Gainesville’s state championship in 2012 removed an unwelcome title for the Red Elephants. They had won more GHSA region titles (27) without a state title than any other program.
Now that distinction now belongs to McEachern, with 15. With a 2-0 start and a top-five state rankings, the Indians are bent on fixing that. They beat No. 8 Lassiter 42-28 on Friday as Taj Griffin rushed for 154 yards and quarterback Ty Clemons rushed for 128. That’s the second straight game each has rushed for more than 100 yards.
McEachern, which started 0-2 last season, is the only Class AAAAAA team that has won its last 10 regular-season games.
Five more things we learned in AAAAAA on Friday:
- No. 1 is a treacherous place – Especially against out-of-state opponents. The preseason No. 1, Norcross, lost to Florida’s Booker T. Washington. On Friday, the next No. 1, Colquitt County, lost to Alabama’s Hoover 24-10. The Packers led 10-3 at halftime but couldn’t hold off Alabama’s reigning class 6A champions.
- Peachtree Ridge is back – The Lions were 4-6 in 2012, their first losing season since 2004. Third-year coach Mark Fleetwood has turned things around. The Ridge is 2-0 after beating Parkview, a 2012 quarterfinalist, 28-14 on Friday. Peachtree Ridge opened with a 23-17 victory over Walton. Against Parkview, it was 14-14 in the fourth quarter, but the Lions’ Travis Bowers and Nick Glass returned interceptions for touchdowns.
- Marietta is back – The Blue Devils finished 8-4 last season, their best finish since 2005 (10-2), but those who thought that was mostly the work of QB Anthony Jennings (LSU signee) must be wrong. Marietta beat Pope 63-13 on Friday. All-state LB Tyrell Tomlin, T.J. Bulock and Kadeem Wallington returned interceptions for touchdowns. Marietta beat Newnan 52-21 the previous week, avenging a loss from last season. It’s the first time Marietta has scored 50-plus points in back-to-back games since 1990, when Eric Zeier was the quarterback.
- North Gwinnett is a powerhouse: McEachern aside, North Gwinnett is perhaps the best AAAAAA program that has not won a state title. This is looking like a good year to fix that as the Bulldogs beat Grayson 35-0 on Friday. That follows a 34-14 victory over Camden County in the opener. Grayson and Camden began in the Top 10. That was Camden’s worst loss since 2005. That was Grayson’s worst loss ever.
- Valdosta can run the ball: The Wildcats’ head coach, Rance Gillespie, is known for devising offenses that set passing records. But what’s a man to do when his starter quarterback is lost for the season and he’s got two all-state caliber running backs? Malcolm Joseph made preseason all-state, rushed for 67 yards and returned a kickoff for a touchdown, and Nelson Herring rushed for 227 yards in a 28-24 victory over Thomas County Central on Friday. Herring scored on runs of 80 and 91 yards. The latter was the game-winning TD in the fourth quarter.
Special note – Congrats to Coffee’s Robbie Pruitt. He won his 300th game as a head coach on Friday in a 38-13 victory over Ware County, the Class AAAAA runner-up in 2012.