Another week, another shuffling of the top 10 in Class AA.
We've talked about it a lot here, so I won't belabor the point, but the fact that two of the top four teams have lost in each week so far means we’ve had a lot of turnover in the top 10 – proof once again that preseason rankings don’t mean much once games get underway.
The primary beneficiary when it comes to the rankings shake-up has been Washington-Wilkes. The Tigers opened at No. 6 and are now sitting at No. 2 after thumping rival Lincoln County, 36-10, on Friday.
What makes Washington-Wilkes an interesting case is what happened last year: The Tigers breezed through their first 11 games with only Jefferson (21-14) and Lincoln County (28-14) making things interesting. But in the second round, they were unceremoniously dumped from the playoffs in a 48-14 loss to Bowdon.
“That’s been something we remembered all offseason,” Tigers coach Robby Robinson said. “Not to take anything away from Bowdon, because they came in here and took it to us. But we just didn’t show up for that game. Mentally, physically, coaches, nothing.”
So what makes this year different for Washington-Wilkes?
Put simply, almost everybody is back. That includes five senior starters on the offensive line, five of last year’s top six rushers, and quarterback Deandre Harris, who threw for 331 yards and accounted for five TDs in the season opener last week.
The Tigers still have the blend of size and athleticism that helped them go 21-3 over the last two seasons. What this team has that those didn’t, however, and what Robinson is hoping will carry his team deeper this fall, is a wealth of experience.
“This is our fourth year here, and we finally have a veteran team,” Robinson said. “We’re not having to rely on freshmen and sophomores like we were those first couple of years.”
The Tigers have 21 seniors and 24 juniors on their roster, and most of the seniors who start have been starting for three years, Robinson said.
“When we got here, Washington-Wilkes was going through a period where we were averaging five wins per season,” Robinson said. “We felt like we needed to teach them to win, and it worked, but it also came back to bite us a little bit in the playoffs, because we hadn’t seen those kinds of teams.”
This year, former region foe Jefferson is in AAA, making the path to an 8-AA repeat championship less treacherous. Washington-Wilkes has attempted to compensate by beefing up the nonregion schedule. Last year, Lincoln County was the Tigers’ only nonregion foe to reach the playoffs. This year, all four of their nonregion opponents made the postseason last year.
The Tigers are back in action Friday, attempting to extend their regular-season winning streak to 16 games when they host Wilkes County in their home opener.
Other teams on the rise:
Current ranking: No. 5
After failing to win at least 10 games for the first time since 2003 last year, the Purple Hurricanes appear poised to reassert themselves as a AA power. They knocked off Class AAAA Worth County 27-20 in the season opener and defeated then-No. 3 Heard County 43-27 on Friday. Quarterback Gerald Morgan has been the catalyst, rushing for five touchdowns and passing for three through two games.
Current ranking: No. 8
The Eagles served notice last week that they’re a AA newcomer to keep a close eye on, knocking off Callaway (No. 3 in AAA at the time), 14-7. Deshawn Waller ran for 210 yards on 24 carries and threw a TD pass to lead B.E.S.T., which gets another test this week against Central-Carrollton.
Current ranking: No. 10
Another newcomer to AA, the Indians are moving up after an 11-1 run in Class A last season. They’ll kick off their season Friday at Pacelli.
TOP 10, WEEK 3
1. (1) Greater Atlanta Christian (2-0); Friday at Eagle’s Landing Christian (0-2)
2. (5) Washington-Wilkes (1-0); Friday vs. Wilkinson County (0-1)
3. (4) Benedictine (0-1); Sept. 12 at Liberty County (1-1)
4. (2) Lovett (1-1); Friday at Marist (1-0)
5. (7) Fitzgerald (2-0); Friday vs. Irwin County (1-0-1)
6. (6) Vidalia (2-0); Friday at Toombs County (1-0)
7. (8) Brooks County (1-1); Friday at Madison County, Fla. (1-0)
8. (NR) B.E.S.T. Academy (1-0); Friday at Central, Carrollton (1-0)
9. (3) Heard County (0-1); Friday at Callaway (1-1)
10. (9) Seminole County (0-0); Friday at Pacelli (1-0)