Yes. Yes…Can you tell I said that in the creepy voice?
Over the last five years, the number of players in the National Football League that have Georgia ties is astonishing. From 2010-14, an average of 17% of all NFL players: were born in Georgia; or played youth, high school or college football in the Peach State. In the 2015 NFL Draft alone, 30 men who played high school football in Georgia were selected by NFL teams. Just a few reasons why I have loved spending the last two decades of my life covering high school sports in the “Empire State of the South.”
It is that time again, and so, beginning this week, and everyday over the next four months, you can consider this one of your central locations for Georgia high school football information. During the season, each day, I will release The Mooneyham Poll. My rankings, inside each classification, with tidbits of info about each team attached. Plus, I’ll toss in a little bit of unfiltered opinion and humor.
Here is the schedule leading all the way up to kick off on Friday, August 21st:
Today: GHSA Football, 1A Public, season preview
Tuesday 4th: GHSA Football, 1A Private, season preview
Wednesday 5th: GHSA Football, 2A season, preview
Thursday 6th: GHSA Football, 3A season, preview
Friday 7th: GHSA Football, 4A season, preview
Monday 10th: GHSA Football, 5A season, preview
Tuesday 11th: GHSA Football, 6A season, preview
Wednesday 12th: The Mooneyham Poll…GHSA 1A Private/1A Public Football
Thursday 13th: The Mooneyham Poll…GHSA 2A Football
Friday 14th: The Mooneyham Poll…GHSA 3A Football
Monday 17th: The Mooneyham Poll…GHSA 4A Football
Tuesday 18th: The Mooneyham Poll…GHSA 5A Football
Wednesday 19th: The Mooneyham Poll…GHSA 6A Football
Thursday 20th: The Top 15 games of the 2015 GHSA football season
Friday 21st: As the state lines up for kick off, we preview our first 680 The Fan Friday Night Football Game of the Week.
We begin our late Summer/early Fall tour around the state with a brief look at the top teams and story lines, in 1A Public, Georgia high school football, in 2015:
Marion County will again be a part of the state title conversation. The Eagles outlook is sort of a mixed bag, however. The loss of all-everything player Johnny Royal and quarterback Dustin Eckart are causes for concern. Five guys graduated from the defensive side of the ball; and the offensive line will also need to be addressed after the departure of all-state man Tray Smith. On the other hand, another all-everything player, Lorenzo Smothers is probably good enough to carry the team alone. They also return 12 starters for the team collectively. This team will certainly not be as good as the last couple of editions; but they don’t need to be to win the state title.
Last year was a dream season for Hawkinsville. The Red Devils played an incredibly tough schedule. And didn’t coast through it like some champs do. The schedule is the same in 2015; although some of the faces on campus will not be. Most notably absent will be quarterback Dakota Sloan. Three of their top defensive leaders, Royce Owens, Devin Adams, and Keshun Wright have also graduated. In total the Devils lost 15 starters. Ouch. The good news is, for a team that relies on their offensive line to drive their success, they return four starters to the trenches. Senior running back Hilliard Wright will be excited about that; and most-likely the work-horse of the offense.
The last two years for Irwin County are the best back-to-back seasons since the turn of the century. Like their opponents in last year’s title game, Hawkinsville, the Indians lost some ultra-important players; athlete Jakyron Young and running back Robert Moore. Lefty quarterback Zac Tolar will be back under center, but with only one offensive lineman returning to protect. The defense should be good again, anchored with three returning, really solid, defensive linemen. If anyone reaches the next level, linebacker DJ Pollard will be there to clean up the mess.
Commerce just enjoyed their finest season since 2006; turning in a 10-3 record with a state semifinals appearance. In 2015, the Tigers return JR FS/RB Cole Chancey, JR FB/LB Will Thomas, and SR QB/SS Caleb Brooks. Plus, they welcome in Brannon Tidwell as the new Defensive Coordinator. At times last year, they gave up a good bit of yardage. Their option run game, which control games and the tempo, will be even better this year; thus taking some pressure off their teammates learning a new scheme. Consider the Tigers a state title sleeper.
In 2013, Charlton County was the state runner-up and anything less than a title in 2014 was going to be a disappointment. Last year, in the first round of the state tournament, the Indians put together a dramatic victory over Lincoln County; where they trailed 16-0 and won 23-22 in overtime. Then, versus Hawkinsville, the Indians scored a touchdown to tie the game in the last half minute; and looked like they were going to continue on their mission of redemption. Then, they missed the extra-point. Hawkinsville came away with a 12-6 overtime victory and eventually, the state title. Sometimes young men struggle to bounce back from these type of moments; especially when losing a ton of talent.
Clinch County will feature one of the top senior defensive ends in the state, University of Georgia commit Chauncey Manac. Plus, the Panthers will have more seniors in this year’s starting lineup, twelve, than the last two years combined. 2015 should be a year where Clinch experiences a spike in wins and an outside, sleeper shot, at the state title.
Right now, the top six teams in 1A Public (all above) are easy to mark. Having said that, any of the aforementioned teams, even as a sleeper, could pull off an upset in the relatively even playoff field. ECI (lost top shelf running back Michael Sutton), Dooly County (returns highly ranked SR DE Antonneous Clayton (6’4/ 218), Claxton (tries to build on last year’s playoff momentum) and Lincoln County (tries to rebound from losing to Charlton County 23-22 in state playoffs; once led 16-0) Each of these four “next level” teams should expect to be playoff teams.
Tomorrow, Tuesday 4th: GHSA Football, 1A Private, season preview