By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Here’s the AJC.com Class A Blog Divided Top 5 after the sixth week of the season (overall AJC/Georgia High School Football Daily ranking in parenthesis). While some teams are already half way through their regular season schedules, we’ll wait until next week – when everyone will have played at least five games – to link to the GHSA/MaxPreps Power Ranking site.
This week’s “Coachspeak” features Johnson County’s Don Norton, who has the Trojans rolling at 5-0.
1. Seminole County (4). Seminole County (4-0) was idle last week, and will begin Region 1 play on the road in Dawson on Friday against Terrell County (3-2, 1-0).
2. Johnson County (5). The Trojans (5-0) went to Savannah last week and out-physicalled one of the traditionally most physical teams in the state, No. 6 Savannah Christian (2-1-1), 14-7. JoCo will take a week off before welcoming Montgomery County (1-4) to Wrightsville on Oct. 11 in the sub region opener for the Trojans.
3. Irwin County (8). Irwin County (3-0-1) was off last week and will travel to McRae for its Region 2 opener at Telfair County (3-2, 0-1) on Friday.
4. Marion County (9). The Eagles blasted Greenville (0-4, 0-1) 35-8 last week. Marion County will visit Ellaville to face another winless Region 4 foe, Schley County (0-4, 0-1), on Friday.
5. Lincoln County (10). The Red Devils (2-1, 1-0) thwarted a two-point conversion run in the game’s final minutes to earn a 21-20 win over First Presbyterian Day (1-3, 0-1) last week. Lincoln County, which has a handful of key players nursing injuries, will host winless Warren County (0-4, 0-2) on Friday in Lincolnton.
Another half dozen to watch: Charlton County (3-2, 1-0), Clinch County (2-3, 1-0), Commerce (3-2, 1-0), Gordon Lee (3-1), Hancock Central (3-1, 1-0), Turner County (3-2, 1-0).
1. Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (1). ELCA (4-0, 1-0) fought off an early challenge from Holy Innocents (2-3, 0-1) last week to win going away 34-14 in the Region 5 opener for both teams. The Chargers will take their final bye week of the season on Friday, before traveling to Mt. Vernon Presbyterian (1-4, 0-1) Saturday, Oct. 12.
2. Aquinas (3). The Irish (4-0, 1-0) routed Twiggs County (0-5, 0-1) 52-21 in the Region 7 opener for both teams. Aquinas will visit Hancock Central (3-1, 1-0) in Sparta on Friday for a key region contest.
3. Prince Avenue Christian (7). The Wolverines raced to a 43-0 halftime lead en route to a 50-10 demolition of Athens Christian (2-3, 0-1) last week. PAC (4-1, 1-0) will face another Athens-based rival, Athens Academy (3-1, 1-0), on Friday.
4. Landmark Christian School (2). The War Eagles (5-0, 1-0) dominated Mt. Vernon Presbyterian (1-4, 0-1) 56-19 last week, and will host rival Our Lady of Mercy (1-3, 1-0) Friday in Fairburn.
5. Savannah Christian (6)/Mount Paran Christian (NR). Another tie in the fifth and final spot on the list. Savannah Christian (2-1-1) lost a close one at home last week to No. 5 Johnson County (5-0). The Raiders will try to rebound at home against Claxton (2-2) Friday. Mt. Paran (3-1) took last week off and will open Region 6B play at home on Friday when King’s Ridge Christian (2-2, 1-0) comes to Kennesaw.
Another half dozen to watch: Christian Heritage (4-1, 1-0), Darlington (4-1, 1-0), George Walton Academy (3-2, 0-1), Mount Pisgah (4-0), St. Anne-Pacelli (4-0, 1-0), Walker (3-1, 1-0).
Coachspeak: Johnson County’s Don Norton
Quietly, unassumingly in a place as rich in high school football tradition as there is in Georgia, Don Norton is guiding one of the most consistent programs in the state, the Johnson County Trojans.
This season, “JoCo” is 5-0 and ranked No. 5 in the AJC/Georgia High School Football Daily Class A Top 10. The Trojans are taking this week off after outmuscling No. 6 Savannah Christian, 14-7, last week in Savannah. But this success isn’t all that new to Wrightsville, where Herschel Walker (for some reason, the stadium is named after him) led JoCo to its lone state title in 1979. The Trojans’ record under Norton, in his seventh season, is 53-17 with four playoff appearances.
The winning formula is as simple as it gets, and Norton and his team are following it again this season.
“They key is that we’re blocking and tackling pretty well,” Norton said. And when asked in what areas the Trojans need to improve, Norton said, “Our blocking and tackling.
“It sounds really simple, but that’s all football really comes down to,” Norton said, “blocking and tackling.”
Additionally, Norton said the 14 seniors on this year’s team have provided exceptional leadership.
“This group of seniors has really stepped up not only on the field, but more importantly, in the classroom and in the locker room,” said Norton, who declined to single any of them out “because I might forget one of them and all of them have really been great leaders for us.”
The other important factor this season has been Norton’s philosophy of taking one game at a time, which has permeated his team. That way of thinking does not disappear this week, even though the Trojans have a bye week and then two games in which they will be heavily favored – against Montgomery County (1-4) and Treutlen (2-2) – before a showdown at defending Class A public champion Emanuel County Institute (3-2) on Oct. 25.
“Right now we’re concentrating on ‘Open County,’ ” Norton quipped. “That is all that is in front of us now, so that’s all we can control. We’ll focus on next week, next week. “
Now it’s your turn, Class A Blog heads. What say you? Until Thursday …