Georgia High School Football Daily Spotlight: A look at the state’s most improved teams

A few weeks ago, the GHSF Daily staff looked at some of the most-improved teams in Georgia. Here’s an update.

As we did before, we’re going to break them into two categories – teams that have gone from poor to respectable, and teams that have gone from good to outstanding. These are ranked using the Maxwell Ratings as a guide. Without that computer-generated objectivity, you’d think we loved just DeKalb County.

PHOTOS: Take a look at some of the teams in action during the 2009 season.

Once were bad:

Avondale: From 1-9 to 3-3. Under second-year coach Michael Carson, Avondale can achieve its first winning season in 20 years if it can defeat GAC (0-6), Decatur (4-2) and Cross Keys (1-5).

Putnam County: The War Eagles, 2-8 last season, are 5-1 and leading Region 4-AA under Ben Reaves.

Towers: The Titans were 1-9 last season. This year, they are 3-3 with an overtime loss to state-ranked Lovett and a seven-point loss to 2008 region champ Dunwoody. Unbeaten Grady accounted for the other defeat. Jonathan Sanks is in his second season as head coach.

Hebron Christian: First-year coach Brian Smith has the Lions 5-1. They were 2-6 last season. Hebron is playing a non-region schedule, but if you think about Gwinnett County football and the trend of private schools in Class A, this might be a school to keep an eye on.

Brantley County: The Blue Herons have one of the Top 10 nicknames in Georgia but have never been a Top 10 football team. This season, Sean Pender has them at 5-1, three wins better than the 2-8 finishes of 2007 and 2008. The school has won six regular-season games against a region schedule only once 39 seasons.

Dade County: Bradley Warren, formerly coach at Central Gwinnett, is in his second year back in his hometown, and the 4-2 start is the school’s best since 1999. In fact, Dade’s best record since 1999 had been 2-8.

Gilmer: The Bobcats were 0-10 last season, and eight of the losses were blowouts. Wes Tankersley, in his second season, has them 4-2.

Southwest Atlanta Christian: The Warriors are only 2-4, but during their winless inaugural season of 2008, every game was a blowout. Now, only good teams rout them, and the south Atlanta program has picked up its first two victories for DeMarco Thompson.

Lakeside (DeKalb): First-year coach Thomas Cox took over a winless program that had become an embarrassment to proud alumni and has a couple of victories.

Stone Mountain: The Pirates have gone from 3-7 to 5-1 under first-year coach Dante Ferguson. The winner of the Chamblee-Stone Mountain game Oct. 30 figures to make the playoffs.

Good, now better:

St. Pius: Unranked in preseason, St. Pius is No. 3 in Class AAAA, and its victory over Marist looks even better now that Marist has beaten Tucker. St. Pius is favored in 5-AAA to win its first region title since 1968.

Grady: At 6-0, the Grey Knights have their best start since the state semifinal team of 2005. They’re still a young team that is the top challenge to St. Pius in 5-AAA.

Hiram: From 5-5 to 6-0, Hiram is a Top 10 team for the first time under coach Andy Dorsey, the son of retired McEachern coach Jim Dorsey.

Griffin: The Bears made the semifinals last season but lost 34-0 to Tucker. Now, they’re 7-0 and ranked No. 1 in AAAA, fresh off a victory over previously unbeaten North Clayton. This is perhaps Griffin’s best shot at a state title in a generation.

Hillgrove: The Hawks are 6-0 and ranked No. 4 in AAAA. A victory this week over Sprayberry would represent the third loss that Hillgrove has avenged from last year’s 8-4 team.

McEachern: The Indians were perhaps the best team that didn’t make the playoffs in 2008, but the current team is 7-0 and ranked No. 6 and almost assured of a region title for the first time in 10 years.

Carrollton: Despite its 9-3 record, Carrollton wasn’t that good last season, especially down the stretch. This 7-0 team is more typical Carrollton, and that victory over Westminster in the opener looks nice now that Westminster has handled Buford-conqueror Lovett.

Peach County: Peach won state titles in 2005 and 2006 under Rance Gillespie but is 6-0 for the first time since 1997 under Rodney Walker. Peach beat defending Class AAA champ Cairo 24-13 last week.

Savannah Christian: The Raiders have been 6-0 as recently as 2005, but this team hasn’t been challenged in six games, and one of the opponents was No. 6-ranked ECI (34-0).

Lakeside (Evans): The overtime loss to Hephzibah hurts, but the Panthers have avenged three losses. They’ve also allowed 27 points this season compared to 121 at this point last year.

42 comments Add your comment


October 13th, 2009
10:27 am

HIRAM–HILLGROVE… youre both doing an excellant job! Keep up the good work! I want you both to be undefeated when you play eachother! Its gonna be A great game! Im very proud of both programs!


October 13th, 2009
10:32 am

Where is Colquitt County? The Packers are 6-1, with their lone loss coming to Lowdnes. The finished 4-6 in 2008 and 2-8 in 2007. So exactly how did this team not make this list?

Football Fan

October 13th, 2009
11:29 am

South Gwinnett, anyone? A team who technically beat the No.1 ranked Grayson?


October 13th, 2009
12:00 pm

Ole’ Dogbreath has turned Stone Mountain around? We shall see, no one misses his spew on the vent.

Big Dawg

October 13th, 2009
12:02 pm

DECATUR is off to a 4-2 start the only teams they have lost to are Hillgrove(Very Good)and Buford(Defending State Champion). Decatur has a very big game against Westminster on Friday. It will be tough but the defense has held people in check most of the year. Decatur is greatly improved.


October 13th, 2009
12:47 pm



October 13th, 2009
12:56 pm

Hiram vs Hillgrove next week. Thats gonna get every news channel to be there and it being game of the week hands down.

Wolverine Fan

October 13th, 2009
12:58 pm

Hiram vs Hillgrove……..If it ain’t AAAAA who cares, that ought to get things stirred up.


October 13th, 2009
1:05 pm

Wolverines Fan,

Come on now, Lets be nice…….


October 13th, 2009
1:08 pm

This is were we see different ways if your serious Wolverine Fan. haha. I def wouldn’t mind going over to Cairo to see a game. They’re got a great problem over there.


October 13th, 2009
1:11 pm

I’d like see Woodstock get some praise. We’ve gone from the laughing stalk of Cherokee County to a great program and a contender in the Region.

Rfrom G

October 13th, 2009
1:11 pm

Hey Football Fan: While South Gwinnett may belong on the list, the score of the Grayson game was technically 26-16. Technically South had fewer points than Grayson. So technically … they lost.


October 13th, 2009
1:36 pm

agreed Rfrom G.
the only thing that matters is the W. but south gwinnett is a top 10 metro team this year and could make a splash in the playoffs.


October 13th, 2009
1:37 pm

and woodstock shouldnt be on this list. they were good last year its not unexpected that they are doing well. they have one loss.

Michael 19

October 13th, 2009
1:58 pm

hey rfrom g listen to football fan south did technically beat Grayson if Grayson didnt cheat, and the refs werent on the payroll, they called to TD’S back on bullcrap calls even the Head Coach at Brookwood said that they cant even find any evidence of the penalties they called so get your facts straight i was at the game and I go to Grayson


October 13th, 2009
2:31 pm

Idk the hillgrove vs hiram is going to b a great game, but the game of the week is going to be SWD vs Marist both teams r 1 of many favorites to go to state.region lead is up for grabs,but swd is thinking bout lithonia high dis week n is not looking ahead to nex week,swd takes one game at a time, Panther Pride!!!!

wolverine fan

October 13th, 2009
2:43 pm

I’m just kidding…..some great programs are outside AAAAA. Just trying to get things going.

wolverine fan

October 13th, 2009
2:48 pm

I remember going to a few games when Woodstock first opened. You could count the fans. A few football parents, A few band parents and that was it. People at that time were still die hard Sequoyah fans. Now the Rock is a “Rockin”


October 13th, 2009
3:44 pm

Packers? why aren’t they on here


October 13th, 2009
3:58 pm

I found that these are 10 of the brightest players around the state for week 8. Pretty good reviews on these guys.


October 13th, 2009
4:11 pm

I don’t like Tuesdays…
I have to wait four whole days
until my team plays!!


October 13th, 2009
5:53 pm

Kaiku -575
At least when East P was playing well we could get a countdown. I have been waiting through a grueling bye week. Actually had to leave the board for a few days.


October 13th, 2009
6:09 pm

Pops…who is KAIKU ???
It may be my nemesis.
I better watch out! Ü


October 13th, 2009
6:54 pm

yeah. But look past this year and last year. Woodstock, to put it bluntly, SUCKED.

wolverine fan

October 13th, 2009
7:01 pm

Yes we did, but i was a die hard fan when you were in grade school.


October 13th, 2009
7:12 pm

how do you not put Alcovy on the list. the school is four years old with a starting record of 0-10, then 2-8, and 5-5 , and now they ‘re 5-1 and looking real good and might be 9-1 when they meet Griffin the last game..with the tough schedule that they have they’re one of the most improved teams in Ga… do your homework


October 13th, 2009
7:13 pm

ALCOVY, ALCOVY!!!!!!!!!!!!


October 13th, 2009
7:26 pm

ALCOVY can boast
I scouted their Dutchtown game
they hung tough and won.


October 13th, 2009
7:41 pm

Alcovy would be 8-1 entering the Newton game. Still sleeping on Newton I see.


October 13th, 2009
7:42 pm

My bad. 8-1 entering the Griffin game.


October 13th, 2009
7:56 pm

Where’s the love for Colquitt County? Looks like Rush Propst may have done it again!


October 13th, 2009
7:58 pm

Oh i know, Thats why i’m saying that we should be on the list. we’ve come a long way from being 2 losses away from having the longest loosing streak in the state.

Rfrom G

October 13th, 2009
8:25 pm

Michael 19 – Why do you think we are 7-0. Of course we cheat and pay off the refs how else do we win!!!! Dude, get a clue.

Calls go both ways. There were at least 4 questionable calls by the refs on both teams in that game. I watched the game film and the South receiver pushed off to separate himself from the Grayson defender. That is why the flag was thrown. For a legitimate penalty.

So once again, technically South lost and Grayson won.


October 14th, 2009
3:39 am

Woodstock wants some “praise”?
Winning year in and year out
gets teams noticed more!!

Hall of Fame Pirate

October 14th, 2009
11:35 am

Stone Mountain: The Pirates have gone from 3-7 to 5-1 under first-year coach Dante Ferguson. The winner of the Chamblee-Stone Mountain game Oct. 30 figures to make the playoffs? I thought Stone Mountain played Tucker before Chamblee?
SMH Pirates, the media (AJC) likes you, but not enough to beat Tucker. They don’t expect you to win that game and thats why they look to you versus Chamblee for your playoff spot. If you beat Tucker you are in, but they look past that because they don’t expect that. Gotta read between the lines. That should fire you guys up.


October 14th, 2009
5:12 pm


Are you still throwin’ down that ‘hooch before Bama games?? I know y’all miss me on the vent. You guys got old…..and boring. I’ll come back if you like. Oh….I’m not coach Ferguson, but I’m honored that you think I am.

Marcos Penelli

October 16th, 2009
11:31 am

My Grady Grey Knights will take the field tomorrow to face Carver (ATL) – After the game ends tomorrow we will truly know if our GreyKnights are ready for St. Pius… time will tell – GO KNIGHTS!!


October 16th, 2009
11:51 am

Marcos Penelli
Im a Mays supporter but i have always loved the way Grady plays and Damien Swann is a good friend of mine. Im rooting 4 u guys over Carver and i do believe that u guys are reay for St.Pius. If nt, then u still will hopefully make a good run into the playoffs. good luck!!


October 17th, 2009
4:56 pm

Some of you are forgetting that these are the MOST improved schools.

Bob Richards

October 18th, 2009
7:00 pm

Take a look at the Roswell scores. This is an undersided team with great special teams and 2 deep players at skill positions. Undefeated and running most games have been over before the half.

Jacket Girl

October 20th, 2009
10:42 am

Hey Dont forget calhoun our games have been great!! Not lost yet!! we juset seem to keep getting better and better!!! : ) lol


October 20th, 2009
12:37 pm

Ya! I know all of you all see that Avondale is on the rise again and will soon make “death valley” the place to fear once again!!!!!!!