On to the Dome …
It’s been a fun playoff season, especially in Class AAAAA, where there are probably 10 teams that could’ve won the title.
Three questions today:
1. What does it take to win Class AAAAA this year? I’m convinced it’s not raw talent. Several teams have that. I’d like to say coaching, but I think just about all the major players are well-coached. How does Grayson shut out Valdosta but can’t stop Colquitt when it counts? . Let’s take Rance Gillespie. Could be the coach of the year, but his team gets shut out in the QF.
2. Who will win? I’ll take Brookwood, Chattahoochee, Sandy Creek, Buford, Clinch County. I can’t recall a year where there’s not an overwhelming favorite in any of the five classes. The ones that I’m tempted to be confident about are Buford and Clinch, but Calhoun beat Carver (which beat Buford), and Savannah Christian beat Wesleyan (which when healthy might be better than ELCA, which nearly beat Clinch.)
3. Which finalists are the most surprising? I’ve ranked them below based on my expectations entering the playoffs. Least surprising is first …
Buford: The Wolves are trying to become the second team in GHSA history to win four straight state titles. West Rome (1982-85) was the first. Buford winning is never a surprise.
Clinch County: The Panthers are the only No. 1-ranked team to make the finals. Had to beat No. 2 ELCA, so less surprising than Buford.
Carrollton: The most dominant team in the state to this point. Had to beat Cairo, but the thing that really makes it less surprising than Clinch is history. Carrollton hasn’t been in a final in over a decade.
Sandy Creek: The Patriots have won 28 straight games. Had to beat No. 1 Peach County, so less surprising than Carrollton, although after Peach struggled w/ Grady, I thought SC was a slight favorite, especially at home.
Calhoun: Hard to be shocked at a team that reaches the final three straight years, but that was a nice upset vs. No. 1 Carver. Just fwiw, Dustin Christian out-rushed Isaiah Crowell for the season and in the game last week. Should he be the first choice for all-state RB in Class AA?
Chattahoochee: Not as surprised by this as you’d think. I was always high on the Cougars, but the Hooch had a pretty good draw, not to mention a pretty good team. I saw Chattahoochee play, and what I really liked was the linemen.
Brookwood: I feel vindicated for jumping Brookwood from No. 8 to No. 4 and then to No. 3 in the rankings after the Broncos won Region 8-AAAAA. Some said they were overrated. Of course, were I really smart, I might’ve had more than one of the semifinal teams in the final Top 10. I wouldn’t call Brookwood a surprise per se, but it’s just so difficult to navigate through Class AAAA. The odds against this are long for anybody.
Savannah Christian: The Raiders were the runners-up in 2009 but were written off by some for losing to Calvary Day 6-0 in the regular season. Then the upset at Wesleyan. This is a program that I respect, but didn’t see making the finals.
Colquitt County: On one hand, this is the team that I (and many) saw as a sleeper pick in Class AAAAA. Almost anything can happen in this classification, and Colquitt’s draw broke pretty favorably. But still, there’s never been a team with five losses win the highest class.
Starr’s Mill: How can an undefeated team be a surprise in the finals? It’s not that I didn’t think Starr’s Mill was good, but dial back to Nov. 5. You had Northside, Tucker and Clarke Central in this half of the draw. Starr’s Mill? Don’t tell me you saw this one coming. I didn’t.