would’ve been the final regular-season game for both. Their last game, played in 2017, was a classic with Warner Robins winning 52-49 when both were ranked in the top five. Not typically in the same region, these two have won 30 playoff games over the past five seasons, 17 by Warner Robins, 13 by Coffee.

5. Cedar Grove at Colquitt County (Sept. 3) – Cedar Grove, the three-time Class 3A champion (2016, 2017, 2019), has a new coach, as Miguel Patrick has moved to Crisp County, but the Saints’ talent level might be a notch higher this season under new coach John Adams. DT Christen Miller and WR Janiran Bonner are two of at least six Cedar Grove seniors who are major Division I prospects. So it will be entertaining to see how a loaded smaller school fairs in the heavyweight division vs. perennial top-10 Class 7A program Colquitt. Cedar Grove also travels to Lowndes on Oct. 8.

6. Marist at Blessed Trinity (Aug. 27) – These Catholic schools had played each season since 2016, including twice in 2017, when Blessed Trinity avenged a regular-season defeat in the Class 4A championship game. Their early-season 2020 game was canceled because of COVID-19, as Blessed Trinity spent weeks in quarantine. They’re back on in 2021 with Marist as the reigning 4A champion,

7. Rabun County at Pierce County (Oct. 1) – Rabun County, featuring five-star QB Gunner Stockton, travels to Class 3A champion Pierce County in a cross-state matchup. These schools have never met in football. Incidentally, these teams also scheduled Class A powers in other new games this year. Rabun plays at Eagle’s Landing Christian on Sept. 3, and Pierce travels to Clinch County on Sept. 17.

8. Walton at Lowndes (Aug. 21) – Walton should have its best team since the Dominick Blaylock years with Appalachian State-commit Zak Rozsman at quarterback and all of its leading offensive weapons back. The Raiders should find out quickly where they stand in this Corky Kell Classic matchup. Lowndes returns all-star QB Jacurri Brown, who is committed to Miami.

9. Pace Academy at Rabun County (Aug. 28) – The two highest-rated quarterbacks in Class 2A will go at it. That’s Rabun’s Stockton (consensus No. 2 senior dual-threat) and Pace’s M.J. Morris (consensus No. 6). Give Rabun coach Jaybo Shaw credit for compiling such a fun non-region schedule. It includes Pace, ELCA, Pierce County and Jefferson.

10. Lovett at Westminster (Aug. 20) – These Atlanta private school rivals didn’t play in 2020 for the first time in 26 years. That happened because Westminster delayed its season three weeks during the pandemic. The Battle of Buckhead is back on in the opener for both teams. One or the other has been ranked in 13 of the past 14 meetings.

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