By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Well Class A fans, the 2012 season is officially a wrap. Congratulations to the players, coaches, parents and supporters of Emanuel County Institute and to Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy for winning their respective championships.
And so now the inevitable questions/debates begin. Who’s better? Who’s the “real” Class A champ? And should we have a “plus-one” game to decide the Class A title?
So here in the final Class A football blog for the 2012 season, we touch on that as well as a few other tidbits.
“Big guy” says NO to plus-one
After the game, when the question of a plus-one game between the public and private school champs was posed to players and coaches, everyone said yes.
ELCA head coach Jonathan Gess: “Yes!” was his response to a text message.
ECI head coach Chris Kearson: “Let’s do it!” was his response.
ECI senior offensive lineman Gunnar Brown: “Oh yes! I’m a senior. I’m not ready to put the pads up yet. Let’s go!”
ECI senior running back Greg Purcell: “Definitely. We could go out and play it in the (Georgia Dome) parking lot if they want to.”
So there is sentiment on both sides to start the Class A playoffs the same weekend as the other five classes, let the public and private school champions be crowned on semifinal weekend and then play the final in the Dome. But there is at least one voice out there that is against it, and it’s a pretty important voice: Georgia High School Association executive director Ralph Swearngin.
“I don’t think there is a need for a plus-one, and I haven’t heard any discussion about it, frankly,” he said last week.
“I think we can look at the SEC championship game as an example that it’s better to let both [public and private championship] teams have the memory of winning their last game” Swearngin said, referring to the gut-wrenching loss suffered by SEC West champion UGA at the hands of Alabama, the East champion.
So there it is. Though Swearngin said there is a strong possibility that the Class A playoff system, most notably the power ranking system, will be tweaked by the GHSA executive committee sometime this winter or spring, the odds of a plus-one title game are slim to none.
Coach Campbell lashes out
Speaking of the split, Lincoln County head coach Larry Campbell said he is tired of being the one “blamed for the split.” He went on a long rant last week in response to blog posts written about him that were mean-spirited at best, small and pathetic at worst.
“When my daughter comes to me and says that someone on the blog wrote that when Larry Campbell dies the world will be better off, that crosses the line to me,” Campbell said. “That just makes me sick to my stomach.”
Campbell admits that he has been one of the loudest and most consistent voices decrying the advantages he believes private schools have over public schools, including unlimited residential zones and the ability to extend financial aid to some families through the publically-sponsored Georgia Greater Opportunities for Access to Learning (GOAL) program.
However, truth be told, he was never an advocate for the split. Campbell was present at many of the meetings held by representatives of some Class A public schools, where bolting from the GHSA was discussed. But he was never one of the leaders of the movement and didn’t push for the split.
“We have competed against private schools for years,” he said. “Some of the finest, Christian men I know are the head coaches of many of those schools. I don’t have a problem with any of them and I never was for the spilt. I just think something needed to be done because of the unfair advantages private schools have over public schools. I’m a public school supporter and always will be.”
For the record, Campbell would like to see one of a handful of initiatives implemented to level the playing field. Among those he mentioned were reinstating the “1.5 multiplier,” limiting the area where private schools may draw student athletes to a specific distance (either within the city or county limits, or within 20-25 miles of the school), and barring student athletes from being able to use GOAL money to help pay their tuition.
Playoff system tweaks
As Swearngin has said on several occasions, there is a possibility that some minor changes will be made to the power ranking system used to determine the top 16 teams that advance to the playoffs on the public and private school sides.
One such tweak could be limiting the number of points awarded for playing schools from higher classifications. Presently, a Class A school gets two points for every classification higher an opponent is, win or lose.
As an example of how the current system can skew the system, Athens Christian finished fifth in Region 8 with a record of 4-6, and would have missed the playoffs under the old system. Instead the Eagles were awarded a No. 14 seed with the assistance of 40 points they picked up by going 1-2 against three AAA schools on their schedule – Banks County (22-7 win, 17 points), Jackson County (39-21 loss, 10 points) and North Oconee (44-0 loss, 13 points). Athens Christian was beaten by No. 3 seed Walker in the first round, 28-7.
By contrast, Our Lady of Mercy, which finished fourth in Region 5, played all Class A teams and finished the regular season 6-4. For that the Bobcats earned a No. 15 seed and played No. 2 ELCA in the first round, where they lost 42-14. It was the second time Mercy and ELCA faced each other, as the Chargers won the regular season meeting, 49-0.
Want more high school football at the Dome?
Still not ready to let go of the high school football season? If so, you have three more opportunities.
Saturday (Dec. 22) in the Georgia Dome, the D.L. Scott Coalition Bowl Senior All Star Games will feature two high school all-star games – the North Georgia All-Stars vs. the Central Georgia All-Stars, at 3 p.m., and the Metro Atlanta East vs. West All Star Game at 7 p.m.
The North Georgia vs. Central Georgia game will feature Northgate receiver/defensive back Brandon Facyson (committed to Virginia Tech), quarterback Josh Harrison (Troy) and defensive tackle DeAndre Johnson (UGA), Newnan defensive back /receiver Trey Matthews (UGA) and Gordon Lee linebacker/fullback Bryce Bailey.
The Metro Atlanta East vs. West game will feature Mays receiver DeAngelo Yancy (Kentucky), Lovejoy rnning back Travis Custis (Georgia Tech) and receiver A.J. Jackson (Auburn), Jonesboro defensive back Taurean Ferguson (Vanderbilt), Gainesville defensive back Fred Payne (Western Carolina), Tri-Cities defensive lineman Marcus Adams (Western Kentucky) and offensive lineman Dominique Threatt (South Florida).
These are the only high school all-star games in the state held in the Georgia Dome. Tickets are $20. For more information, visit www.dlscottcoalitionbowl.com.
Also, the AT&T Georgia Junior Bowl, featuring some of the top rising seniors in Georgia, will be held Monday, Dec. 31, 1 p.m. at Grady Stadium in Midtown, across from Piedmont Park. Class A athletes in the game include offensive lineman Donald Foster of Savannah Christian, tight end Milan Richard of Calvary Day, running back Stanley Williams of George Walton Academy, punter/kicker A.J. Wells of Marion County, defensive lineman Andrew Williams and defensive back/linebacker Bryson Durden of ELCA, and offensive lineman Buster Dwight of Wilcox County.
Never too early for pre-season Top 10s
Let the debate of who will be the best in 2013 begin!
While our Divided Top 5 Lists became wildly popular (not really, but work with me), we’ll do a Top 10 as we ride off into the sunset of the 2012 season. The lists are based on this season’s performance, but also on what teams will have returning next season. Of course, there’s no way to account for any possible transfers in or out. As always, let us know your thoughts:
1. Emanuel County Institute
2. Lincoln County
3. Dooly County
4. Seminole County
5. Wilcox County
6. Wilkinson County
7. Charlton County
8. Marion County
9. Miller County
10. Irwin County
Trending: Trion, Johnson County, Mt. Zion-Carrollton, Greenville, Hancock Central, Commerce.
1. Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy
2. George Walton Academy
3. Savannah Christian
4. Landmark Christian
5. First Presbyterian Day
6. Prince Avenue Christian
7. Our Lady of Mercy
8. Holy Innocents
9. Athens Academy
10. Calvary Day
Trending: Darlington, Mt. Pisgah, Mt. Paran, Brookstone, Walker, Aquinas.
Well, that’s all folks! Thanks for reading and the great posts all year. You make this the BEST sports blog on AJC.com, hands down! We can continue the conversation here as long as you want, but starting Tuesday afternoon, we’ll be going full throttle with basketball blogs each week.
And so in the immortal words of Carol Burnett (aging myself a bit), “I’m so glad we had this time together, just to have a laugh or share a song; Seems we just got started and before you know it; Comes the time we have to say, so long!”
Until next season football fans, Peace!
S. Thomas Coleman