By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Here is a six-pack of big games in just the third week of the regular season:
No. 1 Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (1-0) at Clinch County (1-1). This will be a great early season barometer for both teams. Last season ELCA thumped the Panthers 47-20 in a game that wasn’t nearly that close. The Chargers led by five touchdowns at the half. That game was two years removed from an epic battle between the two in the 2010 state quarterfinals, which was won by Clinch County, the eventual Class A state champs, 34-27. Now comes the rubber match between the two. ELCA, the defending Class A private school champion, is coming off a 27-7 win over Alabama private school power Briarwood Christian last week and is led by senior dual-threat quarterback Dalton Etheridge. Clinch County looks like it might be back on course after one of its worst seasons ever last year. The Panthers competed well two weeks ago in a 26-14 loss to Class AA No. 5 Brooks County, and downed Mitchell County last week, 22-14.
Last year: ELCA 47, Clinch County 20
No. 2 Prince Avenue Christian (2-0) at Savannah Christian (0-0-1). PAC established itself as one of the elite Class A programs last season, marching to the Class A private school title game before running into ELCA. Head coach Mark Farriba, who was 31-8 in his final three seasons as the Wolverines’ head coach, left to return to his hometown of Macon to coach Stratford Academy of the Georgia Independent Schools Association. But Jeff Herron, architect of one of the state’s top programs, Camden County, has stepped in to lead a talented group of returning players, led by LB Christian Payne. North Oconee transfer RB Zantravious Shields has added another weapon to PAC’s arsenal. Meanwhile Savannah Christian is looking to return to its championship form of 2011 through its defense, which is led by linebackers Ahmad Johnson, JaVon Green and Nick Bateman, along with DB Wade Benton.
Last year: PAC 28, Savannah Christian 12
No. 3 Lincoln County (1-0) at No. 9 Washington-Wilkes (1-0). It’s the 76th edition of the Highway 378 War. Lincoln County leads the series 37-32-6 and has dominated recently winning eight of the last 10 matchups. But the Tigers won last year’s game 21-6, their first victory in the series since 2006.
Last year: Washington-Wilkes 21, Lincoln County 6
No. 4 George Walton Academy (1-0) at No. 7 Aquinas (1-0). In one of the biggest early-season games in any classification, GWA is considered one of the top challengers to a repeat by ELCA. The Bulldogs are led by preseason all-state RB Stanley Williams, who has committed to Kentucky. Aquinas does not appear to be suffering a letdown after the departure of all-state LB/RB Brendan Douglas (now at UGA) and former head coach Matt LaZotte.
Last year: Aquinas 28, GWA 21 (OT)
No. 10 Wilkinson County (0-1) at Landmark Christian (2-0). The Warriors will look to bounce back from a 41-32 loss to rival Wilcox County last week, a game in which they outgained the Patriots 303-242, most of it coming from RB Shaq Underwood (17 carries for 142 yards). Despite the transfer of all-state RB Jeremiah Kirkland (Lovejoy) and a young lineup, Landmark Christian is looking to go 3-0. The War Eagles are led this season by LB Williams Higbie, DB/RB Nolan Bryant, RB Darius Smith, all seniors, and sophomore QB Stockton McGuire.
Last year: Wilkinson County 41, Landmark 10
Charlton County (1-0) at Ware County (0-1). Charlton County is another longtime power looking to get back on track after a subpar (5-6) season in 2012. The Indians will look to avenge a 31-0 thrashing at the hands of Ware County last season. The Gators went on to advance to the Class AAAAA title game.
Last year: Ware County 31, Charlton County 0
And here’s three more for good measure:
No. 6 Athens Academy (1-0) at Pace Academy (1-0)
Last year: Athens Academy 42, Pace 7
No. 8 Seminole County (1-0) at Turner County (0-1)
Last year: Seminole County 34, Turner County 32
Dooly County (0-1) at Americus-Sumter (0-1)
Last year: Dooly County 21, Americus-Sumter 12
Now it’s your turn. Until Saturday …