Life University’s Friday Night Football 2016

Scores Around GA:

HS-Football-Game-of-Week-imageGHSA State Championship Tournament Preview:

by Chris Mooneyham

What an amazing 2016 championship season we will see across the Empire State of the South. One class has as many as eight potential champions (6A), one has a clear-cut front runner (1A Private) and the rest have a reasonable list of three to five contenders.

This reminder, the Dickey family of stations will feature state championship coverage again this year. Games can be heard on a mixture of The Fan 680/93.7FM, 1230 The Fan 2 and 1340 The Fan 3. As of publication of this piece, the official number of live games to be covered was still being scheduled, but at the very least we should expect four championship games to be live on December 9-10.

Finally, before we jump into the preview, it is the broadcaster credo to not predict winners of games or champions if you have the potential of covering said teams or games. It’s part of the drawback of being a play-by-play man or color analyst. So, we will give you a general idea of the favorites to watch for come early December, without predicting champions.

In the 7A classification, it so often comes down to the randomness of the brackets. Roswell must be considered the favorite to win it all, even if slightly. Grayson and Colquitt County have finally put it together and could be state champions. However, one will not even reach the semifinals as the two were placed in the same quad of the bracket and are destined to meet each other in the state quarterfinals. The winner would be a favorite to reach the state title game. In that same vain, expect Mill Creek versus McEachern and Norcross to meet Lowndes in the Elite Eight.

Never, in my 20-plus years of covering Georgia high school football, can I remember so many teams having a real shot at winning an upper classification state championship. Of course, it has been this way all year in the 6A classification. If any of Valdosta, Mays, Dalton, Tucker, Northside-Warner Robins, or Lee County won the state title, I would not be surprised. Also, if they play to their capabilities, Glynn Academy, Alexander, Northgate or Harrison could make a run. The most entertaining state playoff bracket will be here in 6A.

5A is like 6A in that there is balance and a solid list of contenders, although it is shorter. Stockbridge and Buford are in the first tier of contenders and should be considered the leaders to meet each other in the title game. Tier two would consist of Carrollton, Rome, Kell, Grady, Griffin, Woodland-Stockbridge and Ware County. In fact, watch out for Ware County to surprise some and make a run to the semifinals.

The impartial observer around the state is salivating at the potential of Cartersville versus Thomson in the 4A state finals. That should be the favored matchup. However, Jefferson’s high powered offense, Cairo and Mary Persons suffocating defenses, and Woodward Academy’s athleticism will have something to say about creating the unexpected.

Don’t expect many upsets deep into the 3A state championship bracket. In fact, by pure coincidence, the way the bracket lays out this year, we could get the eight best teams in the class all advancing to the state quarterfinals. Greater Atlanta Christian, Westminster, Cedar Grove, Peach County, Crisp County, Liberty County, Calhoun, and Jackson could make for the most exciting Elite Eight in the state this year.

2A could be all about Benedictine and Fitzgerald. If number one meets number two it will be one of the most highly anticipated championship game in the bottom four classes. The rest of the contending field is broken into two other groups. Callaway, Rabun County, Screven County and Jefferson County have the makeup to be state semifinalists. With a few upsets, Vidalia, Pepperell or Brooks County could crash the party.

Macon County has not played a game versus a 1A opponent this year closer than 34-points. The Bulldogs two losses came to Fitzgerald of 2A and Northside-Warner Robins of 6A; and each is a state championship favorite in their respective classification. Single A Public was deep in regards to quality teams with the potential to win a playoff game; but, there is a very short list of teams that are next level. Clinch County, Emanuel County Institute, Commerce, or Mount Zion-Carroll may be able to take down Macon County. Still, many thought the same about a top five ranked Manchester club headed into last week; and the Bulldogs beat the Blue Devils 55-13.

Single A Private now appears to be Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, and everyone else. In the season finale, the Chargers defeated a number two team in the state for the second time this year, when they beat Landmark Christian 49-0. That isn’t to say they cannot be beaten, obviously. On our airwaves in September, Wesleyan had a very good shot at taking down the defending state champions. Yet, the boys from the Southside are heavy favorites. Prince Avenue Christian, Fellowship Christian, Mount Paran Christian, Tattnall Square, Calvary Day, Darlington and Stratford Academy make up a very strong field of semifinal contenders.

This week, 240 teams from across the state will begin down the road toward a state championship and the Georgia Dome; and it will be magic.

For our entire crew of Life University’s 680 The Fan Friday Night football, I say thank you for joining us for another great season of Georgia high school football. We will talk to you next from “The Big Dome in Atlanta” on December 9-10.

Below you will find our final rankings of 2016.

  Class 7A

7A Top 10

  1. Roswell (10-0)
  2. Grayson (9-1)
  3. Mill Creek (10-0)
  4. Norcross (10-0)
  5. Colquitt County (6-4)
  6. McEachern (9-1)
  7. Lowndes (8-2)
  8. North Cobb (8-2)
  9. South Gwinnett (7-3)
  10. Brookwood (7-3)

News: Class 7A

Honorable Mention: Parkview (7-3), South Forsyth (7-3), West Forsyth (7-3), Westlake (7-3), Mountain View (8-2)

Roswell squeaks by Cherokee to win back-to-back region championships for the first time since the 1970s. The Hornets, alongside a list of probably four other teams, are the favorites for the state title. Grayson and McEachern also clinch titles. In fact, six region champions make up our top six; which isn’t as common as you may think. Finally, as the season was winding down it was becoming more clear there would be a log jam for the honorable mention. Just beyond the honorable mention: Newton, East Coweta, North Paulding and Lambert.

  Class 6A

6A Top 10

  1. Valdosta (9-1)
  2. Mays (9-1)
  3. Dalton (10-0)
  4. Tucker (9-1)
  5. Northside, Warner Robins (8-2)
  6. Alexander (9-1)
  7. Harrison (9-1)
  8. Lee County (7-2)
  9. Glynn Academy (9-1)
  10. Northgate (8-2)

News: Class 6A

Honorable Mention: Hughes (7-3), Lanier (7-3), Coffee (5-5), Houston County (7-3), Allatoona (5-5)

Valdosta solidified their number one ranking by holding off a desperate Houston County team. The Wildcats are on the longest list of championship contenders in any classification. At the start of the season, we speculated as many as ten teams had a chance to win the state title. We will pat ourselves on the back and admit it may not be that long, but its close. Just beyond the honorable mention: Lovejoy, Stephenson, Douglas County and Sequoyah.

  Class 5A

5A Top 10

  1. Stockbridge (10-0)
  2. Buford (9-1)
  3. Carrollton (9-1)
  4. Rome (8-2)
  5. Kell (8-2)
  6. Ware County (6-3)
  7. Grady (9-1)
  8. Griffin (9-1)
  9. Woodland, Stockbridge (8-2)
  10. Loganville (8-2)

News: Class 5A

Honorable Mention: Thomas County Central (7-3), Arabia Mountain (8-2), Whitewater (8-2), Carver, Atlanta (8-2), Jones County (6-4)

In the end, we had to leave Stockbridge as the number one ranked squad. The Tigers played seven teams with a .500 record or above; and five playoff teams. Buford ended just a step behind in each category. Now, if the two meet for the state title, Buford would most likely be a slight favorite, but Stockbridge, above anyone else, has the best shot at defeating the dynasty. Just beyond the honorable mention: Clarke Central, Starr’s Mill, Riverdale. Ola, Locust Grove and SW DeKalb.

  Class 4A

4A Top 10

  1. Cartersville (10-0)
  2. Thomson (10-0)
  3. Woodward Academy (9-1)
  4. Jefferson (9-1)
  5. Mary Persons (8-2)
  6. Cairo (9-1)
  7. Blessed Trinity (8-2)
  8. Stephens County (8-2)
  9. Sandy Creek (7-3)
  10. Oconee County (7-3)

News: Class 4A

Honorable Mention: Marist (7-3), Troup (8-2), Eastside (7-2-1), Burke County (8-2), Ridgeland (8-1)

The regular season in the 4A classification for 2016 will be remembered for the separation of the top four teams in our rankings; and they are the championship favorites. Thomson joined the collection via perhaps the best run game in the state. While Woodward and Jefferson could be state champs, Cartersville and Thomson are the favorites. One of the deepest collection of honorable mention teams was in this classification. Just beyond honorable mention: West Laurens, Spalding, NW Whitfield, Carver-Columbus, and Upson-Lee.

  Class 3A

3A Top 10

  1. Greater Atlanta Christian (9-1)
  2. Westminster (8-2)
  3. Cedar Grove (8-2)
  4. Peach County (9-1)
  5. Crisp County (10-0)
  6. Calhoun (8-2)
  7. Liberty County (9-1)
  8. Jackson (7-3)
  9. Lovett (7-3)
  10. Pierce County (7-3)

News: Class 3A

Honorable Mention: Morgan County (8-2), Dawson County (7-2), Union County (8-2), Jenkins (9-1), Pace Academy (6-4)

Region 5 was the dominant force in this class in 2016. Between Westminster and Cedar Grove, the region boasts two state title contenders; plus, Lovett and Pace are sneaky. Any of the top eight could make a deep run to the Dome, but watch out for Jackson; they could be the sleeper pick. Just beyond the honorable mention: Savannah, Westside-Macon, North Murray and Sonoraville.

  Class 2A

2A Top 10

  1. Benedictine (10-0)
  2. Fitzgerald (9-1)
  3. Callaway (10-0)
  4. Rabun County (9-0)
  5. Screven County (9-1)
  6. Jefferson County (9-1)
  7. Vidalia (8-2)
  8. Pepperell (8-1)
  9. Brooks County (7-3)
  10. Heard County (7-3)

News: Class 2A

Honorable Mention: Dublin (8-2), Washington County (8-2), Elbert County (7-3), Rockmart (8-2), Model (7-3)

As mentioned in the playoff preview above, this class, all season, has been divided into three tiers. Benedictine and Fitzgerald, Callaway through Jeff Co, and then Vidalia through Heard County. Honestly, the teams have been nearly the same all year, with subtle shifting here and there. Many will assume the top two are vastly superior and sleep on Callaway, Rabun, Screven and Jefferson; that would be a serious mistake. In fact, Jeff Co could be the favorite in their quad of the bracket and Screven should be a quarterfinalist. Just beyond the honorable mention: Toombs County, Southwest, Dodge County, Lamar County, Spencer and Hapeville Charter.

 Class 1A – Public

1A Pub. Top 10

  1. Macon County (8-2)
  2. Clinch County (9-1)
  3. Emanuel County Institute (9-0)
  4. Commerce (8-2)
  5. Mount Zion, Carroll (9-1)
  6. Manchester (9-1)
  7. Pelham (9-1)
  8. Taylor County (9-1)
  9. Mitchell County (8-2)
  10. McIntosh County Academy (7-2)

News: Class 1A - Public

Honorable Mention: Miller County (8-2), Terrell County (7-3), Randolph-Clay (7-3), Turner County (7-3), Twiggs County (7-3)

It will be so very interesting to see how the final power ranking numbers look on Monday. Any of the back half of this top ten could win multiple playoff games. The story that has dominated the classification this year? Easy answer. This is perhaps the best season for the resurgence of ultra-rural “county” schools, we have ever seen. Literally, we could have listed five more teams in the next line of this paragraph. Just beyond the honorable mention: Irwin County, Dooly County, Wheeler County, Marion County, and Bowdon.

  Class 1A – Private

1A Priv. Top 10

  1. Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (10-0)
  2. Prince Avenue Christian (10-0)
  3. Wesleyan (8-2)
  4. Landmark Christian (9-1)
  5. Fellowship Christian (10-0)
  6. Mount Paran Christian (9-1)
  7. Tattnall Square (10-0)
  8. Calvary Day (9-0)
  9. Darlington (7-3)
  10. Stratford Academy (7-3)

News: Class 1A - Private

Honorable Mention: Athens Academy (8-2), Pinecrest Academy (7-3), George Walton Academy (7-3), Savannah Christian (6-3), Aquinas (6-4)

The back half of the 1A Private ranks cannibalized each other in 2016. Plus, some teams with championship pedigree were down a bit this year. Both storylines lead to a perception of underwhelming performances in the class; which is neither fully true nor entirely false. Meanwhile, Fellowship Christian and Tattnall Square were the surprise teams this season. Just beyond the honorable mention: Mount Pisgah, First Presbyterian, Mount Vernon, Athens Christian and Savannah Country Day.