Preseason all-state: Incoming private schools place 7 on Class 4A team

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

*Best player: Za’Quan Bryan, Benedictine. A two-way starter on the Class 4A defending champions, Bryan had 2,251 all-purpose yards and 51 tackles last season. His speed is lethal as a receiver, cornerback or return man. He’s committed to Minnesota.

*Best position: Athlete. Bryan is the most prolific of these. Trinity Christian’s Aaron Gates, North Oconee’s Khalil Barnes and Holy Innocents’ Zach Jackson are similarly multifaceted.

*Most highly recruited: Whitewater linebacker Raul “Popo” Aguirre is the consensus No. 11 Georgia prospect and No. 124 nationally. He’s committed to Miami. Among juniors, it’s Pace Academy’s Hevin Brown-Shuler, the consensus No. 5 defensive line prospect nationally in his class.

*That’s interesting: Perry has improved on its season victory total for seven consecutive seasons, which is almost impossible to do. The Panthers were 11-2 last season. That has little to do with preseason all-state except that Perry has a couple of players included here, QB Armar Gordon and DB Cam Marshall, who are bent on keeping the streak alive and winning the Houston County school’s first state title.

*Snubbed: Troup’s Taeo Todd played only four games last season, contributing to his absence here, but in 15 career games, this junior quarterback has rushed for 1,794 yards and passed for 1,127.

*Underrated: Cedartown senior linebacker Eli Barrow isn’t highly recruited, but he has led his team in tackles the past two seasons (127, with 13 for loss in 2021) and was his region’s co-defensive player of the year. He’s also a switch-hitting baseball catcher with a 4.0 GPA.

*What else is new: Class 4A lost one private school, 2020 Class 4A champion Marist, and gained five. The five account for seven preseason all-state players. They come from Trinity Christian (three), Holy Innocents’ (two) and Pace Academy (two). Lovett and Westminster have none, but it’s only preseason.


QB – Owen Brooker, Northwest Whitfield, Sr.

QB – Armar Gordon, Perry, Sr.

RB – Dominic Elder, North Oconee, Sr.

RB – Micah Welch, Baldwin, Jr.

WR – Aaron Gates, Trinity Christian, Sr.

WR – Zach Jackson, Holy Innocents’, Jr.

WR – Vicari Swain, Central (Carrollton), Sr.

OL – Trovon Baugh, Pace Academy, Sr.

OL – Jacob Benjamin, Cherokee Bluff, Jr.

OL – Jycel Mosley, LaGrange, Jr.

OL – Peyton Nikolopoulus, Cedartown, Sr.

OL – Zach Pearson, New Hampstead, Jr.

PK – T.J. Hartley, Whitewater, Sr.

ATH – Za’Quan Bryan, Benedictine, Sr.


DL – Hevin Brown-Shuler, Pace Academy, Jr.

DL – Stephen Johnson, Whitewater, Sr.

DL – Jacobi Murray, Holy Innocents’, Jr.

DL – Cole Semien, Benedictine, Sr.

LB – Popo Aguirre, Whitewater, Sr.

LB – Eli Barrow, Cedartown, Sr.

LB – Jaqualin “Qua” Birdsong, Troup, Jr.

LB – Ryan Earl, Trinity Christian, Sr.

DB – Khalil Barnes, North Oconee, Sr.

DB – Jack Fabris, North Oconee, Sr.

DB – Shelton Lewis, Stockbridge, Sr.

DB – Cam Marshall, Perry, Sr.

P – Josh Taylor, Trinity Christian, Sr.

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