5a. Walton: The Raiders have reached the second round in each of Daniel Brunner’s four seasons as head coach. Even the 10-win teams with Dominick Blaylock couldn’t go further. In 2021, they could have the firepower to do it. The leading rusher, Braylen Stokes, and receiver, Stone McKnight, were sophomores last season. CB Marcus Allen, WR Raswon MacNeill and OL Cason Henry are major Division I prospects and rising seniors. QB Zak Rozsman has committed to Appalachian State.
5b. Cherokee: The Warriors, 8-3 last season, have a prolific QB-RB-WR trio primed for its final run as seniors. A.J. Swann, a Maryland commit, has thrown for 5,075 yards and 45 touchdowns for his career and will be a third-year starter. Keith Adams Sr. has rushed for 2,654 yards, topping 1,000 each of the past two seasons. Adarrius Harshaw, an elite track-and-field athlete whose recruiting stock will rise this off-season, has 1,497 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns the past two seasons. Cherokee will have several key players to replace, so it remains to be seen whether the trio can take the Warriors to another level – first region title in 19 years? – or simply ensures another solid team.
Others: West Forsyth’s surprise 2020 quarterfinal team had several underclassmen in key roles, including Oscar Delp, the nation’s top-rated senior TE prospect. Roswell was another borderline top-10 team that had several good juniors. McEachern should bounce back after playing younger players in 2020. And it’s just a question of how quickly for Camden County, which was pounded by injuries last season. The Wildcats brought coach Jeff Herron back to Kingsland, where one of the state’s most successful coaches of all-time won three state titles in the 2000-09 era. And teams such as Grayson, Lowndes and Colquitt County will be good again, that’s for certain, but their rosters don’t suggest they’ll be better than they were in 2020.