Collins Hill boys shooting for third consecutive title

Collins Hill will attempt to become the first boys team to win three consecutive state championships in the highest classification when the playoffs begin next week.

The Eagles, 16-1 and ranked No. 2 in Class AAAAA in the Georgia High School Soccer Coaches poll, enter the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak that includes a 5-0 victory Wednesday against Westminster, the No. 2 team in AA.

“Over the past few weeks, the boys have really begun to peak,” Collins Hill coach Drew Prentice said. “We still have some kinks to work out, but we are playing good soccer at the moment. Our younger players have really stepped up to be major impact players for our team, and our team chemistry is stronger than I imagined it at the beginning of the year after losing so many seniors last year.”

Lovett won three titles from 1984-86, when all teams competed for one championship, and St. Pius won three consecutive Class AAA titles from 1995-97.

Junior Emmanuel Raji is Collins Hill’s scoring leader with 14 goals and five assists. Captain Dominic Bonilla, an Akron signee who was The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s all-classification player of the year last season, has 10 goals and 10 assists. Zak Wallingford, a Berry commitment, has nine goals and four assists.

“At the beginning of the year, we talked about making it to this point, being in a position to make another deep run into the playoffs, and we’ve succeeded up till this point,” Prentice said. “We’re very excited about the playoffs this year.”

Here are a few of the other stories worth watching as the playoffs unfold:

In each of the past three seasons, at least one school has swept the boys and girls championships. St. Pius appears to have the best shot this season, entering the playoffs with the top-ranked boys and girls teams in Class AAA. However, there are 27 other schools with boys and girls teams in the top 10 in their classifications, including Starr’s Mill, which swept the Class AAAA titles last season.

Cobb County’s public schools haven’t won a girls state championship since Pope shared the AAAAA title with Starr’s Mill in 2002, but they have a great shot this year. Harrison (16-0-2) is the top-ranked team in AAAAA, and the Hoyas are joined in the top 10 by No. 2 Walton, No. 9 Lassiter and No. 10 Kennesaw Mountain. Pope’s girls are No. 5 in AAAA, and Allatoona is No. 4 in AAA.

The road to the Class AAAA girls title likely goes through Fayette County again. Defending champion Starr’s Mill is ranked No. 6, and 2010 runner-up Whitewater is No. 1. McIntosh is ranked No. 2 and beat Whitewater 1-0 on Tuesday in the Region 3-AAAA championship game.

The GHSA has split the AA/A tournament into separate brackets and will crown Class A boys and girls champions for the first time this season. Fellowship Christian (16-0-1) is the top-ranked girls team in Class A. Providence Christian is the No. 1 boys team, although it lost to No. 2 Paideia 3-2 on Tuesday.