Class A Football Blog: Power rankings, Top 5’s, Earwood nears 200 wins

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

It’s baaaaack! Or should I say, “We’re back!”

Football season is here again and back by popular demand are the Football Blogs for each of the six classifications in the Georgia High Schools Association (GHSA). Three days a week – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – look for blogs from the writers covering high school sports for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Interaction and participation from and with you is the goal. Check out the blogs and give us your feedback on the blog sites or on Twitter @ajcprepsports.

So let’s get to it! Here’s the first Class A blog for the 2012 season.

Power rating for the post season
Remember, there are six classifications in Georgia now, from A to AAAAAA, after the GHSA voted earlier this year to add another one. And one could argue that there are actually seven classes, given the fact that private schools and public schools will compete for separate championships in the major sports this year.

But because the decision to have the postseason split was made after the regions were already in place, for this season and 2013, a point system or power rating will be used to determine the top 16 public teams and the top 16 private teams (normally, a total of 32 teams make the playoffs, consisting of the top four teams from each one of the eight regions in the classification). Once the 16 teams have been selected and seeded, one will host 16, two will host 15 and so forth, through the semifinal round. The finals will still be held in the Georgia Dome on Dec. 14-15, the same Championship Weekend as the other classifications.

The power rating is based on the one used by Louisiana, according to GHSA Executive Director Ralph Swearngin, which gives teams credit for wins and for their opponents’ wins. The formula was approved by the organization in March. The full version, which includes the process for appeals and breaking ties, can be seen here on the GHSA website. But here is a quick primer:

- Public and private schools in Class A will still compete against each other in the regular season. A region champion is guaranteed a playoff spot (there are some regions, such as Region 1, with all public schools; some, such as Region 5, with all private schools; and some, such as Regions 4, 7 and 8, that have public and private schools in them).

- A team earns 10 points for a win over another Class A school.

- A win over a school from a higher classification earns 10 points, plus two more points for each class up (two points for a AA school, four for a AAA school, etc.).

- No points are earned for a loss to another Class A school, but the team still earns the points for losing to a team from a higher classification (two points for a AA school, four for a AAA school, etc.). However, a team earns points for the number of wins posted by opponents that beat them.

- Points earned for wins by a team’s opponents are calculated by taking the number of wins, dividing that by the number of games played and then multiplying that number by 10 (Example: Class A Team X lost to Class AAA Team Z. At the end of the year, Team Z finished 6-4. Team X would get a total of 10 points for that game – four points for playing a team two classes higher, and six points for the wins accumulated by Team Z).

Campbell not happy
A strong push by public schools Class A, primarily those in South Georgia, was the impetus for the postseason separation (some of those schools even flirted briefly with the idea of leaving the GHSA). Their complaint was/is that there is an unlevel playing field because private schools are allowed to recruit students legally, while public schools cannot.

But a number of public school coaches are not happy with the split, though they would like the recruiting issue addressed. One of those is Lincoln County head coach Larry Campbell, the dean of Georgia high school coaches, with 459 career wins.

“I was never in favor of the split,” Campbell said. “I wanted a level playing field, but I wanted us to stay together. But [private schools] wouldn’t compromise, and so they left the little South Georgia schools no choice. So now we have this system, and I think it will hurt both public and private schools.”

Even though a total of 32 Class A teams will still compete in the post season, Campbell believes that the 16-16 split will leave some good and deserving teams out because they may not accumulate enough points in the power rankings. He points to the fact that schools had to finalize their schedules by April but the details of the power ranking system weren’t finalized until June.

“I’m sure a lot of teams would have tried to get more games with teams from higher classifications, had they known exactly how this was going to play out,” Campbell said.

Top five, public and private
Each week, on Tuesday, we’ll try to put together a list of the Top 5 public and private schools, and include a couple of teams who are “trending,” and would most likely be in a Top 10 list. Here’s our pre-season Top 5’s (based on last year’s records, past performance and returning starters):

Public – 1)Lincoln County; 2) Wilcox County; 3) Wilkinson County; 4) Charlton County; 5) Warren County; Trending – Emanuel County Institute.

Private – 1) Savannah Christian; 2) Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy; 3) Landmark Christian School; 4) Aquinas; 5) Darlington; Trending – First Presbyterian Day and Athens Academy.

Earwood set to make history
One team to watch out for this season is Our Lady of Mercy, led by head coach Mike Earwood. The Bobcats will compete in one of the state’s toughest regions, Region 5, with the likes of ELCA, Landmark, Holy Innocents and Pace Academy.

After not winning more than four games in any of the program’s first 10 seasons, Earwood, who built the program at Starr’s Mill from the ground up, took over at OLM in 2010 and led the Bobcats to a 7-3 record and followed up with another winning season last year (6-4). The 13 wins at OLM have put Earwood on the brink of accomplishing something that only 53 other coaches in Georgia high school history have done, earn 200 wins. He currently sits at 195.

“It’s something I really don’t think about until some publication asks me,” said Earwood, who began his high school head coaching career in 1986 at Cartersville. He led the Purple Hurricanes to the AA state title in 1991. “I always have to go look it up.”

Earwood, who is 195-93-1 with stints at Cartersville, Upson-Lee, Starr’s Mill and now OLM, gives all of the credit for his success to his players, his assistant coaches and his wife, Susan.

“As a head coach you’re only as good as those who you surround yourself with and I’ve been blessed to have some great coaches on my staff,” said Earwood, who acknowledged his longtime and current defensive coordinator Glenn Griffin, as well as current Calhoun head coach Hal Lamb. “They are all a part of those wins.

“And my wife, Susan, is just a champion,” Earwood said. “She’s been very supportive. She has a great attitude. She’s put up with the long hours and the time away from family. She’s just a tremendous coach’s wife. Just super.”

Email S. Thomas Coleman at

17 comments Add your comment


August 21st, 2012
1:28 pm

Boy, nothing like a revisionist history lesson from Coach Larry Campbell. The fact that his team has lost consistently to Savannah Christian in the playoffs was one of the main driving forces behind the changes in Single A. As far as who would and who would not compromise, why did the GHSA give anyone a choice at compromise? All the GHSA had to do was add a multiplier to the private schools who can accept students from outside a city or county line and the problem would have been solved. Instead, they came up with a system that is going to hurt everyone except the traditional powers in Single A. (Lo and behold, look who’s back in the top 5!)

Swamp Lizard

August 21st, 2012
1:45 pm

STC …. Thanks for giving us a Top 5 ( & “trending” teams ) Public / Private list every Tuesday this coming football season in Class A ….. look forward to that. I’m excited to see how this point system works out. I do think you’ll get the best 16 teams in Public & Private, but there will always be the teams at 17, 18, 19, etc …. that will have a say & opinions. Wish all teams, players, & coaches the very best this year!


August 21st, 2012
2:13 pm

Who cares. They have the whole separate but equal playoff system. Should have just went with the multiplier system for the private schools. Ideas GHSA should consider for next year.
1. I playoff system for single A.
2. Allow competitions with GISA.
3. More televised or online games.


August 21st, 2012
3:13 pm

Shame there’s nor real state championship in this division anymore. Sore losers!


August 21st, 2012
3:28 pm

Ok, I have a scenario what if say a team like ECI only played one higher classification team and lost to them and lost maybe another class A game or two do to losing a player or players because of injury. Then they get the injured player or players back for the playoffs and make it to the playoffs as a number 13 seed or higher. Don’t u think that would be a problem for a top four seeded team. Having a team like ECI with so many players coming back coming to your house early in the playoffs. I think this is going to be a big problem for everyone invovled.


August 21st, 2012
4:14 pm

The points system really favors teams that have small region schedules. If you go undefeated in an 11 team region, your opponents are guaranteed to have 45 total wins.

However if you go undefeated in a 6 team region, all of the teams in your region could theoretically have winning records. If all the teams in your region are 5-5 you would get 25 from region opponents (5 points per region opponent) as opposed to the 4.5 points per region opponent received in the 11 team region. Additionally you could schedule a strong non-region schedule and beat five 6-4 or 7-3 teams. A team in a small region could concievably pile up 60-70 points off of it’s opponent’s wins and that is not considering if they play teams from higher classifications. Even if all of your non-region opponents were 5-5, you would recieve an 25 points, giving you a total of 50 points, more than the 45 you would get in an 11 team region.


August 21st, 2012
4:34 pm

…and how do they count out-of-state teams schedules and classifications? I would assume that the wins are counted the same, but the classification systems in other states may not be comparable.

S. Thomas Coleman

August 21st, 2012
10:40 pm

@Swamp: Thanks for reading! I agree; it should be a fun year!

S. Thomas Coleman

S. Thomas Coleman

August 21st, 2012
10:46 pm

@TCDOG25: I agree, ECI as a lower seed would be very dangerous.

S. Thomas Coleman

S. Thomas Coleman

August 21st, 2012
10:48 pm

@guwinster: Go to the GHSA website. They have stipulations for how out of state teams are scored.

S. Thomas Coleman

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August 22nd, 2012
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August 22nd, 2012
9:08 am

Whiny Grandma Campbell is at it again I see. He’s become the biggest embarrassment in the history of HS sports in Georgia.


August 23rd, 2012
2:18 am

WaCo at ELCA! Can’t wait!


August 27th, 2012
11:08 pm

Please…for the love of god, do not return to the multiplier. The vast majority of private school teams in class A do not recruit. Yes, ELCA, Savannah Christian, Landmark, and few others do, but most do not and the multiplier model leaves us playing teams way over our head (i.e. the old Tom Murply rule). Lets just have separate state championships…in fact, it is time for the private schools to leave GHSA as there is almost no benefit to being there.


September 4th, 2012
3:46 pm

Jim said: “Lets just have separate state championships…in fact, it is time for the private schools to leave GHSA as there is almost no benefit to being there.”

If the multiplier rule is ever reinstated, the private schools will leave GHSA in a heartbeat. The vast majority of private schools are Class A schools in urban areas. No need to deal with people like Campbell. GHSA kept private schools together with public schools in those sports where it benefitted the public schools. It will never be vice versa under the present administration.

Robert Richards

September 11th, 2012
3:41 pm

Congrats to coach Earwood!! I know you will get 200 wins and more. He was my head coach at Cartersville, and we were very successful. On the field and off.Yes we won a state championship in ‘91, but he made sure the school work was done first. A lot of us went on to play college football and still hold the morals, character, and love of Mike Earwood to the highest standards!!! IF U LOVE IT SAY CANES………..GATA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monique Thomas

September 17th, 2012
8:29 pm

Congratulations Coach Earwood and Susan! I am proud that my son Jordan is a player that will be celebrating with you at Our Lady of Mercy when you get your 200th Win!