High school football: GSWA Poll Hits for Sept. 18

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerSeptember 18, 2013 

North Gwinnett began its recent run of relative success in 2006 when Bob Sphire took over the program. Coinciding with his hire, the Bulldogs have won at least 10 games in seven straight seasons.

Three times during that span, they won 11, they won 12 in 2009 and 13 in 2007, the latter of which included a trip to the state finals, where they lost to Lowndes.

That was the team’s only finals appearance in program history. In four of the seven seasons since 2006, North Gwinnett made the quarterfinals. In two, its season ended in the second round.

It lost in the playoffs to teams like Grayson, Colquitt County, Lovejoy and Camden County.

I say all of that to say that maybe — just maybe — it is North Gwinnett’s turn in Class AAAAAA.

At the very least, it is the team’s turn to rule the No. 1 slot for awhile. No team in the state has put together the resume the Bulldogs have.

In three games, North Gwinnett has beaten Camden County (34-14), Grayson (35-0) and Norcross (36-17). It has two more current top-10 teams, Mill Creek and Peachtree Ridge, left on its schedule. If it can escape that gauntlet, there is little doubt this team will be the overwhelming favorite to win it all in the postseason.

Now to the rest of the rankings, how I voted and why. Chime in with comments, Tweets @leprepsports or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ledgerenquirersports.

Class AAAAAA

1. North Gwinnett (19) 3-0 190 1

2. McEachern 3-0 171 2

3. Colquitt County 3-1 147 3

4. Peachtree Ridge 3-0 123 5

5. Mill Creek 3-0 101 8

6. Lovejoy 2-1 91 6

7. Hillgrove 3-0 65 9

8. Camden County 2-1 30 NR

8. Lowndes 2-1 30 NR

10. Valdosta 3-0 29 NR

Others receiving votes: Coffee 22, North Cobb 22, Norcross 19, Marietta 4, Walton 1.

Dropped out: North Cobb (4), Norcross (7), Marietta (10)

How I voted:

1. North Gwinnett

2. McEachern

3. Colquitt County

4. Peachtree Ridge

5. Lovejoy

6. Mill Creek

7. Hillgrove

8. Camden County

9. Lowndes

10. Valdosta

Thoughts…

One final thought about North Gwinnett since my votes and the consensus seem to match up pretty closely: The Bulldogs also beat Colquitt County to start the season last year. It was only a two-point win and it doesn’t mean a whole lot a season later, but I am expecting Colquitt County to be the main competition for North Gwinnett in the playoffs. For anyone who thinks the Bulldogs can’t match up with the Packers, there’s evidence to the contrary for you.

Class AAAAA

1. Northside-W.R. (13) 3-0 183 1

2. Tucker (5) 3-0 173 2

3. Stephenson (1) 3-0 153 3

4. Kell 3-0 127 4

5. Gainesville 2-1 110 6

6. Thomas County Central 3-1 92 7

7. Warner Robins 2-0 79 8

8. Allatoona 3-0 61 9

9. Ware County 2-1 22 10

10. Lee County 3-0 19 NR

10. MLK 2-1 19 5

Others receiving votes: Creekside 4, Union Grove 2, Bainbridge 1.

How I voted:

1. Northside-W.R.

2. Stephenson

3. Tucker

4. Gainesville

5. Warner Robins

6. Kell

7. Allatoona

8. Thomas County Central

9. MLK

10. Ware County

Thoughts…

Thomas County Central has gotten more support from other voters than it has for me, and I’ll be interested to see how things go for that team the rest of this season. We aren’t that far off—I have it ranked two spots lower than the consensus—but I get the impression some consider it to be in the same category as Tucker, Stephenson or Gainesville. It may be, but I’m not quite there yet. Its wins over Marist and Cairo are very impressive, and it played well in a loss to Valdosta. The lasting memory from the 2012 playoffs, though, is a 45-17 loss to Northside-Warner Robins. Time will tell for that team.

Class AAAA

1. Sandy Creek (19) 2-0-1 190 1

2. Carrollton 3-0 171 3

3. Griffin 3-0 145 4

4. Stockbridge 3-1 128 4

5. Monroe Area 3-0 105 7

6. Burke County 1-1 93 2

7. Statesboro 3-0 78 9

8. Wayne County 3-0 38 10

9. Westside-Macon 2-1 36 8

10. Mary Persons 3-0 27 NR

Others receiving votes: Marist 17, Cedartown 7, Riverdale 7, Grady 3.

Dropped out: Marist (6)

How I voted:

1. Sandy Creek

2. Carrollton

3. Stockbridge

4. Griffin

5. Monroe Area

6. Burke County

7. Statesboro

8. Mary Persons

9. Marist

10. Wayne County

Thoughts…

Heading into the 2010 season, Monroe Area was on a 20-game losing streak. Now, it is coming off a 12-win season, is currently 3-0 and ranked No. 5 in the state. Not bad at all. I had the pleasure of covering one Monroe Area game a couple season ago, when it defeated North Hall 28-21 in a de facto play-in game to close the 2011 regular season. Now, that hardly makes me an expert on the team, but I can say that it was a team with a ton of athleticism and poise. North Hall was only 4-6 that year, but that was a distant memory. Since then, it has played in the Class AAA semifinals and is 3-0 to start 2012. That’s a roundabout way of saying I expect Monroe Area to continue to contend at a high level this season.

Class AAA

1. Buford (18) 3-0 189 1

2. St. Pius X 3-0 167 2

3. Cartersville (1) 3-0 156 3

4. Washington County 3-0 130 5

5. North Hall 3-0 116 6

6. Jefferson County 3-0 87 7

7. Carver-Columbus 2-1 60 4

8. North Oconee 1-1 49 9

9. Callaway 2-0 35 10

10. Hart County 3-0 25 NR

Others receiving votes: Pierce County 13, Peach County 10, Ringgold 3, Woodward Academy 3, Decatur 1.

Dropped out: Peach County (8)

How I voted:

1. Buford

2. St. Pius X

3. Cartersville

4. Washington County

5. North Hall

6. Carver-Columbus

7. Jefferson County

8. Callaway

9. North Oconee

10. Hart County

Thoughts…

I’ll be a little picky here: I struggle to find a reason to vote any team over Buford, which only two weeks ago dispatched of defending Class AAAAA state champion Gainesville 38-14. Hypothetically speaking, though, if I were to rank another team No. 1, it would be St. Pius X, which has wins over Thomson and North Oconee. That’s no disrespect to Carterville, which earned one first place vote for its 3-0 start. Cartersville is among the best in Class AAA, and has proven that on the field with 16 wins in its past 17 games. But Buford defeated Cartersville head-to-head in the playoffs last year, and I would argue the Wolves are a much stronger team this year than last. Just a thought.

Class AA

1. GAC (13) 4-0 182 2

2. Lamar County (6) 3-0 176 3

3. Lovett 3-0 150 5

4. Calhoun 2-1 109 1

5. Vidalia 3-0 108 6

6. Washington-Wilkes 3-0 98 7

7. Jefferson 2-1 88 4

8. Brooks County 2-1 57 8

9. Benedictine 3-0 47 9

10. Cook 2-1 14 NR

Others receiving votes: Manchester 10, Westminster 2, Bremen 1, Pelham 1, Thomasville 1, Westside-Augusta 1.

Dropped out: Thomasville (10)

How I voted:

1. GAC

2. Lamar County

3. Lovett

4. Calhoun

5. Vidalia

6. Washington-Wilkes

7. Jefferson

8. Brooks County

9. Manchester

10. Benedictine

Thoughts…

Calhoun held the No. 1 spot for the entirety of the 2012 regular season and had spent this season’s opening weeks at the top as well. Greater Atlanta Christian’s rise to the top spot is a bit of a milestone for that reason. GAC had never been ranked No. 1 prior to this week, but earned it with a 4-0 start as it outscored opponents 190-46. Definitely a deserving choice for the top rank.

Class A

1. Eagle's Landing Christian (19) 3-0 190 1

2. Landmark Christian 4-0 169 2

3. Savannah Christian 1-0-1 144 3

4. Aquinas 2-0 110 5

4. Prince Avenue Christian 2-1 110 4

6. Lincoln County 1-1 88 6

7. Irwin County 2-0-1 79 7

8. George Walton 2-1 55 8

9. Seminole County 3-0 52 9

10. Marion County 2-0 17 NR

Others receiving votes: Pace Academy 12, Johnson County 7, Trion 5, Athens Academy 3, Mt. Paran 3, Emanuel County Institute 1.

Dropped out: Wilcox County (10)

How I voted:

1. Eagle’s Landing Christian

2. Savannah Christian

3. Landmark Christian

4. Prince Avenue Christian

5. Lincoln County

6. Aquinas

7. Irwin County

8. George Walton

9. Seminole County

10. Marion County

Thoughts…

Class A has been fun, hasn’t it? A lot of moving and a lot of shaking. The only constant has been No. 1, where Eagle’s Landing Christian still resides. The rest is up to you. Savannah Christian and Landmark Christian are very deserving after their strong starts, and I still believe Prince Avenue Christian is right there in the mix, as well. Locals will notice the Marion County has deservedly entered the fray. The rest of the season should be interesting to watch.

Who do you think should be ranked? Where did I mess up? Any other teams in the area that deserve more attention? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @leprepsports, and come back each week to see the new polls.

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