Class A Blog: UPDATED! Another week, another big upset — Mt. Zion over Darlington

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

Here’s what went down in Week 10.

Mt. Zion pulls off a stunner over Darlington. How unlikely was the Eagles’ 20-17 win over the Tigers? Many respectable websites had the score backwards.  But it’s true.  Mt. Zion (5-3, 3-1)  trailed 10-0 early, but rallied to take a 14-10 lead after Nathan Bernhardt scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Tristan Puckett at the end of the half, according to the Times-Georgian.  After Darlington regained the lead early in the fourth quarter on a 9-yard run by Chandler Duggan, Mt. Zion recovered a fumble deep in Tiger territory late in the fourth quarter.  Bernhardt scored from one-yard out to put the Eagles back on top, and then grabbed an interception with a little over 2 minutes remaining to preserve the win.  New head coach Keith Holloway, a career assistant in west Georgia schools like Alexander, Central-Carrollton and Bowdon, has the Eagles in position to win Region 6-Division A with a win at Gordon Lee (5-3, 2-2) next week.  Mt. Zion is in search of  its first region championship since 1996. The Eagles should make a dramatic rise in the public school Power Rankings as well, where they currently sit at No. 26.  Mt. Zion last made the playoffs in 2005.

Walker keeps winning. The Wolverines (9-0, 5-0) clinched the Region 6-Division B title with a 21-14 win over Cobb County rival Whitefield Academy (5-1, 4-1). Evan Kasian scored on a 12-yard run with 38 seconds left to provide the margin of victory, and finished with 268 yards rushing on 38 carries, according to the AJC’s Chip Saye. Walker is primed to claim its first region title in the program’s 12 years of existence, and its second playoff appearance.

Athens Academy stays perfect, too. The Spartans (8-0, 5-0 in Region 8 ) trailed 20-7 at halftime but rallied to a 21-20 win over George Walton Academy in Athens. Athens Academy’s defense pitched a shutout in the second half quarterback Austin Schulte threw a touchdown pass and ran for another to lead the comeback, according to the Athens Banner Herald. Then in the game’s closing seconds, GWA kicker Cole Fisher narrowly missed a potential game-winning 45-yard field goal. Fisher had already made good on field goals from 24 and 45 yards in the second quarter. It was the second loss in a row for the Bulldogs, who were upset last week by Pinecrest Academy.

So does Irwin County. No. 8 Irwin County (6-2, 4-0 in Region 2) edged Turner County (5-4, 2-3) 27-26 in Ashburn, and moved another step closer to its first region title since 1998. Meanwhile, the Rebels, who were 5-1 at one point, lost their third game in a row and may fall out of the top 16 of the public school Power Rankings this week.

Athens Christian coming on strong. The Eagles knocked off last week’s upset darlings, Pinecrest Academy, 31-14. The win over Pinecrest (4-3, 2-2 in Region 8 ), which had beaten George Walton Academy a week ago, was a convincing one as Athens Christian (4-4, 3-1) rolled up 452 yards of total offense, according to the Athens Banner Herald. The Eagles will most likely move up a little from their No. 13 spot in the private school Power Rankings, while the Paladins, who currently sit at No. 19, chances of making the playoffs took a major hit.

Emanuel County Institute rolls on. The Bulldogs (7-1, 3-0 in Region 3-Division B), ranked No. 2 with a No. 3 public school Power Ranking, dominated Johnson County (6-2, 2-1) 40-0 in Wrightsville. ECI claimed the sub region championship with the win, while the Trojans’ hope they will hang on to their No. 15 spot in the Power Ranking.

Brookstone throws Region 4 into a tizzy. The Cougars (6-2, 4-1 in Region 4) forced a three-way for first place in the region by holding off Marion County (6-2, 4-1), 35-28 in Buena Vista. Brookstone jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead – after a 5-yard touchdown run by Duncan Fletcher and a 71-yarder by Madison McCluskey – and never relinquished the lead, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Now Brookstone, Dooly County and Marion County all hold a share of the top spot in the region, as they have gone 1-1 against each other: Brookstone over Marion, Marion over Dooly, and Dooly over Brookstone.

36 comments Add your comment

John

October 27th, 2012
10:10 am

One of the biggest stories Friday night was Mt. Zion’s shocking win over Darlington. Mt. Zion obviously was improved over last year but Darlington’s record and tough non-region schedule had placed them second in the GHSA private school power rankings while Mt. Zion was nowhere close to the top 16 public schools. It will be interesting how that shakes out this week.

TCDAWG25

October 27th, 2012
11:10 am

@JOCOTROGAN I guess your school didn’t have the team they thought they had.

bucket

October 27th, 2012
11:19 am

The fight for the region championship in Region 8 is far from settled and the next 2 weeks should be really exciting! Athens Academy is in the driver’s seat, but the game against Athens Christian looks much tougher than it once did. Prince could still win the region, but needs Athens Academy to lose and they must win their last 2 against Pinecrest and George Walton (no small task). Athens Christian could still win the region, but needs Prince to lose and they must beat Athens Academy and George Walton. George Walton and Pinecrest are also not eliminated from contention either. Tough loss for George Walton last night, but they are still a very good team and will have alot to say about who wins the region as they are very capable of beating Athens Christian and Prince.

TCDAWG25

October 27th, 2012
11:24 am

@swamp lizard The DAWGS just keep moving on.

S. Thomas Coleman

October 27th, 2012
11:32 am

@John: THANKS for the tip! I have to admit that I didn’t even check the game score because I thought Darlington would win. I’ve updated the blog to show Mt. Zion the proper respect for the upset. Great job by Coach Holloway. Great season for that community.

And the GHSA/MaxPreps.com folks need to update their Power Ranking. They are still ranking them based on their record on Oct. 5, which was 2-3! That’s unacceptable!

Thanks for reading and posting, John, and for keeping the blogger on his toes!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

S. Thomas Coleman

October 27th, 2012
11:32 am

@bucket: You’re 100 percent correct. Should be very interesting!

Thanks for reading and posting!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

S. Thomas Coleman

October 27th, 2012
11:34 am

@TCDAWG25: I have to admit that I didn’t think ECI would lay the lumber to JoCo quite that dramatically. Can’t find any reports about the game. Did it get out of hand late or did ECI roll from the outset?

Thanks for reading and posting.

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

John

October 27th, 2012
11:51 am

Part of Mt. Zion’s problem is that two of their opponents–North Cobb Christian and Cross Keys–play nonregion schedules. They don’t get credit for those wins under the GHSA power rating system.

Walker Fan

October 27th, 2012
9:27 pm

These scores and perceived upsets (most of which aren’t) continue to validate that so many of these teams are so much closer to one another than than our desire to rank them would allow us to imagine. With the size of these schools, and taking out the possible “gathering” of good players (e.g. ELCA), for these schools it is all about 1) Roster Size, 2) General Committment to Football, and 3) the statistical probability of from time to time producing a few excellent players from a student body or 300-400 high school students. On the Private School side, if one took ELCA out of the equation, there are at least 10 teams that could win the state tournament, maybe 12 or 13…each passing week continues to validate this with more vigor.

S. Thomas Coleman

October 27th, 2012
9:34 pm

@John: Ahhhh, thanks again for the update, John. I see why the GHSA had Mt. Zion at 2-3 this week. They did not give them credit in the ranking for those two games against NCC and Cross Keys. Thanks again for helping me out!

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

LoveFridayFootball

October 28th, 2012
9:04 am

@ Walker Fan: Why must you continually take shots at ELCA? Does it make you feel better about Walkers program to knock another one? You know why we WANT to play bigger and better teams/programs than us??? Because we want to get better!!! We scheduled Washington Co, who could win it all in 3A this yr, why? Because we want to build a better program! We want to get better! You seem to just beg for attention and put others down to say.. Look at me! Look at me! The young men at Walker that have fought hard this season deserve better than a .. Would have, could have, should have…. Just enjoy what you DO have. You guys are undefeated. Stop with the “but if’s”.

Walker Fan

October 28th, 2012
10:08 am

@LoveFridayFootball…because the gap between ELCA and everyone in Class A is just so vast and insurmountable. For ELCA to find any excitement, playing way up will be a requirement…50 to 60 point wins lose their luster week after week after week, But the real problem with this situation is that it will motivate some few other Class A programs into a player gathering arms race (a few senior transfers here, a few special 8th graders there) rather than just making use of the student body that the cards deal. Most Class A programs will never go there…its just not good for the classification.

Zone3canE

October 28th, 2012
11:48 am

@Walker CRYBABY…ELCA will find plenty of excitement playing in the GA. DOME holding up that STATE CHAMPIONSHIP TROPHY while your sitting at home in front on your TV crying and complaining. Stop with the HATE and support your UNDEFEATED(for now)team.

Swamp Lizard

October 28th, 2012
1:50 pm

@ TCDOG25 … I hear ya !! They must have looked good against JoCo …. Congrats on the big win!

Walker Fan

October 28th, 2012
2:07 pm

You and I agree that ELCA will be holding up the state championship trophy. They are by far the best in the state.

moto

October 28th, 2012
7:56 pm

@ Walker Fan: You said:

“These scores and perceived upsets (most of which aren’t) continue to validate that so many of these teams are so much closer to one another than than our desire to rank them would allow us to imagine. With the size of these schools, and taking out the possible “gathering” of good players (e.g. ELCA), for these schools it is all about 1) Roster Size, 2) General Committment to Football, and 3) the statistical probability of from time to time producing a few excellent players from a student body or 300-400 high school students. On the Private School side, if one took ELCA out of the equation, there are at least 10 teams that could win the state tournament, maybe 12 or 13…each passing week continues to validate this with more vigor.”

Good analysis very well put. I agree with you. Where we disagree is about whether or not a significant number of both private and public schools recruit players. I believe they do. Setting aside the question of whether it is bad for the game, I must use the currently popular saying: “It is what it is,” and it’s not going to change. Football rules in Georgia, and everybody wants to win.

As you say, roster size and general (especially administrative) commitment certainly factor in. But let’s be honest. Overwhelmingly, the best football players today are black. That’s true at the high school, college and pro levels. Take a look at Vanderbilt. They have 21 commits in the 2013 class, about 6 of whom come from Georgia. I am white and played at Vandy but am delighted to say that 18 of those 21 fine young men are black, joining a similar class from 2012. And Vandy has the highest graduation rate among both football players and overall sports in the SEC.

At the high school level in Georgia, some schools have demographic/geographic advantages when it comes to access to the best players. Eagles Landing, Our Lady of Mercy, and Landmark come to mind. Some schools have economic advantages, either because their tuition is lower or because their financial resources are greater (as in financial aid). That’s just the way it is.

The high school I support got whipped badly by ELCA, but I say more power to them. We’ll just try to support our team better, coach our team better, and be on the lookout for great players who would like a superior education. That doesn’t mean we have a “recruiting coordinator.” It means we hear about young men who may be interested in our school. There are indirect and subtle ways to let them know they might find a home with us. Nothing is guaranteed. They have to come to us and qualify like everybody else, and unfortunately we have lost good athletes who just weren’t ready academically.

Other schools may take a more aggressive approach. Or not. My point is that this is how the system actually works, and the number of transfers to public schools dwarfs the number of transfers to private schools. Long live high school football!!!!!

Observer

October 28th, 2012
11:06 pm

As I said earlier in the year and was chastised, ELCA will easily coast to the dome, will win A and could hang around and win AA. When you can put that many D 1 guys on the field with this small of a classification it is easy to see why the opponents need the running clock in the second half.

athens

October 29th, 2012
4:14 pm

Just looked at the power rankings formulas on GAPREP. Athens Christian got 11.25 points for beating Hebron….then they got 12.75 points for getting destroyed by North Oconee 44-0!! Athens Christian is 4-4 and still may make it to the state tournament based on this wacky formula. Are you telling me that a team can actually be rewarded more for getting demolished than for winning???? This is the dumbest thing Ive ever heard of in my life!

Walker Fan

October 29th, 2012
5:46 pm

@Athens…I have been waiting for this discussion to come up. It has been very interesting thus far to watch the new points based system at work. My only concern thus far has been the bonus points for playing up classifications. One of the best ways to test any system is to test it at the extremes (computer geeks recall “high values”). It is funny to imagine a Class A team loading up on AAAAAA schools, getting their brains beaten in, and then making the playoffs while another Class A school with a decent record in the classification sits home for not accumulating sufficient points, despite having a better win/loss record. I know this is not really possible due to region schedule requirements, but it is instructive when considering how the system might be skewed. My biggest concern is that teams are now going to use their non-region opportunities each season (somewhere between 2 and 4 games) for hunting points, by seeking out weak higher classification teams, when it would be much more interesting (in this fan’s view) to see teams play other teams within their classification that they would not normally play. I think it was great that Landmark played Calvary Day and Athens Christian to open their season this year. My fear is they might forgo these games in the future in favor of point hunting.

Walker Fan

October 29th, 2012
5:49 pm

@Athens…full disclosure on prior point, Walker opened the season with a win over Temple, a relatively weak AA team. I would rather have seen Walker open with a game against a Class A school we would not normally have a chance to play.

Chuck

October 29th, 2012
11:04 pm

The baby Raiders are growing up……I was at the Savannah Christian game against Jenkins County. Power running up the middle and speed on the corner, backed by a solid defense. Class A Champion may still have to come through Savannah. Calvary Day is not walking away, they are still talented, but they are also mad…..

Go Chargers

October 30th, 2012
8:29 am

@Zone3canE GET A LIFE. You have only been at ELCA for a few months and the only reason you are there is becasue your kid couldn’t “shine” in a higher classification. Yes ELCA will win state but be humble.

grades first

October 30th, 2012
10:19 am

@go chargers…..good point. It appears that at ELCA they are more interested in improving a students time in the 40 than improving their SAT scores.

TCDAWG25

October 30th, 2012
11:30 am

@ S. Thomas Coleman ECI was up by thirty at half time. It’s going to be a great one against SAV Christian Nov 9th.

Swamp Lizard

October 30th, 2012
12:42 pm

TCDAWG25 …. y’all going to be ready for Sav Christian? …. give me a prediction !!

Swamp Lizard

October 30th, 2012
12:49 pm

@ Go Chargers & Zone3canE …. please introduce yourself to me Friday night.

AND … @ grades first …. ELCA does care about about my kids education.

STOP the HATE !! ;)

Swamp Lizard

October 30th, 2012
12:53 pm

@ ALL CLASS A FANS … ELCA is going to be LOADED again next year. As I’ve mentioned before, 22 juniors on this team that are “players”. With that said, the 2014 season could possibly be a payback year for ELCA … so WAIT TIL THEN. ;)

Swamp Lizard

October 30th, 2012
1:01 pm

I don’t think Athens Academy is scared of ELCA … they are ranked the #1 team in the power rankings. Until last week they haven’t given up more than 7 points in any game. I don’t think Prince Ave Christian or Sav Christian are intimidated by ELCA …. you have to go out and take it …. No one is going to let ELCA show up at the Dome and just give them the State Championship.

Walker Fan

October 30th, 2012
1:55 pm

@Swamp Lizard…those teams are not within 30 points of ELCA. They are very good class A teams, but not even close. No one in Class A is close.

TCDAWG25

October 30th, 2012
3:28 pm

@ Swamp Lizard ECI 28 SAV Christian 14 should be a great game ECI has lost only one home game since i believe 05/06 season to hawkinsville in the first round of the playoffs.

moto

October 30th, 2012
4:18 pm

@swamp — I agree that ELCA is not a lock; that’s one of the things so great about sports. If you don’t bring your A game, coaches included, you can get beat. Look at Landmark vs. ELCA last year in the playoffs, after ELCA had beaten them handily during the regular season.

Zone3canE

October 30th, 2012
8:06 pm

Swamp Lizard please introduce me to Go Chargers…Please!!!! I doubt he will Introduce himself, it’s much easier and cowardly to hide behind a keyboard. I’ll be at Pace friday night pulling 4 all the CHARGERS not some or a few but all of the CHARGERS! Is it Go Chargers, or Go INDIVIDUAL CHARGERS?

Zone3canE

October 31st, 2012
1:51 am

@Go Individual Chargers…I don’t have a kid that attends ELCA but if your referring to Marquis he was ALL-REGION in a higher classification and Jevius was ALL-REGION and also had 3 DIVISION 1 OFFERS before he stepped foot on ELCA’s campus. Both of these guys SHINED but football is a TEAM SPORT which you probaly don’t understand SITTING ON THE TOP OF THAT HILL WATCHING PRACTICE SIDELINE REPORTING! Getting your shine on is not what these young men are about they play 2 win and also get a great education. I’m cool with all these kids from Bryson, Keyante, Big Isaac and everbody out there wearing BLUE and GOLD. I wish success for every kid in that program not some but all. I think we want the same thing(STATE CHAMPS)although your comments on this blog lead me to believe you only want success for some and not all. TOGETHER WE WILL CONQUER, DIVIDED WE WILL FALL! Holla at me friday night i’ll be pulling for THE CHARGERS hopefully so will you.

Go Chargers

October 31st, 2012
9:49 am

@Zone3canE. These kidss didn’t come to ELCA to get better education. You don’t do that in your senior year. They came because they seen a easier route to get a ring. You have kids at ELCA that have worked hard for the last few years and these two are benefitting from the other kids years of hard work. Did these two work as hard this summer as the others or did they use an injury as an excuse to not practice with the team? I know one of them did. And by the way Honorable mention isn’t All Region

LoveFridayFootball

October 31st, 2012
10:40 pm

@go chargers. Why in the world are you so bitter? By what you are saying the only kids “belonging” are the ones that have been there working hard for several years??? No first year players? What about freshmen? They are all first year players. Or as far as that goes, all first year starting varsity players… Your comments prove you are close to ELCA, and yet you take jabs at kids that are students and players there. Very disturbing

Zone3canE

October 31st, 2012
11:59 pm

@Go Chargers…In the words of Bobby McFerrin, DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY! All the hate is killing you man, you need a hug. Enjoy the season, I am! Hope to see you at the game friday…remember it’s GO CHARGERS!!!