Class A Blog: Games to watch in Week 1

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

The season gets underway tonight in a few places, but the first games in Class A will kickoff on Friday. Each week on Thursday, we’ll take a look at some of the more intriguing match ups, list a few others, and get your thoughts on the games to watch as well.

But first, let’s take care of a loose end. There’s been some discussion about how out-of-state opponents will be counted in the new power ranking system being used in Class A. Here’s the skinny from the Georgia High Schools Association:

– An out-of-state opponent will be counted just like an in-state opponent, in terms of the number of points awarded for playing that school – 10 points for the win, plus extra points if the schools is from a higher classification. So, just like an in-state opponent, a AA out-of-state opponent is worth two (2) points; a AAA school is worth four (4); a AAAA school is worth (6) and so on.

– However, the out-of-state school’s enrollment will be held to the Georgia criteria, not that of their home state. For example, in Georgia, a school is classified as AA if it has between 350 and 649 students; the AAA enrollment scale is 650 to 859.

We hope that helps. Now, on to this week’s games.

Washington County (No. 9 in Class AAA) at Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (No. 2 in Class A). ELCA and head coach Jonathan Gess aren’t wasting any time seeing how good the Chargers can and will be this season. Gess, who is 48-14 in five seasons at ELCA with two region titles, makes no bones about the fact that he believes his program is at the level where it should compete for state titles. Scheduling the Golden Hawks proves that, and ELCA will pick up an extra six points for playing the Class AAA powerhouse.

While Washington County isn’t quite the juggernaut it was in the 1990s, when it won five region championships and three state titles, the program is still one of Georgia’s finest. The Golden Hawks are 36-19-1 over the past five seasons, though they haven’t won a region crown since 2006.

ELCA lost two-way lineman Justin Thomason and RB/DB John Tatum to graduation, but return one of the state’s most productive players in senior RB/LB Keyante Green (committed to Purdue; 300 tackles and 3,000 yards rushing in three seasons) along with senior two-way lineman Isaac Rochell (committed to Notre Dame), senior DB/WR D.J. Curl, and juniors LB Josh Shockley and quarterback Dalton Etheridge.

Holy Innocents at Lakeside-DeKalb. Ryan Livezey has built a very solid program at Holy Innocents, where the Bears are 45-24 in just six seasons of football. They have the unfortunate pleasure of competing in Region 5 with ELCA and Landmark Christian School, last year’s state runners-up. The Bears came within three points of winning the region championship last season, falling 21-17 to ELCA on the final day of the regular season. The following week they couldn’t stop Bowdon in a 57-43 first-round playoff loss.

But look for Holy Innocents to challenge for the region championship this season behind seniors Sam Jokerst (DB/WR) and E.J. Thurmond (TE/DE). And in the all-important scramble for points in Class A this season, a win over Class AAAAA Lakeside-DeKalb (0-10 last season) could net at least 18 points for the Bears.

Calvary Day at Landmark Christian School (No. 4 in Class A). This is a rematch of last season’s second round playoff game, which Landmark won, 21-7, at Calvary. The win by the War Eagles ended one of the best seasons (10-2) in Cavalier history. They had won 10 games only two other times in school history. Landmark went on to play in the state finals for the first time, where the War Eagles lost to Savannah Christian, 20-3, and finished with a record of 12-3.

This season Calvary could be a dark horse to play for the private school state title. The Cavaliers return most of last year’s bunch, including quarterback Jake Clemens (1,084 yards rushing, 26 combined touchdowns running and throwing), two-way lineman Justin James, and tight end Milan Richard, the nephew of Herschel Walker, who has offers from Georgia, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, among others. While Landmark opens the season in the top 10, it will have to find a way to replace QB/DB Cantrell Frazier. Seniors Joshua Nobles (WR/DB), John Paul Reed (OL/DL) and Cole Higbie (DB) — all pre-season All-State selections — and junior running back Jerimiah Kirkland will lead the way. New head coach Wayne Brantley, the offensive coordinator last season, takes over for Kenny Dallas, who was 88-41 in 11 seasons at Landmark. Dallas has moved on to become an administrator at a private school in his home state of Tennessee.

Clinch County at Brooks County. Clinch finished 8-4 last season, losing to Lincoln County in the second round of the state playoffs (21-7). The Panthers are one of the most storied programs in the state, with four undefeated seasons and five state titles, the last of both coming in 2010. Clinch enters the season unranked, which is rarity in Homerville. But head coach Jim Dickerson, now in his eighth season, will have the Panthers in the thick of the title hunt by season’s end. The match up with Brooks will be the 14th meeting between the two squads. The Trojans won the last meeting, 7-6, in 2005. Clinch will pick up at least four points for playing the AA squad from Quitman.

Prince Avenue Christian at St. Francis. Prince Avenue had a dream season last year, going undefeated — and winning the school’s first region title in the process — until it ran into eventual state champ Savannah Christian in the state semi-finals. The Wolverines looked primed to make another run at a state championship before word came that four of the team’s starters, including the son of head coach Mark Farriba, left the school voluntarily over the summer after an off-campus incident. But PAC still has plenty of talent on the roster including quarterback Carl Mattox, OL/DL Sam Kennon, DE Tyler Parrish and LB/TE end Christian Payne. St. Francis, located in Alpharetta, is in its first full season as a varsity football program.

Other games of note:  Darlington (No. 10 in Class A) at Christian Academy of Knoxville (Tenn.), Christian Academy is the defending Class AAA champion in TennesseeAquinas (No. 8 in Class A) at East Laurens Atkinson County at Lanier County.

15 comments Add your comment

John

August 23rd, 2012
10:22 am

The biggest Class A Game this week takes place Saturday night in Knoxville. Darlington plays defending Tennessee Class AAA state champion Christisn Academy of Knoxville. I don’t know why absolutely no mention has been made of this game.

BigDave

August 23rd, 2012
11:13 am

John,I wish somebody in Georgia would play Tennessee powerhouses Maryville or Alcoa

John

August 23rd, 2012
11:41 am

It would be interesting. Christian Academy of Knoxville actually beat Alcoa in the state quarterfinals last season.

tenn powerhouses?

August 23rd, 2012
12:41 pm

It is laughable that any team in Tenn is considered a football “powerhouse”….hahahaha….Especially, if Single A Darlington is playing a AAA state champion….I don’t think I would have posted that one….

BigDave

August 23rd, 2012
2:14 pm

tenn powerhouses,Maryville has won state titles in Tennesssee 9 out of the last 10 years and Alcoa 8 out of the last 10 years. I’d say they were powerhouses

Zone3canE

August 23rd, 2012
9:25 pm

WaCo at ELCA, GI-NORMOUS!

S. Thomas Coleman

August 24th, 2012
3:11 am

@John: The game should have been listed, and I’ve added it. But, with all due respect to Christian Academy, this is not the biggest game in Class A this week.

It’s a very nice opener for Darlington, which is one of the best programs in Georgia. Coach Atha does a great job up there. However, when the No. 2 team in the state (ELCA) takes on a Top 10 team in Georgia from Class AAA (WaCo), that trumps a Tennessee champion. Again, no disrespect to that state, but the quality of high school football in Georgia is just on a higher, deeper level. Georgia simply has, by far, more top-quality athletes and programs than Tennessee. It’s really not even close, which is why surrounding states like Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, etc., recruit our state so heavily.

Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

Thanks for reading

S. Thomas Coleman

August 24th, 2012
3:12 am

@Zone3canE: Indeed!! Should be fun! Thanks for the post!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

Chuck

August 24th, 2012
9:18 am

The Calvary and Landmark game should be good. Calvary is unranked in the preseason poll, but that will not last long. The are experienced and talented.

@ Coleman…is SCPS rebuilding this year or reloading?

bucket

August 24th, 2012
9:55 am

The GHSA should be ashamed for deciding the points system for the A playoff system after some teams had already finalized their schedule. In fact, the GHSA should be ashamed of the entire A public/private debacle. 5 guys down at the local biscuit barn could have come up with a better system than the GHSA did.

Swamp Lizard

August 24th, 2012
11:40 am

WaCo @ ELCA …. Calvary Day @ Landmark ….. Clinch Co @ Brooks Co ….. These games have to fire you up !! I love the small small schools, the small town feel, the pride, the passion ….. wish all these boys the best tonight and hope to see some great football.

Swamp Lizard

August 24th, 2012
11:48 am

I will be at the ELCA / Washington Co game tonight, but I’d love to see the Calvary Day / Landmark battle. Just my opinion, but I too ( like STC ) think Calvary Day is going to be a “player” this year in the Private Championship. Wish fellow Region 5 foe & friend Landmark Christian the best.

BigDave

August 24th, 2012
5:02 pm

I think Georgia ought to look at the way Tennessee has private schools in a separate classification and a separate state football tournament

BigDave

August 24th, 2012
5:53 pm

Christian Academy of Knoxville will pound Darlington

BigDave

August 26th, 2012
12:16 am

Christian Academy of Knoxville beat Darlington 42-23