breaking news

WATCH LIVE: Tex McIver murder trial

Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Top 10 games of Week 1

Benedictine at Greater Atlanta Christian

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Spartan Stadium, Norcross

Rankings: Benedictine (13-1 in 2013) is No. 3 in AA; Greater Atlanta Christian (10-2 in 2013) is No. 1 in AA.

Last meeting: This is the teams' first meeting.

Three things to know: 1. Greater Atlanta Christian is ranked No. 1 in preseason for the first time despite having never won a state title or having beaten defending champion and Region 6-AA rival Lovett any of the past six tries. But GAC has the most high-end prospects in Class AA. WR Darius Slayton (940 yards receiving) and RB Micah Abernathy (1,664 yards rushing) each are among the top-20 prospects in Georgia. GAC returns all four starting linebackers, and they include Tyler Cooksey (committed to Georgia Tech) and Paul Carothers (Navy). The new quarterback is a sophomore, Davis Mills. 2. Benedictine's semifinal run in 2013 was the Savannah school's best effort since 1978. All five starters on the offensive line are gone, but returning are QB Stevie Powers (1,511 yards passing), preseason all-state WR Brad Stewart (698 yards receiving) and RB Chance Jackson (852 yards rushing). 3. GAC and Benedictine have never played each other in football, but they met in the Class AA baseball final last spring in Savannah. Stewart hit a home run for a 3-2 lead in Benedictine's 7-2 victory in Game 3.

ELCA vs. Mount Paran Christian

When, where: 10 a.m. Saturday, A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium, Columbus

Rankings: Eagle's Landing Christian (11-1 in 2013) is No. 4 in A; Mount Paran (9-3 in 2013) is No. 10 in A.

Last meeting: Eagle's Landing Christian won 34-14 in the first round of the 2011 Class A playoffs.

Three things to know: 1. This will be the first of three games played Saturday in Columbus as part of the inaugural Battleground Kickoff Classic, all streamed live on the NHFS Network. The Chargers and Eagles will be followed by Landmark Christian against Christian Heritage at 1 p.m. and Brookstone against Mount Pisgah Christian at 4 p.m. 2. Eagle's Landing Christian has won 18 consecutive regular-season games, but extending that streak much further is going to be a big challenge. The Chargers' first six games (Mount Paran, Stockbridge, GAC, Mount Pisgah, Whitewater and Woodward Academy) and eight games overall come against teams that made the playoffs last season, including four that did it in higher classifications. 3. Mount Paran lost just four seniors from a team that finished 9-3 in 2013 and lost in the private-school quarterfinals. The Eagles return virtually all of their skill-position players, including QB Jake Allen (1,276 yards passing), RB Dorian Walker (911 yards rushing), RB Taylor Trammell (608 yards rushing) and all-state WR Emoni Williams (825 yards receiving).

Kell vs. Carrollton 

When, where: 9 a.m. Saturday, Walter H. Cantrell Stadium, Powder Springs

Rankings: Kell (13-1 in 2013) is No. 7 in AAAAA; Carrollton (13-2 in 2013) is No. 5 in AAAA.

Last meeting: This is the teams' first meeting.

Three things to know: 1. Kell must replace its leading rusher (Jay Moxey), passer (Matt McGuigan) and receiver (Julian Burris) from last year, but the Longhorns will have experience at quarterback. Senior Cameron Rosendahl took over as the starter when McGuigan suffered an injury in the eighth game and passed for 695 yards and 10 touchdowns down the stretch. 2. Ed Dudley will make his debut as Carrollton coach after taking over for Rayvan Teague, who retired from coaching after going 127-27 in 12 years with the Trojans. Dudley, who served as the defensive coordinator at Carrollton (1988-91) before getting his first head coaching job, is 183-75 as head coach with stops at Ware County (2009-13), Walton (1995-2008) and Buford (1992-94). He was 4-1 against Kell when he was at Walton. 3. Carrollton will have a new QB after the graduation of Will Garrett, who passed for more than 1,100 yards in the run-based offense. His successor is likely to be his brother, junior Jack Garrett. Leading rusher Jarvis Terrell returns to lead a talented group of running backs.

Mays vs. Hughes

When, where: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Tri-Cities High School, East Point

Rankings: Mays (8-4 in 2013) is No. 10 in AAAAA; Hughes (10-2 in 2013) is No. 10 in AAAAAA.

Last meeting: This is the teams' first meeting.

Three things to know: 1. The teams are playing as part of the third annual Labor Day Classic. It originally was played over Labor Day weekend and will return there next season. Carver (Columbus) plays Carver (Atlanta) in the opener of the tripleheader at 2:30 p.m., followed by host Tri-Cities against Hardaway. 2. Hughes, in its sixth season of varsity football, has finished 10-2 the past two years but is ranked in preseason for the first time. Hughes hangs its hat on its defense. The Panthers had five shutouts last season DL D'Andre Walker is a two-time all-state player and the reigning Region 3-AAAAAA defensive player of the year. LB Montravious Atkinson (committed to Auburn) got honorable-mention all-state recognition last season. DT Jeremiah Culbreth has offers from Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgia State. 3. Mays is ranked in preseason for the first time since 1990 and the first time at any point in a season since 2008. One reason is the group of five players committed to Division I programs. They are DE Natrez Patrick (Georgia), OL Dallas Warmack (Alabama), WR Tyshawn Brown (Purdue), DE Aaron Cochran (Louisville) and LB Charlie Patrick (Georgia State).

Mill Creek vs. Colquitt County

When, where: 11:45 a.m. Saturday, Walter H. Cantrell Stadium, Powder Springs

Rankings: Mill Creek (6-4 in 2013) is No. 6 in AAAAAA; Colquitt County (11-3 in 2013) is No. 2 in AAAAAA.

Last meeting: Colquitt County won 27-14 in the 2010 Class AAAAA quarterfinals.

Three things to know:1. Mill Creek was widely regarded as Georgia's best team that didn't make the playoffs in 2013. The Hawks were 6-4 with losses to state finalists Norcross (27-13) and North Gwinnett (50-47). The '13 team averaged more than 40 points per game. There are at least four Division I recruits on offense - QB Daniel David (committed to Appalachian State), OL Kaleb Kim (Auburn), OL Josh Fannin (Middle Tennessee) and RB/LB Johnathan Hawkins (Florida State offer). The defense has a new coordinator, former Etowah head coach Bill Stewart. 2. Colquitt County expects to have a strong defense despite losing seven of its top 10 tacklers, but the ones that return - Bull Barge, Quintin Hampton and Tomarcio Reese - ranked 1-2-3 in stops, and Hampton and Reese combined for 53 tackles behind the line. The star on offense is RB Sihiem King, who had 1,439 yards rushing, 371 receiving and 18 touchdowns in 2018. 3. Colquitt County originally was scheduled to play North Gwinnett in the 5:45 p.m. game of the Corky Kell Classic, but changes were made when the event was moved from the Georgia Dome to McEachern to accommodate an Atlanta Falcons preseason game. Colquitt was reassigned the 11:45 a.m. game to allow the team to get back home sooner (McEachern is farther away). Mill Creek originally was scheduled to play McEachern.

North Cobb at Northside (Warner Robins) 

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, McConnell-Talbert Stadium, Warner Robins

Rankings: North Cobb (9-3 in 2013) is unranked in AAAAAA; Northside (10-2 in 2013) is No. 4 in AAAAA.

Last meeting: This is the teams' first meeting.

Three things to know: 1. North Cobb lost 16 starters from last year's region championship team, but it has an important returnee in QB Tyler Queen. The Auburn-committed senior, who is expected to be 100 percent after suffering an arm injury during the baseball season, passed for 2,150 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 434 yards and nine TDs in 2013. 2. Northside's QB situation is less settled as the team looks to replace Marcus Ivory, who graduated after passing for almost 1,300 yards last season. The favorite to win the job, according to the Macon Telegraph, is Jurmon Weaver, who played receiver in 2013 and caught 16 passes for 297 yards and five touchdowns. Also in contention are Tanner Smith, who was 2-for-2 passing last year and rushed 21 times for 64 yards, and sophomore Tobias Oliver. 3. Both schools are in the midst of unprecedented periods of success. Northside has won 10 or more games for a state-record 16 consecutive seasons. North Cobb's 20 victories in 2012 and 2013 are the most in a two-year period in school history.

North Gwinnett at McEachern 

When, where: 8:45 p.m. Saturday, Walter H. Cantrell Stadium, Powder Springs

Rankings: North Gwinnett (13-2 in 2013) is No. 4 in AAAAAA; McEachern (11-3 in 2013) is No. 1 in AAAAAA.

Last meeting: North Gwinnett won 27-21 in the 2013 Class AAAAAA semifinals.

Three things to know: 1. This game is a rematch of last year's semifinal, which North Gwinnett won at McEachern for its fourth consecutive road playoff victory. C.J. Leggett, now at Georgia Tech, rushed for 292 yards and put North Gwinnett ahead for good with a 53-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. 2. Both teams will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks. North Gwinnett's John Urzua will replace Hayden Sphire, who passed for more than 2,500 yards last season. McEachern will turn to Bailey Hockman, son of coach Kyle Hockman, to replace Ty Clemons, who rushed and passed for more than 1,100 yards in 2013. Urzua and Hockman both got experience last year when Sphire and Clemons missed games because of injuries. 3. North Gwinnett and McEachern are led by Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super 11 selections. North Gwinnett OT Mitch Hyatt has committed to Clemson, and McEachern OT Chuma Edoga is headed to Southern Cal. Both teams could have at least four players sign with major Division I schools.

Sandy Creek vs. Archer 

When, where: 8:45 p.m. Friday, Walter H. Cantrell Stadium, Powder Springs

Rankings: Sandy Creek (11-1-1 in 2013) is No. 2 in AAAA; Archer (11-1 in 2013) is No. 3 in AAAAAA.

Last meeting: This is the teams' first meeting.

Three things to know: 1. Look for Sandy Creek RB Eric Swinney to have a huge season. He rushed for 1,289 yards and 24 touchdowns last season sharing time with another 1,000-yard rusher, Delvin Weems, who transferred to Tucker. Swinney is rated the nation's No. 10 RB prospect and has committed to Ole Miss. 2. Archer QB Gabe Tiller returns for his third season as the starter after passing for 2,370 yards and 28 touchdowns with just six interceptions in 2013, and the Tigers have a returning 1,000-yard rusher in Randy Nails. Archer returns seven starters on defense. 3. Archer began playing football in 2009 and has quickly evolved into one of Gwinnett County's top programs. The Tigers have increased their victory total each season, and in 2013 they won their first region title and first playoff game and had a school-record 11 victories. Sandy Creek is having its best run in the history of the program, which began in 1992. The Patriots have won at least 11 games for six consecutive seasons, a stretch that includes three state titles.

Trinity Christian (Fla.) at Buford 

When, where: 9 p.m. Saturday, Tom Riden Stadium, Buford

Rankings: Trinity Christian (12-1 in 2013) is No. 22 nationally in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 preseason poll; Buford (15-0 in 2013) is No. 1 in AAAA.

Last meeting: This is the teams' first meeting.

Three things to know:1. Trinity Christian, known as the Conquerors, won Florida's Class 3A championship last season. The team has nine players that are rated three-star recruits or better by Rivals. They include Deontai Williams, who is committed to Georgia, and five-star prospect Kevin Toliver II, who is committed to LSU. Both are defensive backs. 2. Buford won Georgia's Class AAA championship last season, the sixth state title in seven seasons for the Wolves, who are now playing in AAAA. Buford has four players that are rated three-star recruits or better by Rivals. They are OL Nick Polino (committed to North Carolina), RB Evyn Cooper, LB Austin Smith (Tennessee) and DT Quay Picou (Tennessee). 3. Buford is 3-0 all-time against out-of-state opponents. Buford defeated Grove City (Ohio) 34-7 at Fawcett Stadium at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 2007; Mansfield Timberview (Texas) 42-21 at Texas Stadium in Dallas in 2008; and Yulee (Fla.) 49-7 at home in 2011.

Tucker vs. Norcross 

When, where: 5:45 p.m. Saturday, Walter H. Cantrell Stadium, Powder Springs

Rankings: Tucker (14-1 in 2013) is No. 5 in AAAAAA; Norcross (13-2 in 2013) is No. 9 in AAAAAA.

Last meeting: Norcross won 35-21 in 1997.

Three things to know: 1. Norcross returns only four starters from its 2013 state championship team. They are DE Jean-Baptiste Kouassi, DT Dorian Kithart, OT/DT D'Andre Plantin and WR Jared Pinckney. Gone are 11 seniors who signed with Division I programs, including DE Lorenzo Carter to Georgia and LB Kevin Mouhon to Tennessee. Coach Keith Maloof remains fairly confident: "We're going to be fine. We've got a lot of great sophomores. The senior class has been waiting its turn. Hopefully, it's not rebuild but a reloading kind of deal." 2. Tucker is in the highest classification for the first time since 1985, but with state titles in 2008 and 2011, few doubt that the Tigers will be a contender. The team is especially good on defense. DE Jonathan Ledbetter, rated the No. 10 senior in Georgia, has committed to Georgia. CB/KR Duke Shelley, rated No. 37, is a returning all-state player. RB/LB Elijah Sullivan is committed to Auburn. RB Delvin Weems, a transfer from Sandy Creek, is going to Marshall. 3. When these schools most recently met, in 1997, Maloof was Tucker's head coach, and Bryan Lamar, now Tucker's head coach, was one of Tucker's best players (and also a standout on Tucker's state runner-up basketball team in 1999). Both would move on after the 1998-99 school year, Maloof to Norcross as head coach and Lamar to UT-Chattanooga as a promising strong safety.

Produced by Georgia High School Football Daily, a free e-mail newsletter. To join the mailing list, click here.

Reader Comments ...