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.
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.