By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Starting next week the Tuesday Class A Blog will feature our wildly popular “Divided Top 5,” where we post the top five public and top five private teams, based on the opinions of the crack staff at Class A Blog Headquarters. We’re holding off on that until next week, after every team in the state will have at least one game under its belt.
In the meantime, here is the AJC/Georgia High Football Daily Class A Top 10 after Week 1:
1. Eagle’s Landing Christian (0-0). No. 1 in the preseason poll, the Chargers had their game at Class AAA No. 5 Washington County called midway through the second quarter due to lightning. ELCA trailed 6-0 after giving up a 50-yard touchdown run. ELCA had two possessions inside the Golden Hawks’ 10-yard line but came away scoreless on each. ELCA will host Briarwood Christian, a perennial Alabama private school power, on Friday.
2. Prince Avenue Christian (1-0). No. 3 in the preseason poll, PAC beat St. Francis 54-7 in the debut of new head coach Jeff Herron, formerly of Camden County. The Wolverines host Hapeville Charter (0-0) on Friday.
3. Dooly County (0-0). No. 4 in the preseason poll, the Bobcats host Class AA Macon County on Friday. Dooly won last year’s game, 21-20. Macon County went on to finish 4-7.
4. Lincoln County (1-0). No. 5 in the preseason poll, the Red Devils beat McCormick of South Carolina 41-0. It was the 21st consecutive win for Lincoln County over McCormick, which won 11 games last season and reached the Division 2 Class A championship game in South Carolina. Lincoln County travels down the road to AA Washington-Wilkes on Sept. 6 for the 76th installment of the “Highway 378 War.”
5. George Walton Academy (0-0). No. 6 in the preseason poll, GWA will travel to Macon Friday to face First Presbyterian Day School. GWA won last season’s game 41-38.
6. Wilcox County (0-0). No. 7 in the preseason poll, the Patriots will travel to Irwinton to face rival Wilkinson County. Wilcox won last season 43-39.
7. Wilkinson County (0-0). No. 9 in the preseason poll, the Warriors will host rival Wilcox County.
8. Athens Academy (1-0). No. 10 in the preseason poll, the Spartans defeated Glascock County 41-6 on Friday. It was the 13th consecutive regular season win for Athens Academy, which will travel to Atlanta to face Pace Academy on Sept. 6.
9. Aquinas (1-0). Unranked in the preseason poll, the Irish downed AA East Laurens 52-14 and will host George Walton Academy on Sept. 6.
10. Savannah Christian (0-0-1). Unranked in the preseason poll, the Raiders tied AAAAA Jenkins 6-6 last Thursday and will host Prince Avenue Christian on Sept. 6.
Coachspeak from favorites, ELCA and Lincoln County
No coach in Georgia “sandbags” more effectively than Lincoln County’s Larry Campbell, when discussing his team, and this season is no different. However, the legendary head coach – with the most wins in Georgia history at 471 and counting – does toss out a few complementary nuggets for the 2013 version of the Red Devils.
“There were some positives,” he said Monday night of Friday’s season-opening 41-0 win over McCormick of South Carolina. “Depth will be an issue for us, and we don’t compare to those great teams we had in the 80’s and 90’s and in 2005 and 2006 (back-to-back state titles). But if we stay healthy we have a chance to do some good things.”
Campbell thinks Seminole County is the favorite on the public school side this season. The Indians finished 9-3 last season and lost 34-28 to eventual state runner-up Dooly County in the quarterfinals. Seminole County returns almost all of its starters from last season.
“I think they are the team to beat,” Campbell said. “I saw them on film last season and they were tremendous, and they have everybody coming back. They had three or four touchdowns called back against Dooly County or else they would have beaten them.”
Campbell believes defending champion Emanuel County Institute is the co-favorite with Seminole, even though the Bulldogs were upset by AA Metter on Friday, 21-20. He thinks his team is among the teams that are one notch below the favorites.
“I think we’re in there with the Charltons, the Wilcoxes, the Clinches, those traditionally strong teams,” said Campbell, who added that Johnson County could be this season’s sleeper team.
Lincoln is led by quarterback/safety LaKeith Lockhart, receiver/defensive back Jamar Norman and All-State running back Mike McIntire.
“[McIntire’s] work ethic is phenomenal,” Campbell said of the 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior who ran for nearly 1,500 yards last season, and had 148 and three touchdowns in Friday’s win. “He has amazing vision, just a great knack for finding those holes. He is one of the best we have had here.
“We have three of our five offensive linemen returning, but we don’t have any linebackers with real varsity experience,” Campbell said. “One injury could decimate us, but if we stay healthy we have a shot.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan Gess, the head coach of perennial favorite Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy said it is not fair to compare this year’s team with last season’s state championship squad, which featured five Division I signees – RB/LB Keyante Green (Purdue), DB/WR Jevious Terry (Troy), DB/WR Marquis Griffin (Air Force), DB/WR DJ Curl (Charleston Southern) and DL/TE Isaac Rochelle (Notre Dame).
“We’ve got some holes to fill but we’ve got some good kids who’ve come back. Still, you just don’t replace five Division I kids,” Gess said. “I mean, shoot, Isaac Rochelle is going to get playing time at Notre Dame this season. You can’t replace a kid like that, or a Keyonte Green (Purdue). “
Gess pointed to Friday’s game at Washington County, ranked No. 6 in AAA, which was postponed after two quarters due to lightning. The Chargers trailed 6-0 at the time, but had two possessions inside the Golden Hawks’ 10-yard line and still came away scoreless.
“With a Keyante Green, we score twice there. You just know it,” Gess said. “So we’ll have to do things differently than we did last season. We won’t be as athletic, but the kids we have work extremely hard and it’s their turn now.”
This year’s stars include quarterback Dalton Etheridge, defensive end Andrew Williams, defensive back Bryson Durden, linebacker Josh Shockley, receiver Davis Carrandi and running back Lane Timspson.
“We won’t be as dominant as we were last season and our games will be more competitive than they were,” Gess said. “But we have some talented kids like Lane Timspson who nobody knows because he spent two years behind Jonathan Taylor and then Keyante Green.”
Gess, who has always held to the one-game-at-a-time philosophy, downplays all the talk about ELCA repeating as the Class A private champs.
“When you put that kind of pressure on yourself you take the fun out of the season,” Gess said. “Our goal has always been to get better every day and be the best team we can be, not to win a state championship [or bust]. If you finish 9-3 or 10-2 and you were the best team you could be, then that’s a great year. “
Now it’s your turn. Until Thursday …