By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Things are beginning to get interesting as we head into Week 10, with some huge games on tap Friday. Here’s the AJC.com Class A Blog Divided Top 5 (overall AJC/Georgia High School Football Daily ranking in parenthesis), along with this week’s top 16 in the Georgia High School Association/MaxPreps Power Rankings, public and private, and a link to the full lists. As always, last week’s power ranking for each team is in parenthesis, and a list of teams that dropped out of the coveted to 16 is at the bottom of the list.
This week’s “Coach Speak” features comments from five coaches playing in big games this weekend.
1. Seminole County (3) (7-0, 3-0). Seminole County mauled Calhoun County (1-6, 0-3), 31-6 last week. Next up is a home game in Donalsonville against Randolph-Clay (3-4, 2-2).
2. Emanuel County Institute (8) (5-2, 2-0). ECI was off last week. The Bulldogs welcome undefeated No. 5 Johnson County (7-0, 2-0) to Twin City on Friday for the Region 3 – Division B title.
3. Marion County (6) (7-0, 4-0). The Eagles remained unbeaten with a 27-25 win over Dooly County (4-3, 3-1) which missed two extra point attempts. Friday Marion County travels to Columbus to take on Brookstone (4-3, 2-2).
4. Clinch County (10) (4-3, 3-0). After starting the season 1-3, the Panthers have won three straight, including a 20-13 decision over Wilcox County (2-5, 1-3) last week. Clinch County will host rival Charlton County (5-2, 3-0) in Homerville Friday in a game that will go a long way toward deciding the Region 2 champ.
5. Charlton County (NR) (5-2, 3-0). Charlton County was off last week and will play at Clinch County Friday.
Another half dozen to watch: Commerce (5-3, 3-1), Dooly County (4-3, 3-1), Irwin County (5-1-1, 2-1), No. 5 Johnson County (7-0, 2-0), Lincoln County (4-2, 3-1), Mitchell County (5-3, 4-0).
1. Marion County (1)
2. Seminole County (2)
3. Charlton County (3)
4. Johnson County (6)
5. Clinch County (4)
6. Irwin County (5)
7. Emanuel County Institute (7)
8. Commerce (8)
9. Trion (9)
10. Lincoln County (12)
11. Dooly County (11)
12. Mitchell County (14)
13. Hawkinsville (15)
14. Gordon Lee (13)
15. Claxton (10)
16. Turner County (NR)
Who Fell Out: Hancock Central (16)
1. Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (1) (6-0, 3-0). The Chargers stepped on the gas in the second half and dumped Our Lady of Mercy (2-5-2-2), 32-6 last week. Next is a visit to Locust Grove for a game against Strong Rock (2-5, 0-3).
2. Aquinas (2) (7-0, 3-0). The Irish all but wrapped up the Region 7 title last week with a convincing 43-14 win over Wilkinson County (3-4, 2-1). Aquinas travels to Warrenton for a game against winless Warren County (0-6, 0-4).
3. Prince Avenue Christian (7) (6-1, 3-0). The Wolverines dismantled Hebron Christian Academy (2-5, 1-4), 57-7, last week. PAC is off this week.
4. Landmark Christian (4) (8-0, 4-0). The War Eagles overcame a 14-10 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter and edged Pace Academy (4-3, 1-2), 17-14. Landmark is off this week.
5. Mt. Paran Christian (9) (6-1, 3-0). The Eagles blew out Fellowship Christian (4-3, 1-2), 52-21 last week, tuning up for their Region 6 – Division B showdown at home in Kennesaw with undefeated Mt. Pisgah Christian (7-0, 3-0).
Another half dozen to watch: Calvary Day (5-2, 3-0), Christian Heritage (5-2, 2-1), Darlington (6-1, 3-0), George Walton Academy (5-2, 2-1), Mt. Pisgah Christian (7-0, 3-0), St. Anne-Pacelli (6-1, 3-1).
1. Darlington (1)
2. Landmark Christian (2)
3. Mt. Pisgah Christian (3)
4. Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (4)
5. Aquinas (5)
6. Mt. Paran Christian (6)
7. Christian Heritage (7)
8. Prince Avenue Christian (8)
9. St. Anne-Pacelli (10)
10. Calvary Day School (9)
11. George Walton Academy (12)
12. Brookstone (11)
13. Our Lady of Mercy (15)
14. First Presbyterian Day (NR)
15. Pace Academy (16)
16. King’s Ridge Christian (NR)
Who Fell Out: Savannah Christian (13), Athens Academy (14)
Coach Speak: Charlton County’s Rich McWhorter, Clinch County’s Jim Dickerson, Emanuel County Institute’s Chris Kearson, Johnson County’s Don Norton and Mount Paran Christian’s Mitch Jordan talk about this week’s preparation for the big games they have on tap Friday.
McWhorter (Charlton County had its worst season since 1989, the season before McWhorter arrived in Folkston. The team has gotten back on track this season, heading into the annual battle with Clinch County.): “We have a senior group that is acting like seniors, leading us in the classroom and the weight room, and on the field. Sometimes some of your seniors don’t have their best season during their senior year. These kids are doing that.
“Our next three games – Clinch County, Telfair County and Irwin County – are huge. Clinch is such a big rival for us. Coach Dickerson and those guys do a fantastic job. They’ve always had great speed but this year all of their players can run and they fly around. Usually they have a couple of big linemen, but this year they have some guys up front that are not that big but they are fast and aggressive. I think this is the fastest team they’ve had at Clinch since I’ve been here.”
“It’s a big game and always is. It’s big for the kids and big for our communities. The atmosphere is going to be fun.”
Dickerson (Clinch County had its worst season since 1985 last year, but the Panthers have turned things around. They’ll host Clinch County Friday in a game that could decide the Region 2 champion.): “Friday will be a major step for our team, one way or the other. If we’re fortunate enough to win, it will be a big win. If we lose, that will set us back some and we’ve still got a couple of big ball games left.
“We went through one of those cycles last season. But I heard a coach say once that you’re never as good as it seems and you’re never as bad as it seems. The truth is we were young last season and we’re still young. But we have some good players and they’ve gotten better as they’ve grown up a bit.
“It’s always a big game when we play each other anyway and the region championship could ride on this one. But we can’t go into it thinking this is our season on the line. We have to finish the season and then hopefully we can get in [the playoffs]. If we can do that, I think we’ll be a dangerous team because I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet.”
Kearson (Emanuel County Institute, the defending Class A public school champs, started out 0-2 but has reeled off five in a row. The Bulldogs host Johnson County Friday in what amounts to the Region 3 –Division B title game.): “We made our schedule challenging at the beginning of the year to help us see what we had. Sometimes a loss is not always bad because it can expose where you need to get better.
“Our kids have played with great effort this season. We may get out schemed or out athlete-ed on a play, but not out hustled. Some kids have really had to step up because of all the injuries we’ve had. [Injuries] are part of the game and everybody has to deal with them, but this year we’ve had four ACL’s and a high ankle sprain. That has been tough to overcome, but I think our kids have benefited from last season. When you play so many playoff games it gives your team more reps in games and in practice.
“This will be a big game for both of us. It would be even if both us were 0-7. Coach [Don] Norton has done such a great job over there. Dealing with all the speed they have will be a challenge for us. It’s hard to simulate that in practice so it may take us a quarter or so to get used to their speed.”
Norton (Johnson County went 7-3 last season but missed making it into the top 16 public schools by tenths of points. The Trojans have lost eight of the last 10 meetings with ECI, including last season when the Bulldogs prevailed 40-0.) “We’re trying to treat this as just a regular game because the kids already know it’s a big game. No need for us to spend any time talking about it. As a coach you have to make sure a game like this doesn’t impact you too much one way or the other. A lot of it depends on the personality of your team and knowing what motivates them.
“We have a good group of seniors who like each other and pull for each other, and that means a lot for your team chemistry.”
Jordan (Mt. Paran fell just short of winning a region title in 2011, before taking a step back last season when the Eagles finished 3-7. This year Mt. Paran is again on the cusp of winning the program’s first region crown.): “We’re glad to be at this point. We talked about us being here in this position with [Mt. Pisgah] at 7-0. They’ve done a tremendous job over there and we have a lot of respect for them and the job Coach [Mike] Forester has done. We know they’ll be well prepared and will play hard. It’s going to be perfect football weather, just a great atmosphere for high school football. We’re expecting a big crowd. It should be a lot of fun.
“We still have a game against one of our main rivals, Walker, next week, so win or lose [this week] it won’t be hard getting our kids focused on a rivalry game. The kids have worked hard and put themselves in a good position to make it to the post season. But we know we still have to take things one game at a time.”
Forester (Mt. Pisgah is 7-0 for the first time in school history. Some had described Friday’s game against Mt. Paran as the biggest in the program’s history.): ”Our kids are excited. They’ve done a good job of taking things one game at a time. This is a big moment for us but I really haven’t thought about it [being the biggest game in program history]. We’re focused on getting ready to play a really good football team in Mt. Paran.”