Turning a program around is one of the most rewarding experiences for a coach.
Take Mount Zion of Carroll County. The Eagles broke a two-year victory drought this season. They are only 2-3, but they broke the 20-game losing streak, and each of the three losses has been by seven points or less.
The computer Maxwell Ratings say that Mount Zion is 41.3 points per game better than in 2011. Congratulations to first-year coach Keith Holloway, a 25-year assistant coach who was plucked from Bowdon, where he was an offensive coordinator.
Below, we look at some of the most improved teams in each classification.
We begin by naming what we think is the most improved team. Then, we use the Maxwell Ratings to give us the five most improved teams that already were good (won six or more games in 2011) and the five most improved teams that weren’t so good (won five or fewer games in 2010). Then, we list the five teams that have regressed the most, according to Maxwell.
The reason we split the most improved teams into two categories is that it is a little easier to improve a 2-8 team than it is to improve an 8-2 team.
Our choice: Parkview. The Panthers were 4-6 in 2011, the worst season in Cecil Flowe’s 19 seasons at the Gwinnett County school. Now, Parkview is 4-1, ranked No. 7, with victories over Grayson and Brookwood. The team is in first place in Region 8 and seeking its first region title since 2004.
Good teams that got better: Norcross, Johns Creek, Camden County, Lowndes, West Forsyth
Weak teams that got better: Milton, South Gwinnett, Roswell, Parkview, North Forsyth
Teams that took a step back: Habersham Central, Walton, Dacula, Newton, Grayson
Comments: We would’ve had North Cobb for North Forsyth, and Hillgrove for Grayson.
Our choice: Richmond Hill. The Wildcats are 5-0 after a 6-4 finish in 2011 that represented their first winning season since 1996. They are on track for a second-place finish in Region 3 and could earn only their third home playoff game in history.
Good teams that got better: Thomas County Central, Gainesville, Whitewater, Richmond Hill, Rome
Weak teams that got better: Lakeside (Atlanta), Lee County, Evans, North Paulding, Riverwood
Teams that took a step back: Northgate, Dunwoody, Windsor Forest, Northside (Columbus), Pope
Comments: Lakeside of Atlanta is the second-most improved team in any class, per Maxwell.
Our choice: Ridgeland. The Panthers were 7-5 last season, but one win was a forfeit. This year’s team has lost only to Calhoun (No. 1 in AA) and rolled its other four opponents and is favored to win Region 7.
Good teams that got better: Monroe Area, Ridgeland, Griffin, Sandy Creek, River Ridge
Weak teams that got better: Cass, Pickens, Chestatee, Carver (Atlanta), Johnson (Gainesville)
Took a step back: Butler, Stone Mountain, LaFayette, North Clayton, Troup
Comments: Maxwell isn’t that impressed with Chamblee (4-6 to 5-0) or Washington (5-5 to 5-0) yet.
Our choice: North Murray. The Mountaineers were 0-10 in 2011 and 3-21 all-time, but they are 4-2 now with a real chance to make the playoffs under first-year head coach David Gann.
Good teams that got better: Washington County, Gordon Central, Thomson, Callaway, Blessed Trinity
Weak teams that got better: North Murray, White County, Swainsboro, Jackson County, Dawson County
Teams that took a step back: Henry County, Towers, Cross Keys, Appling County, East Jackson
Comments: North Hall and Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe deserve some mention, too, for getting better.
Our choice: Screven County. The Gamecocks are 24 points better than a year ago, according to Maxwell. They’ve gone from 2-8 to 5-1 under first-year coach Rob Duncan and should win Region 3. They haven’t won a region since 2002.
Good teams that got better: Heard County, Vidalia, Brooks County, Lovett, Cook
Weak teams that got better: Macon County, Screven County, Kendrick, Long County, Toombs County
Teams that took a step back: Dublin, Putnam County, Temple, Jeff Davis, Oglethorpe County
Comments: Dublin (11-2 to 0-6) has fallen off more than any other team in the state.
Our choice: Mount Zion. After losing 20 consecutive games by more than 20 points, Mount Zion has two wins, and three losses that were decided by seven points or less.
Good teams that got better: ECI, George Walton Academy, Our Lady of Mercy, Dooly County, Athens Academy
Weak teams that got better: Mount Zion, Savannah Country Day, Turner County, Trion, Miller County
Teams that took a step back: Savannah Christian, SW Atlanta Christian, Fellowship Christian, Warren County, Landmark Christian
Comments: Turner County (3-7 to 5-1) deserves more credit. The 38-6 victory over Charlton County was shocking.
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