Intriguing players in each classification

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

The regular season is at its midpoint. Here are nine players who stand out as some of the more intriguing if not best in their classifications.

Class 7A

*Julian “Ju Ju” Lewis, Carrollton: Lewis was the state’s most anticipated freshman since Trevor Lawrence, and he perhaps exceeds even the former Cartersville quarterback given today’s ever-increasing media coverage of recruiting. Lewis got an offer from Florida in September of his eighth-grade year. Georgia and Alabama offered before his first high school game this year. So far, playing under Joey King, coincidentally Lawrence’s former high school coach, Lewis has delivered, leading Class 7A in passing. He’s 110-of-166 for 1,598 yards and 23 touchdowns with four interceptions. Lewis and junior teammate Bryce Hicks (600 yards rushing, 306 receiving) make for an electric tandem for the Trojans, who are 6-0 and ranked No. 4.

Class 6A

*Antwann “A.J.” Hill, Houston County: Hill is the state’s top-rated sophomore quarterback and one of the top 10 at his position nationally among sophomores. He started as a freshman, but his improvement this season under new coach Jeremy Edwards has been profound. In 20 fewer attempts, he’s thrown for nearly twice as many yards and touchdowns with one-third the interceptions. His season stat line is 101-of-137 passing for 1,501 yards with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s completing 75.4% of his passes, up from 48.1%. Hill has offers from Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Unranked in preseason after a 4-7 finish in 2021, Houston County is 5-0 and No. 8 and averaging 50.8 points per game.

Class 5A

*Bryce Clavon, Kell: Clavon is a potential first-round MLB Draft pick, but he backed off a commitment to play baseball at Oklahoma last spring, convinced he can be a top-flight quarterback, too. In his first season as a football starter, he’s 72-of-104 passing for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions, and he’s rushed for 477 yards and nine touchdowns. Unranked in preseason, Kell is 5-0 and No. 5 under new coach Bobby May. Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky and UAB have offered Clavon for both sports, and Oklahoma remains in close touch with an open mind toward football. “Clavon is an incredible athlete who also has a rifle arm,” May said. “You don’t see many good teams without a good quarterback, and to be honest, we are very average on offense without Bryce.”

Class 4A

*Taeo Todd, Troup: Given the big games he’s already played and won, Todd has been the MVP of Class 4A so far, leading the Tigers to rousing victories over Starr’s Mill and Whitewater, a pair of top-10 teams from Troup’s region. Todd was a freshman All-American two years ago, when he rushed for 1,457 yards, but injuries ruined his sophomore year. As a junior, he’s rushed for 911 yards and passed for 771, completing 46 of 88 passes. He has 12 touchdowns rushing and 11 passing. Troup is 5-0 and ranked No. 4 and bearing down on its first region title since 1987.

Class 3A

*Elliott “E.J.” Colson, Cedar Grove: Colson is living up to the promise accorded him when Arkansas made him an offer the summer of 2021 before his freshman season. Originally from Peach County, Colson won the Cedar Grove starting job as a ninth-grader and was 40-of-55 passing for 703 yards and eight touchdowns, but an injury kept him out of the playoffs. As a sophomore for Class 3A’s No. 1 team, Colson leads the classification in passing yards with 1,169. He’s 73-of-116 for seven touchdowns with one interception. Those numbers are remarkable considering the schedule, which includes Class 7A opponents Westlake, Collins Hill, Mill Creek and Colquitt County, all ranked when Cedar Grove played them.

Class 2A

*Keyjuan Brown, South Atlanta: Brown made the AJC’s Super 11 team largely on his 2021 production (2,757 rushing yards, 12th-most in state history) and what he’s meant to South Atlanta (first two region titles in school history). But until recently, he wasn’t a consensus top-100 college prospect in Georgia despite his commitment to Purdue. This season, Brown has picked up where he left off as a junior, rushing for 878 yards (an average of 219.5 per game), averaging 10.1 yards per carry. South Atlanta is 4-0 and ranked No. 4, its highest standing ever. Rusty Mansell, a 247Sports recruiting analyst, saw Brown in person for the first time this season and re-evaluated him upward. “Can he break tackles to extend the chains? Yes. Does he have the size to pass protect versus college linebackers? Yes. Can he catch the ball and run in space? Yes. Can he run the ball in the red zone and get the tough yards between the tackles? Yes. ... I love the fit of Purdue, he is a Big Ten back, he wears you down. The more carries he gets the better he gets.”

Class A Division I

*Bailey Stockton, Prince Avenue Christian: Lots of stars play in this class, but most of them – including Jaden Gibson of Rabun County, C.J. Allen of Lamar County and Stockton’s teammate, Aaron Philo – have gotten their due. But there’s only one player in the state leading a No. 1-ranked team in all-purpose yards and tackles, and that’s Stockton, a three-year starter. As a junior, he had 1,271 receiving yards, 23 tackles, four interceptions and five sacks. This season, he’s at it again, with 555 receiving yards (138.8 per game), and Prince Avenue is 4-0. “He has just been dominating this year,’’ coach Greg Vandagriff said. “He is even the punter on the team. He is arguably the best athlete on the field in most games. He is getting recruited by FCS teams. If he was 6-foot or 6-1 [instead of 5-10], he would be a four- or five-star as he runs a 4.48.’’

Class A Division II

*Robert McNeal, Bowdon: Bowdon (4-1) is the No. 1-ranked Class A Division II team in the Maxwell, MaxPreps and Massey computer ratings, and the Red Devils’ undisputed best player is O’Neal, probably the midseason favorite for class player of the year. A four-year starter with two region titles, O’Neal this season has rushed for 621 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s 30-of-62 passing for 542 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception. He’s projected to surpass 5,000 passing and 3,000 rushing for his career. And suddenly, recruiting is picking up. This month, O’Neal got an unexpected phone call from Georgia assistant Mike Bobo and made an official visit Saturday.

Other

*Jayden Mason, Calvary Christian: No Georgia player has more rushing yards than Mason with 1,704 in six games for the Columbus school that plays in the Georgia Association of Private and Parochial Schools, also known as GAPPS. Mason ran for 389 yards and seven touchdowns in a 54-44 victory over Lanier Christian on Sept. 16. More remarkable was his workload – 61 carries. He’s averaging 34 attempts per game and scored 24 touchdowns. Calvary Christian is 4-2 and ranked the third-best team in the GAPPS by the Maxwell Ratings.

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