It’s been 21 years since a Georgia team won one of those mythical national championships. That was Valdosta in 1992, winners of that title from the National Sports News Service and the National Prep Poll.
This season, a couple of Georgia teams have a pretty good opportunity – Norcross and Sandy Creek. Both have top-five national rankings.
Since this is the Class AAAAAA blog, let’s talk about Norcross today.
The Blue Devils are playing at home Saturday at 7 p.m. against Booker T. Washington of Miami in what is easily the national game of the week. It will be televised by ESPN, which also will broadcast the South Gwinnett-Lincoln (Fla.) game that precedes it at Norcross.
Washington is ranked No. 1 by USA Today. Norcross is ranked in the top six of several national rankings.
I talked with Norcross coach Keith Maloof on Monday. Here is what he had to say.
The Washington game: ‘’This game, as big as it is, it’s really no indication of whether we’ll repeat of not. It’s a game for fans and national exposure, things that a lot of people thrive on, but for us, it’s a barometer of where we are. Can we compete at a high level like we think we can? Can we handle the media, the pressure? Last year’s team did a great job of managing success, but we’ve got to create our own identity with this group. This is a great way to start.’’
Washington: ‘’They’re fast at every position on offense. They’ve got people who are 4.4, 4.3 (in the 40) at every position (excluding linemen). Most teams you line up against have one or two. This group has four or five that are that fast. On defense, they’re really big. They have a 6-5 defensive end like we do. They’ve got another one that is 6-4. The linebackers are very active. They have three or four who are committed to Miami. The challenge for us is we’ve got to have people we can match up with them. The key is making tackles in open space. We have to create pressure (on the QB) and give ourselves a chance.’’
On a national title run: ‘’It would be fun for the community and for the school, but in reality, we don’t have control over that. We don’t have a playoff system. We could go 15-0 and end up No. 16 in a national poll like last year. What we do have control over is what we do in our region and the state of Georgia. It so happens that if we play really good this weekend and do it the rest of year, we have a chance. But right now, it’s one game at a time.’’
On having a marquee opening game: “It’s definitely a motivator in the summer. It’s like opening up in the Georgia Dome. It’s ESPN, a national event, not a local event. They work and prepare hard because they don’t want to get on national TV and not be in condition and not be ready.’’
Other notes — Norcross has 11 seniors who are rated two stars or better by Rivals.com. DE Lorenzo Carter, LB Kevin Mouhon and ATH Myles Autry are rated four stars or better. Miami has seven two stars or better and three four stars. Committed to Miami are DE Chad Thomas, DE Demetrius Jackson and DB Nigel Bethel. … Maloof said that Autry, who is one of the state’s top receivers and returners, will play. He missed Norcross’ scrimmage as a precaution because of off-season knee surgery.
In other news, Loren Maxwell of Maxwell Ratings fame has sent me his projected margins of victory for the week. It doesn’t include games vs. out-of-state opponents because he doesn’t have historical scores nationally.
But here they are for other AAAAAA games this week -
Campbell (-28) Morrow
Coffee (-1) Whitewater
Hillgrove (-26) Westlake
Newnan (-1) Marietta
Brunswick (-9) Wayne County
Grayson (-5) Colquitt County
McEachern (-2) Brookwood
North Gwinnett (-3) Camden County
Walton (-5) Peachtree Ridge
That’s a lot of close games. They projections are based on historical scores. Not computed are Grayson’s 21 starters that graduated.