Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Seven surprise teams from first half

The season will approach the halfway point for  most teams this week. Things have held pretty close to form all season – the same teams have been in the top-10 for the last three weeks. The contenders have been well-established.

But who are the surprise teams, the ones who make you pause or do a double-take when looking at the standings.

Here’s a list of seven of the most surprising teams – in alphabetical order -- in Class AAAAA this year.

Cedar Shoals: It’s hard to believe, but the Jaguars haven’t made the playoffs since 2008. They won only three games last year and haven’t had a winning season since going 7-5 in 2008. Cedar Shoals is 3-0 under second-year coach Leroy Ryals, who began his career by going 60-22-1 in seven seasons across town at Clarke Central.

Eagle’s Landing: The Eagles (3-1) have already exceeded last year’s win total. The team won six games in 2015 and went 8-3 in 2013 and 2014, the last two times the program reached the state playoffs. Cameron Lewis has completed 45 of 84 passes for 542 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 343 yards and three touchdowns. Dandre Addison has rushed for 194 yards and four touchdowns.

Hiram: The Hornets (2-2) have had trouble since moving up in classification in 2012. During that time they’ve had one winning season (2014) and have yet to make the postseason. Marcel Murray has rushed for 517 yards and four touchdowns and Nate Presnell has thrown for 404 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for two scores.

Miller Grove: The Wolverines (3-2) are trending in the right direction and on pace to make the state playoffs for the second straight year. Another target is the school record for wins, set at six on four previous occasions. Miller Grove celebrated a homecoming win last week, beating Lakeside 18-16 and blocking a last-second field goal. Shawn Collins threw to Kameron Williams for a pair of touchdowns last week.

Morrow: The Mustangs are off to a 3-1 start, their best since going 10-2 in 1998. In the years since, the team has won no more than four games. The Mustangs have gotten good production from receiver Jimmy Calloway, who had 150 all-purpose yards against Mount Zion, quarterback Chris Clark, and running back Tabious Clemmons, who rushed for 86 yards and one touchdown against Forest Park.

New Hampstead: The school has only been around since 2014 and is working on its third head coach. First-year coach Michael Moore’s team is off to a 2-1 start, the best since 2015 when the Phoenix opened the season by winning five of their first six while playing a non-region schedule. Quarterback Jalen De La Fuente leads the team with 248 yards and two touchdowns rushing and Jeremiah Daniels (149 yards) and Dontre Wallace (141 yards) are the top runners.

Woodland Cartersville: The Wildcats (2-2) aren’t likely to make the playoffs in tough Region 7, but they’re much better than the group that amassed only one win over the three previous seasons. Woodland still has an outside shot to make the playoffs, which it hasn’t done since 1999, its second year of existence.

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