The Georgia High School Association published the 2013 football schedules this week.
Football schedules during odd years (ie, 2013) generally feature the same opponents as the previous season because they are generally played under two-year contracts, but there are several good exceptions.
Here are the 10 best ‘’new’’ games on the 2013 schedule:
1. Booker T. Washington (Fla.) at Norcross: Norcross returns 16 starters – including three blue-chip recruits – from a team that went 15-0 and won Class AAAAAA last season. That’s the kind of glitz that attracts national TV audiences, especially when matched against Florida’s reigning Class 4A champion. The game is set for Aug. 24. Each team has three prospects who are rated four stars by Rivals.com. They are DE Loenzo Carter (rated No. 1 at his position nationally), WR Myles Autry and LB Kevin Mouhon for Norcross and QB Treon Harris, DE Chad Thomas and DB Nigel Patten for BTW, which was 13-1 last season. Expect both to be nationally ranked. Norcross might be No. 1.
2. Colquitt County at Hoover (Ala.): Colquitt County head coach Rush Propst returns to Hoover, where he led the Buccaneers to five state championships. Since he left in 2007, Hoover has remained a national power while Colquitt has rekindled its glory days under Propst, who has taken the Packers to four straight state semifinal appearances. ESPN wanted to televise the game, but the GHSA denied Colquitt’s request to play on Labor Day. Instead, it will be played on a Friday, perhaps with no TV. But the media still will take note of the former “Two-A-Days” TV star’s Alabama return. ‘’The Hoover deal is special,’’ Propst said. “There will be a great crowd, and there will be lot said and written with their continued success and the success that we’ve had here. It will be an electric atmosphere, and our kids need to see that.’’ Hoover will come to Moultrie in 2014.
3. North Gwinnett at Grayson: The annual North Gwinnett double-header that brought in out-of-state powers such as Byrnes (S.C.) and Prattville (Ala.) to play Georgia teams over the years has run its course after five seasons. So instead of North Gwinnet and Grayson playing two out-of-state teams as they did last season, as part of the National Gridiron Challenge, the two Gwinnett County powerhouses will play each other on Aug. 30 at Grayson. North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire said the Gridiron Challenge (which grew to four scheduled games in 2012) served its purpose. “When we first went that route, it was good in many ways,’’ Sphire said. “The North Gwinnett community didn’t believe it belonged in that [national] setting, and it elevated the community and the program. Now, the whole national thing has changed the last several years in terms of scheduling. There are just too many hands in the pie now. My goal is to challenge our guys to be prepared for our region. What better opportunity to keep your guys ready than Grayson.’’ Over the past six seasons, Grayson (from Region 8-AAAAAA) is 70-11, and North Gwinnett (7-AAAAAA) is 67-11. Grayson and North Gwinnett have played each other twice, both times in the second round of the state playoffs. Each time, it has been a shocker. North Gwinnett was ranked No. 2 in 2010 and Grayson was No. 3 in 2012 when beaten.
4. Colquitt County vs. Grayson: They’ve met in two semifinals the past three seasons, both at Grayson. This will be the first meeting in the regular season in this Metro Atlanta-South Georgia rivalry that will be the third game of the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome on Aug. 24. Colquitt County beat Grayson 31-24 in the 2010 semifinals, and Grayson beat Colquitt 35-31 in the 2011 semis.
5. Camden County vs. North Gwinnett: No two teams have won more games in the highest classification than Camden and North Gwinnett since 2006, when Bob Sphire came to North. Camden is 83-11 in that time with two state titles (2008, 2009. North Gwinnett is 78-13. Camden has a new head coach in Welton Coffey, who was promoted from offensive coordinator to replaces Jeff Herron (now at Prince Avenue Christian). Sphire (Kentucky) and Coffey (Florida) have won state titles as head coaches in other states.
6. M.L. King vs. Blanche Ely (Fla.): M.L. King and Stephenson have invited a couple of Florida teams to play them in a double-header on Aug. 23 at Hallford Stadium. (See Stephenson vs. Norland below). M.L. King is playing Blanche Ely of Pompano Beach. Ely was only 5-6 last season but won state titles in 2002, 2003 and 2006). M.L. King will be breaking in a new coach in Cortez Allen from Newton.
7. Thomas County Central at Valdosta: Thomas Central played Colquitt County in this spot last year, but Thomas Central accommodated the Packers and lined up Valdosta instead. The TCC-Colquitt series will be missed because TCC beat Colquitt 35-29 in overtime in 2010, and Colquitt won 35-33 last season. The good news is that Valdosta was available Aug. 30. In 2012, Valdosta played North Augusta (S.C.) that week at North Gwinnett. TCC and Valdosta have not played since 1985, when they were Region 1-AAAA opponents.
8. Lincoln (Tallahassee, Fla.) vs. South Gwinnett: South Gwinnett opened with Norcross last year, but the BT Washington deal freed South Gwinnett to play another Florida opponent in Lincoln. This game will be played as part of an Aug. 24 double-header at Norcross. South Gwinnett was 9-3 last season, with two losses to Norcross, and returns a couple of D-1 prospects in RB Josh Boyd and WR Coray Keel. Lincoln was 12-2 last season and finished as runner-up in Florida’s Class 7A.
9. Stephenson vs. Norland (Fla.): Norland was 8-3 (and won state titles in 2002 and 2011). Stephenson had been part of the North Gwinnett four-game event last year, but its opponent, Pine Forest Forest of Pensacola, pulled out because of a hurricane. This will be the second game of the double-header that includes M.L. King vs. Ely.
10. Lassiter at McEachern: The East Cobb vs. West Cobb doubleheader at McEachern will have Lassiter vs. McEachern and Walton vs. Hillgrove on Aug. 30. Last season, East swept West as Lassiter beat Hillgrove 37-29 and Walton beat McEachern 37-35. Then all four lost in the first round. But for Lassiter, which went 10-0 before its overtime playoff loss to Brookwood, it will be interesting to see if the QB tradition continues after the graduation of Eddie Printz (successor for Hutson Mason). The new quarterback could be Will Anderson, the transfer who set school records at Wesleyan. Meanwhile, McEachern has one of the state’s best quarterbacks in Ty Clemons, who is more the runner type. Lassiter and McEachern have played only once. Lassiter beat McEachern 20-17 in the 2011 second round.
Other observations from the 2013 schedule:
-Camden County will have a better path toward defending its title in Region 1-AAAAAA because the ’13 schedule brings Lowndes, Colquitt County and Valdosta to Kingsland. New Camden coach Welton Coffey seems to like these new rivalries after Camden played for years against overmatched Savannah teams in old Region 3. ‘’How awesome is that for our kids to have the opportunity to play such storied programs on their field,’’ Coffey said. “I was at Valdosta [as an assistant]. They’re great people. Now they have the opportunity to come to our place. We should appreciate these moments and enjoy it, man.’’
-The matchups for the Corky Kell Classic, which will be Aug. 24 at the Georgia Dome, were announced in December, but they’re worth repeating: Chattahoochee vs. Kell (9 a.m.), Peachtree Ridge vs. Walton (11:45 a.m.), Colquitt County vs. Grayson (2:30 p.m.), Camden County vs. North Gwinnet (5:30 p.m.), Brookwood vs. McEachern (8:30 p.m.).
-Only two teams in the state that are playing full varsity schedules do not have 10 games, according to the GHSA schedules. They are Windsor Forest and Bainbridge. Both had 2012 games against out-of-state opponents that they are not playing again. Both have Aug. 30 as an open date. What would it take to get you guys together?
-Two other teams involved with M.L. King in last year’s Tri-Cities double-header (Stockbridge and Tri-Cities) will now play each other on Aug. 30, while the fourth team (Washington) will play KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, which is just starting varsity football, on Aug. 31. KIPP stands for Knowledge Is Power Program. It’s a prep school established under state charter school laws.