By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Here are our Divided Public and Private Top 5 Lists, as we head into Week 9. Once again, it deviates a bit from the AJC Top 10 in that we here at Divided Top 5 headquarters have Lincoln County, ranked No. 5 overall by the AJC, in the top spot on the Public School side ahead of Emanuel County Institute, ranked No. 2 overall.
Thursday, we will examine how the first-round playoff matchups would look like, were the post season to start this weekend. But for now, time for the Divided Top 5s.
1. Lincoln County (5-1, 2-0 in Region 7; No. 5 overall). Once again, the Red Devils are in the thick of the conversation when it comes to region and state title contenders. Lincoln knocked off previously unbeaten Aquinas 20-13, at the Big A in Augusta last Thursday. The Irish led 10-0 at halftime, but Lincoln turned two Aquinas turnovers (an interception and a fumble) into 13 points, and won the game on Zireycus Letman’s 14-yard touchdown reception from Ben Turner with :49 seconds left in regulation. Lincoln will host Georgia Military College (4-2, 2-1) in Lincolnton on Friday.
2. Emanuel County Institute (6-1, 2-0 in Region 3-Division B; No. 2 overall). The Bulldogs mauled Treutlen 50-6 on the strength of nearly 400 yards rushing. Greg Purcell led the way with 170 yards on 12 carries. ECI will take a week off before they travel to Wrightsville to face Johnson County (5-1, 1-0) in what could be the game that decides the Region 3-Division B title.
3. Wilcox County (4-2, 2-1 in Region 2; No. 9 overall). The Patriots continued their domination of Turner County, blasting the Rebels 38-0 in Rochelle. All state quarterback Makail Grace completed 24 of 32 passes for 340 yards. His favorite target, Johnathan Howard, hauled in seven balls for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Wilcox will travel south to Homerville on Friday to face Clinch County (3-3, 1-1).
4. Irwin County (4-2, 2-0 in Region 2; No. 10 overall). Hello, Ocilla! The Chiefs are still the only unbeaten team in Region 2 after their 26-15 win at Clinch, ending the Panthers’ 15-game home winning streak in what has been Clinch’s worst regular season since it finished 6-4 in 2005. Irwin is ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 2006. Irwin will host Lanier County (2-5, 0-3) on Friday before facing the region’s “Big 3” – Turner County, Wilcox County and Charlton County – to close out the regular season.
5. Miller County (6-1, 3-0 in Region 1A; unranked). Even though they play in one of the weakest regions in Class A, Miller County might be the best team no one talks about. The Pirates should get their sixth consecutive win on Friday at home against Terrell County (3-3, 1-1).
TRENDING (In alphabetical order): Dooly County (5-1, 3-0 in Region 4) will try to keep rolling toward its first region title since 1999, while preventing Marion from winning a third consecutive Region 4 crown when the Bobcats host the Eagles on Friday … Jenkins County (4-2, 2-0 in Region 3-Division A) has won four in a row, but must face Calvary Day (5-1, 1-1) in Savannah on Friday … Johnson County (5-1, 1-0 in Region 3-Division B) heads to Soperton Friday to take on Treutlen (3-3, 1-1) before No. 2 ECI comes to Wrightsville on Oct. 26 … Marion County (5-1, 3-0 in Region 4) heads to Vienna on Friday to face Dooly County in a game that will more than likely decide the Region 4 title … Wilkinson County (4-2, 3-0 in Region 7) faces the first leg of a brutal three-game stretch on Friday when the Warriors host No. 6 Aquinas (5-1, 2-1).
1. Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (5-1, 2-0 in Region 5; No. 1 overall). The Chargers dominated Mt. Vernon Presbyterian 62-0, as junior quarterback Dalton Etheridge completed all four of his passes for 58 yards, with three of the throws going for touchdowns to DJ Curl, Jevius Terry and David Carrandi. ELCA travels to Fayetteville on Friday to take on Our Lady of Mercy (4-3, 1-2), whose three losses are by a combined 12 points.
2. Athens Academy (6-0, 3-0 in Region 8; No. 3 overall). The Spartans downed Pinecrest Academy 27-7 behind 116 yards rushing and three touchdowns by Taylor Allen. On Friday, Athens Academy will host Commerce (4-3, 0-3), which is desperate to stop a three-game slide in which the Tigers have been outscored 75-28.
3. Prince Avenue Christian (6-1, 2-1 in Region 8; No. 4 overall). PAC blanked Commerce 30-0 as Bryce Huff and Carl Mattox combined for 280 yards rushing. The Wolverines will host Hebron Christian Academy (1-5, 0-4) on Friday.
4. Aquinas (5-1, 1-1 in Region 7; No. 6 overall). The Irish outgained Lincoln County 268-138, held the Red Devils to just six first downs, and Brendan Douglas rushed for 153 yards, but it wasn’t enough to keep them unbeaten. Aquinas will be in a surly mood when it takes on another public school region foe, Wilkinson County (4-2, 3-0), in Irwinton on Friday.
5. Savannah Christian (4-2, 2-0 in Region 3-Division A; No. 7 overall). The defending state champs served notice that they will be reckoned with this season by gutting out a 21-20 win over city rival Calvary Day. Jalen Myrick, who has committed to Minnesota, scored on an 18-yard pass from Chase Marini on fourth-and-8 with 3:15 left in regulation to tie the game, and Logan Tovar’s PAT provided the margin of victory. The Raiders host Portal (0-6, 0-2) on Friday.
TRENDING (In alphabetical order): Calvary Day (5-1, 1-1 in Region 3-Division A) will look to shake off the narrow loss to Savannah Christian when it hosts Jenkins County on Friday (4-2, 2-0) … George Walton Academy (5-1, 2-0; No. 8 overall) heads to Cumming to face Pinecrest Academy (3-2, 2-1) on Friday before a visit to Athens and a battle with No. 3 Athens Academy on Oct. 26 … Holy Innocents (4-3, 2-1 in Region 5) stopped a three-game skid by holding off Our Lady of Mercy (4-3, 1-2) and will visit Locust Grove and Strong Rock Christian (3-3, 0-2) on Friday … Landmark Christian (5-2, 3-0) won its fourth in a row, 49-0, over Strong Rock last week and will face Pace Academy (2-4, 1-1) in Atlanta on Friday … Our Lady of Mercy (4-3, 1-2), dropped another tight one at Holy Innocents last week (23-17) and now hosts No. 1 ELCA on Friday.