We all love tahe Cinderella story.
With each year comes the hype and glory of some of the top teams and top recruits in the state of Georgia. We all notice the powerhouse programs like Lowndes, Grayson, and more, but who is falling under the radar? A lot of teams go unnoticed for a variety of reasons, whether it is the strength of other teams, new coaches, or a history that is unfairly criticizing a program.
Any team can be a state champion, and here are the teams that I think will surprise some people in 2020.
A team like Grayson is getting recognition for having one of the most loaded rosters in the state, ranking as high as No. 9 in MaxPreps’ preseason rankings. And rightfully so, as the Rams have seven players ranked in the top 115 in the state, according to 247Sports. They’re the favorites to win the 2020 state championship in 7A for a reason.
But there’s a team in 6A who is just as talented. They have seven players ranked in 247Sports’ top 89 in the state. And that is the Lions of Westlake High School. This is a team that now has the best receiving core in the state, plus tight end Leo Blackburn. They have really good players at every position.
The knock on Westlake was their 6-5 record last season. But moving down to 6A, and the improvement of quarterback R.J. Johnson should put this team near the top of the classification. He was good last season as a freshman, but could solidify himself as a big time prospect in the state of Georgia next season.
2. Collins Hill
Simply put, rising junior Sam Horn is the best quarterback in the state that nobody is talking about. He’s a dynamic pocket passer who has been offered by 12 Division I schools. He finished last season with over 2,400 yards passing and 24 touchdowns.
He also brought back two of his best receivers. Fellow junior Travis Hunter is one of the most skilled players in the state of Georgia. He is a great athlete who is already committed to Florida State and is a two-way star for the Eagles. They lose a few seniors, but the top end skill of this team stands out and could make a jump.
3. Turner County
I’m in love with Turner County. New head coach Kevious Johnson comes over after serving as offensive coordinator at Coffee High School, and this rushing attack could perfectly fit his game plan. The Rebels bring back two All-Region offensive linemen in Chris Clark and Zach Brown, and they have two skill position players that can match up with anyone in the classification.
Keonvay Clark is the team’s go-to receiver and is the top receiver in the class. He is long and fast and finished with six total touchdowns last season. Along with Clark is running back Elijah Stephens. The shifty running back had 1,135 yards and 15 touchdowns last season and in this offense should have even greater production.
Why isn’t Turner County talked about more? Well, they have the toughest region in football. Reigning state champion Irwin County is there, along with Clinch County, who has three state championships in the last five years. Along with those two, the region also welcomes Brooks County, who reached the state championship in 2A last season. This region is a gauntlet, but Turner County is capable of pulling off an upset or two.
4. Ware County
Speaking of difficult regions, Region 1-5A is the high school football equivalent of the Group of Death for any soccer fans. All five teams are legitimate playoff teams in Coffee, Veterans, Ware County, Warner Robins, and Wayne County. Many think Warner Robins, the three-time state runner-up for the classification, is the team to beat this season. But every team is thinking about the state championship.
In the AJC’s Class 5A blog, they published an articel called the “Premature Pre-Preseason Top 20 Rankings.” They had one team from the not ranked in the top 20, and I think they could battle Warner Robins for best in the region. Ware County has athletes all over the field, led by quarterback Thomas Castellanos and linebacker Michael Mincey, who have offers from multiple SEC schools in their pockets.
The Gators were one of the top teams in the second half of last season, winning seven of their final eight games before falling to eventual state champion Buford. This team has some real skill and should be taken seriously next season as a contender.
Generally, when a team returns its top quarterback, running back, and receiver, things bode well for their success. That’s exactly the case for the Cadets, and they should once again compete with Jenkins for a region championship as both schools move up to the 4A classification.
Benedictine only had 12 seniors graduate from last season, and they bring back a good amount of their roster and production from a team that went 7-1 in region play last season. Holden Geriner and Trent Broadnax will be the key to the offensive success.
This 1-2 combination has some serious explosiveness to them, but Geriner will need to cut back on the turnovers entering his junior year. He’s caught the attention of teams like Auburn, Arkansas, and LSU, but a deep playoff run against some of the top competition in 4A can open a lot of doors for the talented quarterback.
Written by: Kyle Grondin