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 firstname.lastname@example.org.