High School Football

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Corky Kell Kickoff

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The high school football season kicked off last week. I’m going to recap the Corky Kell Classic, which features some of the best teams around the state.

Greater Atlanta Christian 20, Denmark 0: Greater Atlanta Christian is ranked sixth in class 3A.

The defense had six interceptions, including a streak of five consecutive on five Denmark possessions. Senior cornerback, Saiku White had three of the interceptions, and Josh Williamson, Luke Field and Joseph Rose each had one.

The Spartans had a solid performance from quarterback Deymon Flemming, who was 15-of-28 for 132 yards and two touchdowns.

This was the final game of the Corky Kell Classic.

Lowndes 51, Archer 21: Lowndes is ranked second in class 7A and No. 9 nationally.

The Vikings are led by 4-star quarterback Jacurri Brown.

He went down with an apparent leg injury midway through the second quarter. The game was tied at 7.

He had a short breather and got his ankle taped before returning. He threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns, completing 50% of his passes. He also had a rushing touchdown.

Archer is ranked No. 7 in class 7A so this is a very impressive win.

Collins Hill 46, Carrolton 24: This was a matchup between 7A and 6A teams.

Carrolton is No. 4 in the state in 6A but they were no match for the Eagles.

Collins Hill forced three interceptions.

They have a junior four-star quarterback, Sam Horn. He’s the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the country for the junior class.

He was 27-of-40 passing for 364 yards, 3 touchdowns and lead an offense that gained 509 total yards of on 66 plays.

St. Pius X 38, Flower Branch 28: The Golden Lions ran 62 offensive plays and gained 430 yards. 398 yards of that offensive production came on the ground as Pius averaged seven yards per carry on 57 rushes.

Mason Benefield finished with seven carries for 46 yards and two touchdowns.

Shug Bentley had seven carries for 59 yards and a touchdown.

Paul Quigley had four carries for 38 yards and a touchdown.

Dennis O’Shea was 1-of-5 passing for 32 yards and a touchdown.

Walton 35, Kell 28: This was a battle between Cobb County schools.

The Raiders trailed 28-16 in the third quarter before making a comeback.

Zak Rozsman was 9-of-21 passing for 130 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed nine times for 49 yards and a touchdown.

Freshman quarterback Jeremy Hecklinski was 3-for-3 for 58 yards. Braylen Stokes had 15 carries for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

Kenny Djaha had nine carries for 76 yards and three receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown.

North Gwinnett 35. McEachern 7: The Bulldogs are led by four-star Clemson-commit Barrett Carter. The linebacker finished with a 7-yard touchdown run from the wildcat formation, a 79-yard interception return for a touchdown and a team-leading 10 tackles, 2.5 for a loss.

Brookwood 40, Dacula 34: This game went to four overtimes before the Broncos scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by Alexander Diggs.

Brookwood quarterback Dylan Lonergan was 28-of-43 passing for 433 yards and four touchdowns.

Denylon Morrissette had 12 receptions for 215 yards and three touchdowns.

West Forsyth 42, Mays 6: Coach Dave Svehla got the win in his first game.

He coached at Etowah from 2012-19 and had a 49-41 record there.

The Wolverines led 35-0 at halftime.

Daba Fofana carried the ball 16 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns with one touchdown reception.

Cherokee 38, Carver-Atlanta 12: The Warriors dominated and Keith Adams Jr. ran for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Gator Chomp

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Last year saw the Jason Strickland era begin with a bang at Ware County.

Arriving in Waycross after successful stints at Lamar County, Fitzgerald and Pierce County, Strickland wasted no time in making his mark.

The Gators took a few lumps early on in the non-region schedule, only to storm through Region 2-AAAAA undefeated and make it to the second round of the state playoffs before bowing out to eventual state champion Buford.

Heading into Year Two under Strickland, Ware has faced the same trials and tribulations as every other team in GHSA, as they have been limited in their preparations for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we’re getting through everything just fine,” Strickland said. “I’m lucky to have a staff that is experienced and has been together for a while. As for the kids, I think they’re fine. Honestly, I think kids respond to this kind of shake-up and adversity better than most adults.

“They have taken the attitude of focusing on what needs to be done each day and just working forward from there. That’s big for them and big for our community. A lot of people in this area need something to make them smile. And for a lot of these towns, football can do that. So long as we can be safe and play, that’s something we’re looking to do for ourselves and for the community.”

It’s good that the Gators have been hard at work because there will be no shortage of challenges on this season’s schedule.

Ware County joins longtime rival Wayne County in a shift to Region 1-AAAAA with the GHSA’s latest region alignments.

The teams spent the last few seasons playing region rivals in and around coastal Georgia, but the competition now shifts west and north as they join a stacked region that includes Coffee, Veterans and Warner Robins.

“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this will be the toughest region in 5-A,” Strickland said. “It might be one of the toughest in the state at any level. But we’ll embrace that challenge. There will be a lot of tense Friday nights, but a lot of fun Friday nights.”

Heading into a tough schedule, the Gators will lean heavily on proven leaders on both sides of the ball.

Rising senior linebacker Michael Mincey has Strickland’s trust to make calls and anchor the defense.

On the attacking front, quarterback Thomas Castellanos will be a junior this fall, but has been at the helm of the Gator attack since he was a freshman.

“Michael has some big-time offers and he’s a leader on and off the field for us,” Strickland said. “Thomas can get things done with both his arm and his legs. He’s got another year in the system and he’s really starting to settle in and run the offense.”

In addition to their tough region slate, the Gators will travel to Florida to take on Bartram Trail and will also face Cook and Thomson in non-region action.

The New Buzz

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Wayne County is no stranger to great football. The Yellow Jackets rank 26th all-time in the state of Georgia with 561 wins.

Better yet, Wayne County is currently enjoying its most successful run to date.

Three of the school’s 15 region championships have come during a run that has seen the Jackets reach the playoffs in a school-record eight consecutive seasons.

The 2019 campaign saw a small step back with an 8-3 record following back-to-back region titles in 2017-18, but the Jackets notched a first-round win in the state tournament before dropping a close contest to state quarterfinalist Clarke Central.

This year’s team figures to be stacked as the Jackets return eight starters on offense and seven on defense.

Highly touted offensive guard Weston Franklin also returns to Jesup after spending a season at the IMG Academy.

“With everything going on (related to COVID-19 and practice restrictions), I still think we’re ahead of the game,” WCHS coach Ken Cribb said. “We have a lot of veteran guys who are ready to get the season going.”

One of the most impressive aspects of the Jackets’ recent success has been their ability to endure change. All prep teams must deal with graduating seniors, but many perennially successful programs have continuity at head coach. As for Wayne County, it has found its current success under three different head coaches.

“I give a lot of credit to everyone in the program,” said Cribb, who is entering his fourth season with a 28-6 record at Wayne. “We’ve got a great group of coaches and our kids are ready to work hard every day.”

Cribb and his team continue to have high hopes for another solid season, but the road will be much rougher due to region realignment.

Wayne County won its two most recent region titles while regularly dispatching struggling rivals such as Statesboro, South Effingham and New Hampstead.

Now a resident in Region 1-AAAAA, the Jackets will run a non-stop gauntlet of perennial powers Coffee, Veterans, Ware County and Warner Robins.

All five teams made it to at least the second round of last year’s playoffs, with Warner Robins finishing as state runners-up for a third consecutive season.

Opponents such as Pierce County, Benedictine and Richmond Hill dot the Jackets’ non-region schedule, meaning that there will be very few breathers along the way.

The Knights’ Crusade

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Brandon Derrick enters his 8th season as head football coach of the Frederica Academy Knights this fall.

Derrick has built Frederica into one of the elite programs in the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) by winning the State Championship in 2018.

The Knights finished 4-6 in 2019 as they rebuilt from losing so many seniors from the championship team, but made the playoffs and lost in the first round to Southland Academy.

The 2020 Knights have 14 starters returning from last season and are experienced across the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage.

Depth could be an issue because the Knights have a total of 31 players on the entire roster. Derrick says “We have a chance to develop and be good if we can avoid injuries”.

Garrett Squires will anchor the offensive line. Derrick says he is versatile and is a team leader in the locker room.

Jacob Triplett will play plug in at right tackle. The defensive line has experience with Will Thompson and Will Counts returning. Counts is a three-year starter at nose guard.

The Knights will run a spread offense that will be more run based. Thomas Veal looks to be the QB and looked good in limited reps in 2019 after he returned late in the season from a preseason injury.

Kyle Perez is up to 185 lbs. and will get the bulk of carries at running back. Watch for Jordan Triplett to break on to the scene this fall at WR/RB.

Josh Meadows and Josh Elliott will lead an experienced linebacker position. Jayden Rose will be one of the better corners in the region.

The schedule/My Predictions/ * Region Game

9/11 @ Valwood: Valwood might as well be the third public school in Lowndes County.

The Valiants cherry pick Valdosta and Lowndes and that makes them a state title contender every season. These two schools have developed a great rivalry over the past 4-5 seasons.

Beating Valwood on the road will be very tough. The Knights play well but fall short 27-20 to go 0-1 on the season, but could see Valwood again in the postseason.

9/18 Calvary: Calvary always has one or two very talented players, but in the home opener Frederica gets it done 28-22 to even its record to 1-1 on the season.

9/25 @Tiftarea: The Knights travel to Chula, which is 10 miles north of Tifton to play the Panthers who went 8-4 in 2019.

This could be another playoff preview game for Frederica. The Knights come up a little short in this one 17-14 to fall to 1-2 on the season.

10/2 Brantley County: The Herons come to St. Simons to play football instead of the entire county coming over for 4th of July Fireworks. Highly anticipated matchup between the schools.

The public school Herons take the private school Knights for granted and get beat 24-18. The Knights go to 2-2 on the season.

10/16: Long County: Long is awful in football. FA wins 27-14 to go to 3-2

10/23: Memorial Day: The Matadors roll to SSI and get blistered 34-6. FA goes to 4-2 on the season.

10/30 @ Bulloch Academy *: The Gators, I’m told, have been recruited hard by Benedictine and lost key players.

The Knights find a way to win the region opener on the road 28-26 to set up a battle with Pinewood for the region crown in two weeks. FA goes to 5-2.

11/6 St. Andrews *: The Knights handle the Lions 34-16 to go to 6-2 and 2-0

11/13 @ Pinewood: The Patriots are loaded and the Knights gave the game away to them in 2019.

FA can win this game in Bellville, which is near Claxton. Due to factors out of their control, if you get my drift, the Knights fall short 27-23 and go to at 6-3 and 2-1 in region play.

11/20: Trinity Christian: The Crusaders roll into St. Simons and crusade out with a 28-14 loss. FA finishes the regular season with a 7-3 record and finish 3-1 in the region.

Frederica is a solid playoff team barring a rash of injuries in 2020.

Be-Deviled

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Last year was great for Marietta. The Blue Devils (14-2) won the 7A state championship. It was their first state title since 1967. They were loaded with talent. The team had 9 seniors ranked in the top 100 prospects in Georgia.

This program is an anomaly because we normally see the same top programs winning championships repeatedly. Marietta is not known as a football powerhouse.

Also, when a school has a talented class, they typically turn that into multiple championships. The Blue Devils were just as talented in 2018 and they were the top team in Georgia in the preseason. They finished the year 5-6 and unranked.

Their 2020 class was led by five-star tight end Arik Gilbert. He was the Gatorade National Player of the Year, first-team All-American and named Player of the Year for class AAAAAAA. Gilbert committed to LSU. He posted the second-greatest single-season mark for receiving yards in state history with 101 catches for 1,760 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Quarterback Harrison Bailey, defensive lineman B.J. Ojulari, tackle Jake Wray and defensive back Rashad Torrence were four-star prospects.

They don’t have any players ranked in the top 100 state prospects in 2021. After losing so much talent the Blue Devils will come crashing back to earth in 2020.

The season opener is home versus Colquitt County. The Packers were 9-3 last season and they will be a top 10 team this year. Wide receiver Lemeke Brockington is rated as the No. 39 prospect in the state and he’s a three-star recruit. Colquitt will win big.

The second game of the year is against Armwood (FL). They were a semifinalist last season in Florida’s highest classification. This game is probably cancelled because the GHSA announced the season will be pushed back and start September 4th. This game was going to be played August 28th.

Week 3 is at archrival McEachern. The Indians won last year’s meeting and they were the region champs. Star quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson transferred to Grayson but they still have other good players on the team.

Their best player is inside linebacker Ese Dubre, the 68th ranked player in Georgia and a three-star recruit. I expect mighty McEachern to win.

The first road game is a long drive to Camden County. The Wildcats were 8-3 last season and lost in the playoffs to Marietta, 41 – 13.

Tackle Micah Morris is the No. 6 prospect in state and a four-star recruit. He committed to Georgia. Camden also has three-star wide receiver and Nebraska commit Shawn Hardy. The Wildcats will get revenge in a blowout win.

Week 5 is a second consecutive road game at Parkview. The Panthers were 12-2 in 2019 and lost to Marietta 42 – 31 in the semifinals.

Their led by four-star running back Cody Brown. Brown is rated as the No. 14 Georgia prospect and he’s committed to Tennessee. The Panthers will roll.

After a bye week the second half of the season begins with North Paulding at home. This will be the first win of the season.

Hillgrove is the next game. The Hawkss (yes, double s) should win this game.

Harrison has moved up to 7A and they’re in the same region. They were undefeated and won the 6A state championship last year. The Hoyas will win this game.

The final two games are against North Cobb and Walton. They should win one of those games, probably the North Cobb game.

I think Marietta will win two, potentially three games this season. Not very good for defending state champs.

Terrorizing

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2020 edition of the Glynn Academy Red Terrors will be a blueprint of what they have been known for in these parts since 2014, which is a consistent winner.

Since Rocky Hidalgo took over on the south end of Brunswick in 2014, The Terrors have gone 55-22 and have appeared in a state title game, won 4 outright region championships, made deep runs in the state playoffs, and have beat rival Brunswick in six straight meetings.

2019 was not up to the standards of Glynn Academy football which has three goals every season and they are the City Championship, Region Championship, and State Championship.

The 2019 Terrors were City Champions, but fell short in the Region to Richmond Hill after winning four straight region championships. Did you know that before Rocky Hidalgo arrived at Glynn Academy that the Red Terrors went 43 years without a region football title?

The win total in 2019 was 6 for a program that is used to winning 8-12 games per season since 2014.

The 2020 Terrors have a chip on their shoulder to regain the region title and make a deep playoff run. The talent is there.

TJ Lewis returns at QB and has some good offers to play college football. Caden Hutchinson will be the featured running back. Some Glynn folks are telling me that Hutchinson will be the best running back in the region that is stacked with quality running backs.

On defense Miles Smith returns at LB. Does it not always seem that Glynn has a linebacker that tackles everything that moves? Jayden Drayton could be the most dynamic play maker in coastal Georgia this fall. This is a talented roster.

Schedule/My Prediction/* Region Contest:

8/21    At Islands: The Red Terrors travel to Savannah to play Islands in what they are calling the I-95 classic. Well Glynn is rolling into Savannah and will whip Islands 35-17 to go 1-0 on the season.

8/28    At Camden County: Glynn will be good but not Camden good, as the Wildcats have 9 or 10 division one football prospects on the roster. Cats beat GA 28-10. GA drops to 1-1.

9/04    At Winder-Barrow: The Bulldogs went 3-7 in 2019. Glynn should take care of business 28-13. GA goes to 2-1 on the season.

9/18    At Coffee: Many chalk this up as a loss, but not me. Glynn will always play good team defense, and Glynn wins these types of games when nobody gives them a shot. Terrors win 17-14 at Coffee to go to 3-1.

9/25    At Brunswick*: Talent is pretty much even, but mentally Glynn owns this series and until Brunswick gets over this mental hump its 7 straight for GA with a 25-22 win over the rival Pirates. GA goes to 4-1.

10/02  Bradwell Institute *: GA owns Bradwell. Terrors go to 5-1 with a 42-14 win.

10/09  At South Effingham*: The Mustangs will be no match for Glynn even home in “The Corral “. Glynn wins 38-17 to go to 6-1 and 3-0 in the region.

10/16  Effingham County*: Effingham is in rebuild mode and that is never a good thing when you play Glynn in a region contest. GA wins at home 42-14 over Effingham. GA goes to 7-1 and 4-0.

10/23  Richmond Hill*: I have gone back and forth with this one. 7A Richmond Hill playing in 6A has more talent on paper, but Glynn has Rocky Hidalgo and everyone is anointing the Wildcats as Region Champions. If Glynn comes into this game with no region losses they won’t lose to the Wildcats. Terrors clinch the region title at home with a 28-24 win over Richmond Hill. GA goes to 8-1 and 5-0

11/06  At Statesboro*: Trap game in Statesboro. I’m putting Glynn on upset alert here. After clinching the region Glynn comes out flat and drops a tough contest to Statesboro at historic Womack Field 24-17 to finish the regular season at 8-2 and 5-1

The Red Terrors will enter the playoffs as the number 1 seed from Region 2-AAAAAA, and makes it to the third round in a huge bounce back season.

Ramming Down the Door

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Grayson is one of the elite programs in Georgia’s largest classification, AAAAAAA.

The Rams won state championships in 2011 and 2016. They hope to return to the top of the GHSA mountain in 2020.

Last season Grayson was expected to compete for the state championship. They beat Marietta by two touchdowns during the regular season. The Blue Devils were the most talented team in Georgia and they went on to win the 7A championship.

The Rams finished 2019 with a 10 – 2 record. They lost in the quarterfinals to Lowndes, 28 – 20. Lowndes advanced to the state championship game.

Grayson has produced a lot of talent. Most notably, Robert Nkemdiche was a five-star recruit and the top player in the class of 2012.

This season is no different. Wide receiver Daejon Reynolds is the 19th ranked player in the state and a four-star recruit. He’s committed to Florida. He’s 6’2 and 190 pounds so he has good size. Reynolds played at Central Gwinnett last season and he had 88 catches for 1,534 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was the Touchdown Club of Gwinnett’s wide receiver of the year for the 2019 season.

Quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson is also a four-star recruit and the 20th ranked player in Georgia. He will join Reynolds in Gainesville. He transferred from McEachern and this is his first season at Grayson. Del Rio-Wilson is 6’3, 205 pounds and he’s a dual threat. He’s in the 2020 Elite 11.

Running back Phil Mafah is the 27th ranked player in the state and another four-star recruit. The 6’1, 220-pound back is committed to Clemson. He missed several games at the beginning of the season due to a broken collarbone. He ran for 676 yards and 9 TD’s.

Defensive end Victoine Brown is a three-star recruit and the 34th ranked player in state. He’s committed to Louisville.

The season begins August 21st versus Creekside. The Seminoles are a 5A team and they were 7 – 5 in 2019. This will be an easy win.

Week 2 is at McEachern. The Indians were 12 – 1 last year and they are a very good team. This will be a close win.

Stephenson comes to town next. The Jaguars were 10 – 2 last season and they were one of the best 4A teams. They can’t compete with 7A talent though and Grayson wins big.

The Rams travel to Archer in Week 4. Last year’s game was very close, a 34 – 31 Grayson win. The Tigers are looking to build off of their momentum from 2019 after finishing 9 – 4. This will be another close game but I give the edge to Grayson.

Paul Bryant high school from Alabama comes to town. I don’t know much about the Stampede but I know they can’t compete with Grayson.

Mill Creek is next on the schedule. The Hawks are a very good team and were 10 – 3 in 2019. This will be a battle, but the Rams will win.

Grayson travels to South Gwinnett for the sixth game. The Comets are a bad team and they’ll lose by 30.

After a bye week Parkview is the next game. The Panthers were 12 – 2 last season and they are led by four-star running back Cody Brown. I think Parkview will win.

The final two games are at Brookwood and Newton. They’ll win both games. I think Grayson will make it to the state championship game in 2020. They are the most talented team in Georgia.

Cats On The Hunt

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Camden County Wildcats, in my mind, are a blue blood program in South Georgia.

The Wildcats have won three State titles (2003, 2008, and 2009) this century.

Camden finished the 2019 season with an 8-3 record losing to eventual champion Marietta in the first round.

Bob Sphire is one of the better high school football head coaches in the business, and enters his 4th season as the head coach.

Sphire took over a football program in 2017 that had sunk pretty low from what Jeff Herron built at Camden.

Slowly Sphire has rebuilt this program the right way. His first two seasons he played a lot of young kids, who had to gain their experience in Region 1-AAAAAAA, which I refer to as the SEC of Georgia High School football. The roster has a lot of good quality players that can compete in the highest level in the State.

Micah Morris is the highest ranked recruit on the roster. The 4- star offensive tackle committed to the University of Georgia in April. Morris is 6-4 and 320 pounds and the future looks bright for Morris.

The schedule is brutal with not one cupcake to be found. Can Camden get back to that team that goes 3 rounds or deeper in the playoffs in 2020?

Region Game */ Schedule/My Predictions

8/21 Columbia: Long bus ride to Chris Gillman Stadium spells doom for the visitors historically. I don’t see Columbia pulling off an upset here. The Cats go to 1-0 on the season with a 44-18 win over Columbia.

8/28 Glynn Academy: The Terrors make the 30-minute ride down I-95 South and run into an angry bunch of Wildcats.

Glynn will be a good football team in 2020, but not Camden County good. Camden goes to 2-0 on the season with a 28-10 win over Glynn Academy.

9/04 @ Ribault High School (Florida): Ribault will always have dangerous athletes that could cause some problems, but they won’t have the depth to compete for 4 quarters.

Ribault hits a few big plays on offense, but they will lay a big egg on defense and get drilled by Camden 42-20. Camden goes to 3-0.

9/11 Marietta: Who scheduled this non-region game? This is about as brutal as they come.

The defending state champs travel to Chris Gillman Stadium, which could be factoring in Atlanta traffic a 7-hour bus ride.

Marietta lost a lot, and I’m banking on the bus trip taking its toll on the Blue Devils. Camden finds a way to win 28-24 to go to 4-0 on the season.

9/18 @ Oakleaf High School (Florida): Could this be a trap game? Maybe but if you beat Marietta you will not lose to Oakleaf. The Wildcats go to 5-0 with a 49-14 win.

9/25 Coffee: Remember the brutal schedule comment? Look at these next two games. Coffee drops to 5-A this year and should make some serious noise in football. They will not beat Camden in Kingsland, however. Cats go to 6-0 with a 21-13 win over Coffee.

10/02 @ Warner Robins: Playing at Warner Robins is no picnic. Warner Robins will compete for a state title in 5-A. I see Camden slipping by this one by the skin of their teeth 21-20 to go into region play at 7-0.

10/16 @ Colquitt County *: A win here would be considered an upset at the state level. This schedule takes its toll on the Wildcats and they fall to the Packers 27-20 to drop to 7-1 and 0-1

10/23 Tift County *: You never know what you are going to get with Tift County. Camden wins this region contest 33-21 to go 8-1 and 1-1.

10/30 @ Lowndes *: Can Camden win this one on the road to secure a home playoff game? You have to be special to win at Lowndes these days.

Camden falls short 28-16 to finish 8-2 and 1-2 for the regular season.

Solid playoff team battle tested by a brutal schedule gets them into the second or possibly third round of state playoffs.

Speak Of The Blue Devils

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It has been a decade since the Statesboro Blue Devils have been considered a state power on the football field, but the program’s ongoing trudge back from some dark times aims to take another step forward this fall.

Now four years removed from the only 0-10 season in school history, Statesboro head coach Jeff Kaiser – who was announced as head coach ahead of the 2017 season – has his team steadily improving.

The Devils have qualified for the state playoffs in each of the last two seasons and got back to the .500 mark last fall for the first time since 2014.

As has been the case for teams all around the country, this summer’s training has been significantly hindered by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

School was called off more than a month before the scheduled spring practices for Statesboro and simply getting students – football players or otherwise – through the academic year will be tough.

Kaiser and his staff continued to communicate to the team through texts, emails and phone calls, with players left to their own devices to continue to study playbooks and stay in shape.

When June rolled around, word came from both the GHSA and Bulloch County that there would be a slow roll-out of parameters for practices that will gradually include more football-related activities with more players allowed at each practice.

All of the virus-related restraints on team activities are just one facet of what will be a challenging 2020 for the Devils.

While they have made the state playoffs two years running, Statesboro played those seasons in a five-team Class-AAAAA region. With Ware County and Wayne County dominating the region, the Devils’ postseason prospect essentially boiled down to a two-game season with games against New Hampstead and South Effingham, with any of the teams able to clinch a playoff berth with as little as one region win.

That will change this fall as Statesboro bumps up to Class-AAAAAA and will join a region with more teams that features plenty of old rivals.

South Effingham joins Statesboro in the move up and they will group in with Brunswick, Glynn Academy, Effingham County, Richmond Hill and Bradwell Institute.

The Devils have been region rivals with all of these teams at some point in their past, most notably with Brunswick, which traded region championships with SHS for three consecutive seasons at the turn of the last decade.

The Devils lose relatively little in total personnel from last year’s squad, but still have some big holes to fill.

Always a run-first team, Statesboro will have to fill the shoes of running backs Jaylin Roberson and Davardrian Lipsey.

Also departed is Corey McCullough, who anchored the linebacker corps and also served as a stellar blocker and short-yardage back on offense.

If Statesboro is to continue its track record of improvement, it will stem from both lines.

The Devils were forced to play with inexperienced and – at times – undersized linemen over the last few seasons. But a more veteran crew this season that has taken to Kaiser’s emphasis on growing in the weight room should now provide the Devils with a formidable presence up front whether attacking an opposing quarterback or paving a clean path for their own runners.

Statesboro is slated to kick off the season against former region rival Wayne County in the Erk Russell Classic at Georgia Southern’s Paulson Stadium.

The Devils will also take on Swainsboro, Houston County and Jenkins before spending all of October and November in their region slate.

The Pack

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Buford Wolves are a traditional football powerhouse in Georgia.

Last season they won the 5A state championship 17 – 14 against Warner Robins, another great program. The win gave No. 5 Buford (14-1) their 12th state championship and first since 2014.

Buford became the first team in GHSA history to win a state football championship in five different classifications. Buford has won titles at Class A, AA, AAA, AAAA and AAAAA. The Wolves move up to AAAAAA next season.

2019 was the first season for head coach Bryant Appling. He gained a lot of experience and he should be a better coach going into his second season.

This 2020 team is not as talented as teams of the past, but they have some good players. I expect them to be a good team and play well together.

Their best player is senior running back Gabe Ervin. The 6-foot, 205-pound Erwin is ranked as a three-star recruit and the No. 66 rising senior in Georgia.

He had offers from close to 20 Power Five programs. He committed to Nebraska. Last season he rushed for 1,210 and 13 touchdowns, while splitting time in the backfield.

Senior safety Amari Wansley is the second-best player on the team. He’s also a three-star recruit with offers from Arizona State, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland and Georgia State.

Linebacker Tommy Beuglas has committed to Furman. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker was a second-team, all-county selection by the Touchdown Club of Gwinnett. He made 102 tackles in 2019.

Defensive back Ace Sanders committed to Georgia Southern and guard Malone VanGorder committed to Bowling Green. VanGorder started 28 straight games on the Wolves’ offensive line the past two seasons. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder’s father is longtime college coach Brian VanGorder, now Bowling Green’s defensive coordinator.

Quarterbacks Ashton Daniels and Jarvis Evans also return for the 2020 season. They both played last season and helped lead the team to the championship.

The season opens at home against Wren (South Carolina). The Hurricanes won the AAAA state championship in South Carolina in 2019, so they are pretty good.

Week 2 is against Clarke Central. The Gladiators were the only team that beat Buford last year. They were 9-4 so they are a pretty good team. The Wolves want to avenge that loss and I believe they will.

Lithonia comes to town after that. The Bulldogs won 6 games last season and got in the playoffs. They still won’t be a match for Buford.

The Wolves face another team from South Carolina, Ridge View. The Blazers lost the AAAA state championship game to Wren in 2019.

Central Gwinnett made the playoffs last season, but they only won 3 games. The Black Knights are the Week 5 opponent and they will get disposed of quickly.

Buford finally has their first road game to start October against Habersham Central. The Raiders are coming off of a 3-7 season and they are outmatched in every way.

After a much-needed bye week the Wolves are on the road against another Gwinnett county opponent, Shiloh. The Generals won 7 games and made the playoffs in 2019. Buford will still win easily.

The Wolves have their third consecutive road game at Lanier. The Longhorns are coming off of a 10-2 season and they are a tough opponent.

The day before Halloween Buford returns home to face Winder-Barrow. This is a blowout victory.

The season finale is against Dacula. The Falcons were 13-1 last year. This will be hard fought game.

I think Buford will do well in their first 6A season and make the playoffs.

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