By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Week 11 is the biggest thus far in Class A in terms of the number of key games. We’ll take a look at some of them.
Also, we’ll clarify the region play-in game scenarios for the two sub divided regions in Class A – 3 and 6 – with a quick look at one of the possible champions, Walker in Region 6. And as we’ve done for the past few weeks, we break down how the first-round playoff matchups would look like if the playoffs began today.
But first, a correction. We reported earlier this week that if Our Lady of Mercy advances to the playoffs this season, it will be the Bobcats’ first visit to the post season in the 12-year history of the football program. Not true.
In 2004, Mercy and Mt. Zion-Carroll went into the last game of the year with 0-9 records. But because Region 5 had just five teams in it at the time, the winner would earn the region’s fourth and final playoff spot. Mercy prevailed 13-12, but was thrashed in the first round by Lincoln County (53-0). Ironically, this season both Mercy and Mt. Zion are on the brink of making the playoffs. Mercy (5-4, 2-3 in Region 5) is No. 17 in this week’s private school Power Rankings, while Mt. Zion (5-3, 3-1 in Region 6-Division A) is No. 20 on the public school side. However, the Eagles are not receiving points for two of their wins – North Cobb Christian and AAA Cross Keys – because those teams are playing non-region schedules.
And now for the previews.
Miller County (8-1, 5-0 in Region 1) at Seminole County (6-2, 4-0). This one is for the region title. Seminole is the defending champion while the Pirates are in search of their first region championship since 2008. Seminole needs the win to ensure itself of one of the 16 playoff spots. Currently, Seminole sits at No. 20 in the public school Power Rankings, while Miller is No. 9. This is the season finale for Miller, while Seminole still has a tough game against Mitchell County (5-4, 4-1) next week in Camilla to close out the regular season.
No. 9 Wilkinson County (6-2, 5-0 in Region 7) at No. 5 Lincoln County (7-1, 5-0). Both teams have solid Power Ranking numbers – Lincoln is No. 1, Wilkinson is No. 6 – so this one is for the region championship and bragging rights. Lincoln leads the series 7-1, but the two teams have split the last two meetings. Lincoln won 35-0 last season while Wilkinson won in 2010, 26-14.
Holy Innocents (6-3, 4-1 in Region 5) at Landmark Christian (6-2, 4-0). It’s the regular season finale for Holy Innocents, which has a rock solid private school Power Ranking number (No. 8). The Bears still have hopes of forcing a three-way tie for the region crown. A win by the War Eagles would set up a showdown for the region title with rival No. 1 Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy next week. Landmark also hopes to provide the spark for what could be a historic weekend for the school as the volleyball team and the boys and girls cross country teams all compete for championships on Saturday.
No. 7 Wilcox County (6-2, 3-1 in Region 2) at No. 8 Irwin County (6-2, 4-0). The winner will be one step closer to the region title but there are still obstacles to overcome in next week’s season finales. Wilcox would still need to defeat a scrappy Telfair County (5-3, 2-2) team at home in Rochelle, while Irwin would still have to beat Charlton County (5-3, 3-1) on the road in Folkston. Both teams have stellar Power Ranking numbers — Wilcox is No. 2, Irwin is No. 4.
Athens Christian (4-4, 3-1 in Region 8 ) at George Walton Academy (5-3, 2-2). Athens Christian still has region championship aspirations and needs a win to keep those hopes alive. George Walton needs the win to improve its precarious No. 14 private school Power Ranking.
Greenville (5-3, 3-2 in Region 4) at Dooly County (6-2, 4-1). The region is already a mess with Brookstone, Dooly and Marion County in a three-way tie at the top. Greenville hopes to make it messier with a win before hosting Brookstone to close out the regular season. The Patriots also need to improve their Power Ranking a bit, which currently stands at No. 12. Dooly stands at No. 7 on the list.
Charlton County (5-3, 3-1 in Region 2) at Telfair County (5-3, 2-2). Charlton controls its path to the region title while Telfair would need some help. A win by Charlton, plus another win next week at home against Irwin County, would give them the championship. Telfair must beat Charlton and Wilcox County on the road next week, and hope Irwin County loses at least one of its last two games.
Region play-in scenarios
In Region 3, the two sub region winners will face each other next weekend, while the No. 2 seed from one side will face the No. 3 seed from the other, according to Savannah Christian head coach Don Chumley. His Raiders (6-2, 4-0) can lock up the top spot in Division A by beating Savannah Country Day (2-6, 1-3) on Friday. The defending Class A champions will face No. 2 Emanuel County Institute (7-1, 3-0) in the title game next week. Home field will be decided by the Power Ranking, where ECI is No. 3 on the public school side while Savannah Christian is No. 4.
Region 6 is another story. The sub region winners will host the No. 4 seeds from the other side, while the No. 2 seeds will host the No. 3’s from the other side. If both No. 1 seeds win, the region championship will be awarded to the team with the highest Power Ranking.
This set up hurts the current leader in Division A of the region, Mt. Zion. The Eagles have a poor public school Power Ranking, No. 20, because (as was noted above) they do not receive credit for wins over North Cobb Christian and Cross Keys, two teams playing non-region schedules.
As such, in order to make the post season Mt. Zion will most likely have to win the Region 6 crown, which would guarantee it a playoff spot. To do that, the Eagles must win Friday at Gordon Lee (5-3, 2-2), win next week’s region play-in game against Mt. Pisgah Christian (5-3, 2-2), Mt. Paran Christian (2-6, 2-2) or King’s Ridge Christian (4-4, 2-3), and then hope Walker, the No. 1 seed from Division B, loses its play-in game.
But that would be a novelty, as the Wolverines are a perfect 8-0 thus far under first-year head coach John East. It appears the stars are aligning over Marietta as everything has fallen into place for Walker, well, perfectly.
For starters, the Wolverines have 18 seniors, a high number for a team in any classification. That group is led by OL/DL Mike Ramsay (6-2, 270) who has committed to Duke, OL/DL Colin Mitchell (6-2, 255) who is being recruited by Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) and Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) schools, fullback Patrick McPherson and Class A Player of the Year candidate Evan Kasian (5-11, 180), who has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards this season.
East credits Kasian’s success to his attitude, work ethic and experience as a soccer player.
“As talented as he is, Evan is very unselfish. He’s very much a team-first guy and a true leader,” East said. “Because of his soccer ability, he has tremendous strength and muscular endurance. As a midfielder in soccer, he can run forever. That helps him as a football player because he can combine his [football] instincts with speed, quickness and power.”
Also, the mere fact that East is on the Walker sideline is another sign that this was destined to be a special season for the Wolverines, whose record over the past five seasons was 13-37.
East has been involved in high school football coaching and athletic administration for 38 years. He spent time as an athletic director at Savannah Country Day, Lovett and seven years at Whitefield Academy, which he left at the end of the 2011 school year to take a job in Florida.
But when that job fell through, East began consulting for schools in Georgia. He was contracted by Walker to help the school establish a lacrosse team last school year and began helping out the football team as well. When the head coaching job became available, East, who had never been a head coach at the varsity level, spoke with Walker athletic director Gary Blohm, his good friend, about the position.
“I had always wanted to be a [varsity] head coach, but I took jobs in administration because it was what was best for my family,” East said. “But, finally, this was the perfect opportunity.”
But the rest is not yet history. East, who credits coordinators Pat Hall (defense) and Dan Moorer (offense) for much of the team’s success this season, said the Wolverines will continue their mantra of playing from week to week.
“I learned a long time ago that your No. 1 goal should be to win the next game,” East said. “Our players are really focused and have bought into that. We don’t worry about what’s down the road.”
If the playoffs began this weekend, here are the matchups on the public and private school divisions.
No. 1 Lincoln County hosts No. 16 Clinch County
No. 2 Wilcox County hosts No. 15 Johnson County
No. 3 Emanuel County Institute hosts No. 14 Trion
No. 4 Irwin County hosts No. 13 Claxton
No. 5 Charlton County hosts No. 12 Greenville
No. 6 Wilkinson County hosts No. 11 Gordon Lee
No. 7 Dooly County hosts No. 10 Commerce
No. 8 Marion County hosts No. 9 Miller County
Observations: Marion’s loss to Brookstone last week dropped the Eagles from the No. 2 slot down to No. 8, where they would host Miller, which defeated Marion in Week 3 (20-7) … Turner County’s third loss in a row last week (27-26 to Irwin) dropped the Rebels down to No. 17, while Trion’s win over Gordon Lee (6-0) vaulted the Bulldogs into the top 16.
No. 1 Athens Academy hosts No. 16 Christian Heritage
No. 2 Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy hosts No. 15 Mt. Pisgah Christian
No. 3 Prince Avenue Christian hosts No. 14 George Walton Academy
No. 4 Savannah Christian hosts No. 13 Landmark Christian
No. 5 Darlington hosts No. 12 First Presbyterian
No. 6 Calvary Day hosts No. 11 Athens Christian
No. 7 Walker hosts No. 10 Brookstone
No. 8 Holy Innocents’ hosts No. 9 Aquinas
Observations: In the crazy world of power rankings, Our Lady of Mercy dropped down to No. 17 after winning last week at Mt. Vernon Presbyterian (68-19). The Bobcats were replaced by No. 15 Mt. Pisgah, a team they hammered (42-14) in Week 3 … No. 5 Darlington’s loss to Mt. Zion last week dropped the Tigers three spots … No. 2 ELCA continues to gain ground on No. 1 Athens Academy and may overtake the Spartans for the top seed in the next two weeks … Now at No. 14, George Walton continues to slide. At one point, the Bulldogs were in the top 8 … The 4-13 pairing – Landmark at Savannah Christian – would be a rematch of last year’s state title game.
Lots to discuss here. What say you, Class A heads?