Class A Blog: ELCA’s Gess, Lincoln County’s Campbell discuss prospects for their teams this season

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 …

25 comments Add your comment

bucket

August 27th, 2013
12:08 pm

I have always loved reading the “coach speak” from the head coaches of teams that are really good. I would imagine Lincoln Co and ELCA will be heavily involved in deciding the eventual champions in Single A this year. Looking at the united poll makes me sick because every real competitor wants to know how they stack up against the best private and public schools. Prince just arrived on the scene of GHSA football and only got to play Washington Wilkes, Charlton, and Bremen just one time before the split occurred. I realize there were problems in the system and it was probably only going to get worse, but I just wish they would have tried to address the problems more aggressively before pulling the trigger on the division.

Swamp Lizard

August 27th, 2013
12:09 pm

STC ….. ELCA will play at home this week against Briarwood Academy ( in McDonough ).

S. Thomas Coleman

August 27th, 2013
12:16 pm

Swamp:

The correction has been made. Thanks!

STC

S. Thomas Coleman

August 27th, 2013
12:24 pm

Bucket:

In all honesty, coming up with a system that would have kept the publics and privates together would have been, and continues to be, very difficult. Some of the publics like the idea of using the 1.5 multiplier, but some private schools argue that would bump them up into being one of the smaller schools in AA and put them at a competitive disadvantage.

It will be interesting to see what happens this spring when it is time to realign the regions.

STC

Swamp Lizard

August 27th, 2013
12:30 pm

I’m just excited about kicking off the football season! Looking forward to seeing how the Class A season plays out ….. like what teams comes out of nowhere ( Walker last year ), to see if teams like OLM & First Presbyterian turn the corner and make a strong playoff runs, to see if Clinch Co can get it back together after a rough season last year, to see who makes the playoffs and what “seed” they will be. This time of year, the start of football season, is exciting for all of us ….. the teams, coaches, players, & fans ! Can’t wait til Friday night !! Wish your team the best this week.

Cold Hard Facts

August 27th, 2013
1:52 pm

@STC, that’s the first I have heard of region realignment. Can you share a little more of what is going to happen? Who determines the alignment?

bucket

August 27th, 2013
2:03 pm

@ Cold Hard – I think STC is referring to the normal cycle of realignment that happens every 2 years in the GHSA. Every two years it is decided what teams are moving up or down and what the regions will look like for the next 2 years. I assume the split in Single A will have to be reauthorized during that time as well.

bucket

August 27th, 2013
2:16 pm

@ STC – you are correct in your assessment of the situation and I have been conflicted on the issue of the split at times. I am from a county that has had to consistently play up in AAA even though they really belong in AA. My home county has about 20,000 people and yet they have to play in the same division with Buford and that drives me nuts! Private schools do have an advantage over rural counties in that they can draw students from across county lines and school zones. I just wish they would have tried the multiplier or something akin to that before pulling the trigger on the split.

Cold Hard Facts

August 27th, 2013
2:40 pm

@ bucket-Thanks for the info. Does that mean that a strong team like ELCA could move up? Is that something they would petition to do or does GHSA have influence over what teams move up or down? Just trying to understand the system/process.

S. Thomas Coleman

August 27th, 2013
3:46 pm

Bucket:

I believe the only measure that could even come close to some sort of middle ground between the two sides would be an artificial attendance zone for private schools made up of some sort of agreed upon radius: 25 miles? 30? 50? 100?

The distance/circumference of the radius would be the next big argument.

STC

S. Thomas Coleman

August 27th, 2013
4:04 pm

Cold Hard Facts:

Bucket correctly told you about the realignment schedule. Every two years, the GHSA re-assesses the size of each school in its membership. The goal is to have schools of like size, public or private (except in the case of Class A, compete against each other.

After enrollment data for each school is collected, an attempt is made to have roughly the same number of schools in each classification. That is how the cut off number for each classification is determined.

So for your question about ELCA moving up, if their high school enrollment puts them over the limit (usually, it’s 500 for Class A), then they must move up into Class AA.

A team may petition to play up in class — Marist has done it for years as did schools in the Savannah-Chatham School System, where it was done in order to cut down on the distance those schools would need to travel to find opponents in their class (the schools nearby were in a higher classification).

As for ELCA, I do know that the topic of playing up has been discussed but not all that seriously. All of the sports and coaches at the school would need to be on board. And while football and baseball might like the idea, one of the other teams/coaches may not.

Thanks for reading and posting!

STC

bucket

August 27th, 2013
4:05 pm

@ Cold Hard – I’m pretty sure the public school classifications are all pretty much set by how many students attend the high school. I’m also pretty sure that you are correct and a private school (like ELCA or others) would have to petition or request to be placed in a high classification as long as their high school numbers do not exceed a certain number. Most of the private schools in Single A that I am aware of might be bumping 1,000 total kids, but that would be K-12 and not just high schoolers. Marist has played up for years at their request, but even if they didn’t they would be higher than Single A based on their attendance numbers.

@ STC – the artificial attendance is very interesting. I wonder how much discussion that idea got before they just voted to split and if it has a chance to be brought up again. I guess I just need to enjoy the season under the current system because nothing is going to change before December!

bucket

August 27th, 2013
4:06 pm

@ Cold Hard – nevermind! STC is on the ball!

S. Thomas Coleman

August 28th, 2013
5:54 am

Bucket:

Thanks! I know that the “artificial attendance zone” was at least discussed. Larry Campbell of Lincoln County is a big fan of it. But by then the momentum for “split or bust” on the part of many of the public schools had swelled to the point of no return. So to “preserve the union,” (i.e., keep the public schools from leaving the GHSA), the Executive Committee voted overwhelmingly for the split.

I’m not sure how people feel now. I do know that many public school coaches in the “non-revenue” sports that have been dominated by privates (tennis, cross country, etc.) like the fact that their chances of winning a state title are greatly improved with the split. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

But right now it’s football season!! The most wonderful time of the year!

STC

Cold Hard Facts

August 28th, 2013
7:18 am

@STC and Bucket-Great information guys! And you are right….no need to worry over things we can’t change….IT IS FOOTBALL SEASON! WE LOVE FRIDAY NIGHTS!

Class A Wizard

August 28th, 2013
7:52 am

@ STC – Lincoln County and Washington-Wilkes are located on highway “378,” not “314.”

S. Thomas Coleman

August 28th, 2013
8:43 am

Class A Wiz:

Thanks for catching the typo! It’s been corrected.

And here’s a great history on the Lincoln County vs. Washington-Wilkes rivalry: http://www.reddevils.us/pages/dspPage1.php?qpageid=378war

STC

S. Thomas Coleman

August 28th, 2013
8:46 am

Cold Hard Facts:

Amen!

STC

MillerMan 81

August 28th, 2013
11:22 am

Hello STC, you have any information on the region 4 teams? My Pirates open with region 4’s Schley County this Friday.

Cold Hard Facts

August 28th, 2013
2:25 pm

@Swamp Lizard,
What can you tell us about Andrew Williams? Is he better that Rochelle? Where can we find his stats: tackles, sacks, etc. I heard he had 40 offers?

Swamp Lizard

August 29th, 2013
6:49 am

@ Cold Hard Facts …. I hate to say one is better than the other. BOTH are special young men. I think Andrew Williams can be just as good as Issac Rochelle ….. I hear Issac is running 2nd team at Notre Dame as a true freshman. You have to remember that Issac had Andrew at the other DE postion … that really freed him up when you have two “stud” DE’s. 247sports has Andrew listed at 6′4″ 250 lbs & 4.7 40 ….. I’d say that’s very accurate. It is true about having over 40 offers ….. he is the real deal. He also comes from a football family ….. brother is a key palyer for the GT “D”. Again, both of these young men are smart and come from great families. I’m proud of both of them like they were my own.

Cold Hard Facts

August 29th, 2013
8:45 am

@swamp lizard….thanks for the details..We look forward to playing you guys later in the season. hopefully both teams will be undefeated when we meet!

Swamp Lizard

August 29th, 2013
11:35 am

@ Cold Hard Facts …. who’s your team? Look for forward to meeting you.

S. Thomas Coleman

August 29th, 2013
12:26 pm

MillerMan81:

Region 4 doesn’t get as much attention as it should (maybe that’s partly my fault, too). Dooly County, Marion County, Brookstone, and Greenville are always solid, and this year look for Hawkinsville to get back to its traditional level of quality. They have 8 starters back on both sides of the ball. As for Schley, they look like they are getting better under Coach Kemp. It looks like they played you guys tough last season. I’d look for a good game on Friday.

Thanks for reading and posting.

STC

Walker Fan

August 29th, 2013
1:01 pm

STC…with that said about Region 4, I am looking forward to some good old fashioned Region 6 (A and B) bashing (in 3 or 4 weeks)…it is loads of fun…next year I hear the GHSA is talking about forming Class 1/2A (based on football quality)…look for region 6 teams to pretty much make up the whole classification.

Come on guys…I am trying to get this board livened up. This is way too slow, boring, and nice. We need some region bashing, we need some recruiting allegations, we need some call-outs for home cooking…we need some fun!!!