GHSA releases schedules: New out-of-state opponents are most intriguing

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

New interstate games are the best new thing about Georgia’s 2023 football schedules, which the Georgia High School Association posted this week.

Colquitt County, Buford and Creekside are playing consensus national top-25 teams from 2022, while Valdosta and Cedar Grove also are taking on powerful out-of-state opponents.

Even the best new in-state game – Class 6A champion Hughes at Class 7A runner-up Carrollton on Aug. 18 – came about accidentally when their attempts to play out-of-state opponents failed.

Hughes and Carrollton signed to play in the annual season-opening Freedom Bowl, a four-game interstate event at Milton. But Florida and Alabama recently changed rules preventing their teams from leaving the state that week (Aug. 18-19), making it hard for organizers to find out-of-state replacements.

Hughes and Carrollton chose instead to play each other, which Georgia fans likely will prefer. The game will pit two of the state’s elite quarterbacks, with nicknames to match. Hughes’ Prentiss “Air” Noland is a senior who committed to Ohio State, while Carrollton’s Julian “JuJu” Lewis, a sophomore, is a candidate to become the Class of 2026′s No. 1 recruit in the country.

The other two Georgia teams involved, Milton and Collins Hill, also might play each other, but out-of-state opponents remain a possibility. Both have won state titles over the past five seasons.

The new Florida rule also rearranged the Georgia-Florida Classic, played last year at Lowndes and involving Colquitt County and two Florida teams. But the event adjusted and found teams from the Carolinas, and the Aug. 19 doubleheader is still on, now called the Georgia-Carolinas Challenge.

The main event will have host Colquitt County, a potential preseason No. 1 team in Georgia’s Class 7A, against Dutch Fork, South Carolina’s premier team.

Dutch Fork was the consensus No. 25 team nationally last season and has won six of the past seven state titles in South Carolina’s highest classification. Colquitt County has a pair of top-100 national recruits – tight end Landen Thomas (committed to Florida State) and wide receiver Ny Carr (committed to Georgia).

In the opening game in Moultrie, Lowndes will play Christ School of North Carolina in the debut for new Lowndes coach Adam Carter, formerly of Grayson.

Another high-profile interstate game will be Buford’s Aug. 18 opener at home against St. Frances Academy, a Maryland team that had a consensus No. 7 final national ranking last year. Buford, ranked No. 1 in Georgia’s 7A most of last season before a second-round playoff upset, brings back five-star junior recruits K.J. Bolden, a defensive back, and Eddrick Houston, a defensive lineman.

Also playing Aug. 18 will be Valdosta and Massillon at Massillon’s Jim Brown Stadium in Ohio. Valdosta ranks No. 1 and Massillon No. 3 in all-time victories nationally, each with more than 900 wins.

Creekside, a Class 5A quarterfinalist last season, is perhaps the most ambitious Georgia team, playing two national powerhouses. The first will be St. Peter’s Prep of New Jersey on Aug. 26 at Morehouse. Then it’s Mater Dei on Sept. 2 in California. Mater Dei has finished in MaxPreps’ national 10 each of the past six non-COVID seasons.

On Aug. 24, Cedar Grove and Milton are going to the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area to play in a seven-game event. Milton will play Western High of Davie, while Cedar Grove will play Monarch of Coconut Creek.

Georgia football schedules operate on two-year contracts, and 2023 is the second year of those deals. That means most 2023 games are rematches from 2022, played at the other team’s home field.

Georgia’s annual Dave Hunter Corky Kell Classic, an 11-game event played Aug. 16-19, provides some relief from that, shuffling its matchups each year and providing new looks. The top game figures to be the Aug. 19 finale at Mercedes-Benz Stadium between Walton and Grayson, teams likely to be ranked in the preseason Class 7A top 10.

The season’s first game will be the Hunter Kell Classic opener between Johns Creek and North Atlanta on Wednesday, Aug. 16, at Kell High School. Kickoff is 4:30 p.m.