High School Sports

Can Georgia high school football get any hotter?

Running back Shelton Horton and the Houston County Bears started the 2016 high school football season with a win at Five Star Stadium over Mary Persons.
Running back Shelton Horton and the Houston County Bears started the 2016 high school football season with a win at Five Star Stadium over Mary Persons. bcabell@macon.com

As many things as have happened in Georgia high school football in 2016, it’s hard to believe that the regular season is halfway to being complete.

It all started on a hot August Thursday night at Five Star Stadium, where nearly 10,000 fans and a regional cable television audience took in a quality doubleheader that included the season debut of big-time quarterback prospect Jake Fromm, who was playing in his first game after switching his commitment from Alabama to Georgia.

The Houston County quarterback, as expected, is on pace to set the state career passing yardage record.

There have been many more highlights. Houston County and Northside are first and second in Class 6A heading into the back side of the season. Peach County, in the midst of a tragic crash that killed one of its players, is still winning a bunch of football games. Southwest broke Westside’s stranglehold on Bibb County public school football. Central is 5-0 for the first time in 35 years. And Macon’s private schools are a combined 13-3 heading into Region 7A-1 play.

This is midseason report week, the week in which The Telegraph looks back at the first six weeks of the season and takes a peek at what’s ahead. For a moment, let’s look at the big picture and see what’s happening statewide by way of the Georgia Sports Writers Association rankings. Remember that the GHSA added a class at the high end of the enrollment scale, expanding to eight sets of playoffs in seven classes, and expanded each of the Class 1A playoff brackets from 16 to 24 teams.

Class 7A: The biggest surprise in Class 7A was Colquitt County’s slow 0-4 start that included losses to top-ranked Mill Creek and No. 2 Roswell. Grayson, which made all sorts of waves during the offseason with a slew of transfers into the program, is third, with its only loss coming to Florida’s IMG Academy.

Class 6A: Yes, there’s every reason to be excited about football in the International City with the Bears and Eagles ranked 1-2. But Region 1-6A is absolutely packed, with Lee County ranked fifth and Valdosta ranked seventh. There’s only one loss between those four teams (Colquitt County beat Valdosta), and unranked Coffee is 3-2. Dalton is ranked third, but the Catamounts won’t face Houston County or Northside until at least the quarterfinals.

Class 5A: Stockbridge, the team that knocked Houston County out of the playoffs two years ago in the quarterfinals, tops the poll, with stalwarts Buford and Carrollton coming in at second and third. The three teams from Middle Georgia in this classification (Jones County, Veterans and Warner Robins) are at .500 or below.

Class 4A: Top-ranked Cartersville, last year’s Class 4A champion, has extended its winning streak to 20 games and its regular-season winning streak to 23 with a 5-0 start. Thomson and Woodward Academy follow. Mary Persons (3-2) is eighth, with quality losses to Houston County and Peach County.

Class 3A: Most Atlanta-area private schools that didn’t fit in Class 1A moved up to Class 3A for this classification cycle, and the dominance is showing. Three of the top five teams are private schools. Top-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian is 4-0 in Georgia, with its only loss coming on a trip to Colorado, with last year’s Class 2A champion, Pace Academy, in third and Wesleyan in fifth. The interlopers? No. 2 Liberty County, which is off to a 4-0 start, and No. 4 Peach County, whose only blemish comes to Houston County in the Trojans’ season opener. Central is ranked 10th.

Class 2A: With the exception of Benedictine, this is a class rich in public schools. But second-ranked Benedictine is off to a 5-0 start and is seemingly on track for a showdown with top-ranked Fitzgerald, a team averaging 52 points a game. Dublin is ranked eighth.

Class 1A public: Clinch County (fourth) and ECI (fifth) are the top-ranked teams in the sports writers’ combined Class 1A poll. Those rankings, however, do not match the GHSA power ratings, which have McIntosh County Academy and Twiggs County listed 1-2 (neither are ranked by the writers). Macon County is ranked sixth by the writers and fourth by the power ratings.

Class 1A private: Like Class 1A public, the writers and the power ratings do not agree on the top-ranked teams. The writers have Eagle’s Landing Christian, Wesleyan and Prince Avenue Christian in the top three, while the power ratings have FPD, Darlington and Landmark Christian. There are still 16 unbeaten teams in Class 1A — nine private and seven public.