Each Monday during the regular season, GHSF Daily published “Saye It Ain’t So,” a listing of the top 10 surprises of the weekend as ranked by Chip Saye.
It is important to understand what we consider a surprising result. Upsets certainly are a major part of the list each week, but they are by no means the only thing we consider.
Sometimes a team that we believe is the favorite wins, but the final score is a surprise because the margin of victory is either much greater or much less than we thought it would be. For example, GHSF Daily and the computer Maxwell Ratings both projected Creekside to defeat Tucker in the Class AAAAA championship game. However, Creekside’s 24-point victory and 52 points scored were both surprises.
Other times, the fact that a team won at all is unusual, regardless of the opponent. Consider Jordan’s 14-13 victory over Temple on Sept. 14. Beating a team that finished 1-9 wasn’t an earth-shaking upset, but it was the Red Jackets’ first victory since 2010 and broke a 26-game losing streak. We feel that games like those are worth noting.
Some games that looked like big surprises when they happened appear much less so now that the season has played out. Think of Alexander’s 41-14 victory over Bremen on Aug. 24 that made our list the first week. Likewise, games that weren’t ranked too highly at the time are now considered bigger surprises (Parkview’s 28-21 win over Dacula on Oct. 11 was only No. 9 on our list that week but seems more of an upset now in light of Dacula’s postseason success).
With those things in mind, here are our top 10 surprises of the 2013 season.
1. Newton 15, Lowndes 14: Newton’s victory on Sept. 6 was the biggest upset of the season. Lowndes was ranked No. 7 in Class AAAAAA at the time and had beaten the Rams 31-0 the year before. Newton went on to finish 5-5 in the regular season and lost to McEachern 36-21 in the first round of the playoffs, while Lowndes finished the season 9-4 and lost to state champion Norcross in the quarterfinals. Newton and McEachern (twice) are the only non-region opponents to beat Lowndes in the regular season since the start of the 2008 season. The victory was Newton’s most shocking since beating No. 1 Griffin 3-0 in 1977.
2. Carver (Columbus) 38, B.E.S.T. Academy 32: Carver escaped with a three-overtime victory in the first round and avoided what would have been one of the biggest upsets in playoff history. Carver came into the game 9-1 and ranked fourth in Class AA. B.E.S.T. Academy, in its second full season of varsity football, was 6-4 and playing its first playoff game. B.E.S.T. trailed 20-7 with less than eight minutes to play in regulation but had two chances to win it. The Eagles scored with 47 seconds left to tie it 20-20 but had the extra-point attempt blocked. Then, after tying the game 32-32 in the second OT, the Eagles missed another extra-point attempt that would have kept Carver out of the second round for the first time since 2005. Carver was eliminated in the quarterfinals by state champion Buford.
3. B.T. Washington, Fla. 55, Norcross 0: Norcross returned 16 starters from a team that went undefeated in winning the Class AAAAAA championship in 2012, so its 55-point setback on Aug. 24 was shocking. This loss combined with another one two weeks later (36-17 to North Gwinnett) dropped the Blue Devils out of the top 10 and had many believing they were no longer championship contenders. However, Norcross rebounded with 12 consecutive victories to claim its second state championship, avenging the loss to North Gwinnett in the final. Washington went 14-0, won a state championship in Florida and finished No. 1 in the country in several national rankings.
4. Aquinas 42, Lincoln Co. 14: Aquinas’ victory on Oct. 11 wasn’t an upset, but the margin was bigger than we thought it would be and it was surprising because it broke a 32-game losing streak against Lincoln County. Aquinas had not beaten the Red Devils since 1972. It also was perhaps the pivotal moment in Aquinas’ season. This game ultimately decided the Region 7-A championship (Aquinas’ first region title in school history) and launched the Fighting Irish to their first state championship (Class A private) and undefeated season. Lincoln County finished 7-4, its most losses since 2002, and lost in the first round of the public-school playoffs.
5. Bowdon 48, Washington-Wilkes 14: Washington-Wilkes was 11-0 and ranked No. 4 in Class AA when it rolled into a second-round playoff game against a team it had beaten 66-28 in the first round in 2012. But Bowdon rushed for 300 yards in the first half, taking a 35-7 lead, in what turned out to be one of the biggest upsets of the playoffs in any class. Bowdon, the runner-up to Heard County in Region 5-AA, was eliminated the following weekend by Brooks County and finished the season 11-2. The 11 victories for both teams were the most in a season for either school since 2005.
6. Griffin 32, Sandy Creek 26: It is no sign of disrespect to Griffin that this game made the list. It’s just that Sandy Creek was the defending Class AAAA champion, had been ranked No. 1 all season and seemed certain to win its fourth state title in six years. But this loss on Nov. 29 ended the Patriots’ season in the quarterfinals at 11-1-1. It was one of just four losses Sandy Creek has suffered in that six-year stretch. Griffin beat Wayne County 25-20 in the semifinals the following week and then routed Carrollton, the Region 5-AAAA runner-up behind Sandy Creek, 56-35 on Saturday in the highest-scoring championship game in state history.
7. New Manchester 41, North Paulding 30: New Manchester’s victory on Sept. 6 was surprising at the time and seems more shocking now. The Jaguars went 2-8 in 2012 in their first varsity season and improved to 6-4 this year, but this was their only victory of the season against a team that finished with a winning record. It was the only loss of the regular season for North Paulding, which won the first region title in its six-year history and advanced to the Class AAAAA quarterfinals, losing to state champion Creekside to finish 11-2.
8. Meadowcreek 21, Habersham Central 14: Meadowcreek was just a nine-point underdog, according to the Maxwell Ratings, but its victory on Oct. 11 snapped a 53-game losing streak that was the second-longest in state history. The Mustangs got two defensive touchdowns in the first two minutes of the game and increased the lead to 21-0 in the first half. Meadowcreek hadn’t won a game since a 24-14 victory against Duluth on Sept. 5, 2008. It was Meadowcreek’s only victory of the season. Habersham Central finished 0-10 after going 1-9 in 2012, with its only win coming against the Mustangs.
9. Charlton County 42, Seminole County 0: Seminole County was 11-0, ranked No. 2 in the state and the No. 1 seed in the Class A public-school playoffs when it got blown out by ninth-seeded Charlton County, a team that went 6-4 in the regular season. Andrew Lee rushed for 169 yards in just his fifth game of the season after suffering a broken arm on the first day of practice. Charlton County led 21-0 at halftime and was never threatened. It was the first time all season that Seminole allowed more than 21 points in a game. Seminole County finished the regular season 10-0 for the second time in school history and tied the school record with 11 victories.
10. Pebblebrook 17, Southwest DeKalb 10: Southwest DeKalb opened the post-Buck Godfrey era on Aug. 30 with a loss to a Pebblebrook team that was 0-10 in 2012 and had lost 11 consecutive games. It was a sign of things to come for the Panthers, who finished 2-8 in Michael Tanks’ first season. Southwest DeKalb’s two victories came against Lakeside of Atlanta and North Atlanta, who were a combined 2-18. It was Southwest DeKalb’s worst season since 1970, when it went 1-9 during the middle of Dewey Alverson’s tenure as head coach. Pebblebrook beat Mountain View the following week but finished 3-7.
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