High school football teams are pretty hard to diagnose, simply because it’s not just the talent you’ve got to make note of, but their psyche as well. And judging the psyche of 14-17 year old boys is not the easiest thing to do week in and week out. Just ask your local high school teacher or parent.
If the old football cliche holds true, we should see the biggest jump in improvement from football teams that played their first game of the season last week.
There aren’t a ton of big, marquee match ups on this week’s slate of games — at least on paper — but there are a few games of note this week, giving a few teams a chance to make some big statements this week.
Highlighted in this week’s set of predictions is the fact the college football season is back, and Georgia Tech will kick off the season tonight when it plays host to Alcorn State.
Last week I was 12-4 and 4-2 in my “big six.” Let’s see if I can best that this week. Let’s start with a high school game tonight that we’ll be covering.
DUTCHTOWN at LOVEJOY: Lovejoy is back at home again and riding high the momentum of a come-from-behind win against Mundy’s Mill last week. Dare I pick against the Wildcats twice in a row? I heard they were pretty amped up about the fact that I chose Mundy’s Mill last week. However, this week a talented Dutchown team comes to Twelve Oaks tonight with a senior quarterback in K’lin Epps. The Bulldogs hung with perennial power Camden County on the road before losing 21-7 in a game that was called off for lightening. That’s not a bad showing, especially considering Dutchtown put the first points on the board. Meanwhile, the Wildcats have a salty defense and an ever emerging cast of young weapons on offense, starting with a pair of sophomores in quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams and running back Zion Custis.
Honestly, from a talent perspective on paper, this one is a very even matchup. Lovejoy’s home field won’t be as much of a factor, though, and in games like these I tend to go with experience in key positions. Here’s some more motivation, Wildcats: DUTCHTOWN 28, LOVEJOY 27
FAYETTE AT STARR’S MILL: I really believe the Tigers are better than their 0-2 start. I really do. But they’ve drawn some tough opponents in the first part of the season, and this week is no exception with their trip to in-county rival Starr’s Mill. I still believe Fayette County has the talent to get on a tear once all their pieces gel together. But it’s always hard breaking in a quarterback as coach Mike Davis is doing with sophomore McKenzie Still. Meanwhile, Starr’s Mill’s Satchel Goodrich is the Panthers’ do-it-all player and leader on one of the better Starr’s Mill squads since coach Chad Phillips’ first team that went to the Georgia Dome to play for a state title.
A cool side storyline: Goodrich’s brother Elijah will be on the opposite sideline coaching linebackers for Fayette. I think Fayette County will soon begin to show signs of being a playoff contender. Just not this week. Not yet. STARR’S MILL 28, FAYETTE COUNTY 14
BURKE COUNTY at GRIFFIN: The Bears continue to be ranked high in the Class AAAA top 10 (No. 4) despite sporting tons of youth and having a bit of a lackluster performance — by Griffin standards — against a very game Henry County team. Meanwhile, Burke has jumped out to an impressive 2-0 start and has ample playmakers, starting with junior WR/CB Cail Jackson and Bo Goodin. The Bears can’t afford a sluggish start tonight as they’ve had in both their opener and their scrimmage against Pike County. If the Griffin Bears start slow, the Burke County Bears have the talent to capitalize. I think the fact that Griffin is at home for this one is what will help a young team find its footing. GRIFFIN 31, BURKE COUNTY 20.
SPALDING at LAGRANGE: If you just throw this game out there on paper, your knee-jerk response will be to choose LaGrange, right? Of course. The Grangers are a traditional Georgia power, and Spalding has had three winning seasons in 15 years of existence. But one of those came last year under coach Nick Davis. He’s finally got a senior-laden group of guys who many think have been groomed and prepared for a breakout year in 2015. Meanwhile, LaGrange hasn’t really been LaGrange since an 11-3 season in 2008, at the tale-end of coach Steve Pardue’s 17-year tenure.
LaGrange has gotten out of the gates quick with nice wins against Troup and Calloway. Spalding completely thrashed Forest Park 45-7. The kicker is it was 42-0 at halftime. Okay, so Forest Park isn’t a state title hopeful. But what the Jaguars did to the Panthers is exactly what great teams do — jump on an inferior opponent early and often and leave no doubt. I’ve said Spalding may be the best team in Spalding County this year. I’m sticking with that notion for now, and picking Spalding for the road win: SPALDING 35, LAGRANGE 27
ELCA AT GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN: Last year the Chargers pushed the Class AA runners up to the limit in a 23-16 loss. ELCA’s better this year, as evidenced of taking the Class AAAAA No. 4 team Stockbridge to the limit last week, meanwhile GACA is also loaded again. The Spartans split their first two games of the season, blasting North Oconee last week 55-21 and dropping a heartbreaker in double overtime to Class AA No. 1 Benedictine. That means GACA and ELCA may be heading for quite the clash Friday night in Norcross. I think ELCA showed last week that it had the brawn up front and the wheels in the backfield between running backs Trevor Gear and Josh Mays and quarterback D.J. Hammond to play and compete — and win — against the best in Georgia. I see the Chargers exacting a little payback Friday night. ELCA 21, GACA 17.
LOCUST GROVE at UNION GROVE: The Wolverines got blitzed by an athletic Eagle’s Landing squad led by one of the best — and most unheralded — players and athletes in the state in Antonio Gibson. And while Locust Grove has a ton of offensive talent with quarterback Cameron Maddox and tailbacks Caleb Huntley and Champ Leddon, I think it’ll be a better overall matchup for the Wolverines. Still, Union Grove coach Craig Melton will need to wait at least one more week for a win. The Wildcats ground game which rolled up 222 yards last week against Ola will be looking for similar success against a Union Grove defense still learning. LOCUST GROVE 35, UNION GROVE 10.
JONESBORO at WESTOVER: Now sporting a No. 5 ranking in front of its name, Jonesboro’s trip to Westover might be an even bigger game than last week’s upset of then-No. 5 Sandy Creek. Don’t hate on the fact that Westover lost big to Class AAAAAA No. 8 Lee County. Many teams would. And the Patriots have talent, but Jonesboro has a point to prove, namely that it’s not a one-hit wonder type of team, and that last week’s win over the Patriots from Tyrone is more a sign of things to come, rather than an fuzzy feeling aberration. Here’s what’s different about Jonesboro — and perhaps a sign they’ve already grown up in this new role of being the favorite: Nobody is Twitter talking or buying into the ranking hype. Last week the Cardinals engaged in a little Twitter sparring with Sandy Creek, probably to prove the point that they aren’t backing down. But this week, with social media awash with analysts singing Jonesboro’s praises, the Cardinals have been quiet.
I don’t think it’ll be particularly easy, but I also don’t think coach Tim Floyd lets his guys believe the hype about themselves. Jonesboro stays focused and gets it done in Floyd’s alma mater. JONESBORO 30, WESTOVER 14.
DREW AT LOWNDES: Man, if only I felt confident about the Titans’ defense, I’d pick them against almost anybody with the kind of offensive firepower they boast. Lowndes is also one of those Georgia High School football “name” opponents that make you think of traditional Friday Night Lights when you hear its name. The Vikings lost to Class AAAAAA No. 5 Roswell 35-8 and then dismantled Bayside (Fla.) 49-6. As stated, Drew can score against anybody. But will its defense be up to the task to make plays on the road? If so, believe it or not, this is a winnable game for the Titans. But until I see a stronger defense from them, in games like this one, I’ll have to pick against them in a shootout. LOWNDES 38, DREW 35.
Here are the rest of this week’s predicted winners in CAPS:
Hampton at SANDY CREEK
EAGLE’S LANDING at Southwest Macon
Luella at TIFT COUNTY
OLA at Morrow
Forest Park at WOODLAND
Central Gwinnett at MUNDY’S MILL
MOUNT PARAN at North Clayton
Riverdale at THOMAS COUNTY CENTRAL
On to the College game…
ALCORN STATE at No. 16 GEORGIA TECH: We’ll be on hand at this one to provide live coverage and analysis Thursday. I fully expect this one to go in Tech’s favor in a landslide. Feel-good way to open what could be a big year for the Jackets. GEORGIA TECH 55, ALCORN STATE 3.
LOUISIANA MONROE at No. 9 GEORGIA: The Warhawks from Louisiana are talking big, confident talk about being able to punch the Bulldogs in the mouth. And at least for a quarter-and-a-half, it could be competitive. Nick Chubb will take over, and we won’t have to worry about quarterback play, at least for the first week of the season. GEORGIA 49, L.A. MONROE 17
GEORGIA SOUTHERN at WEST VIRGINIA: The Eagles were one of the darlings of college football last year, winning the Sun Belt Conference in its first year in FBS competition, and coming within just a few points and plays of going 3-0 against the ACC. Georgia Southern won’t sneak up on anyone this year, but I don’t think they’ll need to. West Virginia is a 19 point favorite in this one, but I don’t see it. Going out on a limb and giving the Eagles its coveted D-1 win: GEORGIA SOUTHERN 38, WEST VIRGINIA 35.
CHARLOTTE at GEORGIA STATE: Before the Atlanta Falcons hit the Georgia Dome for its regular season opener, the Georgia State Panthers will get there first to open their year. Both of these schools are looking for some Week 1 momentum as they try to find success as young Division I programs. Georgia State has some talent — especially offensively — and I expect them to come out of this one undefeated. GEORGIA STATE 35, CHARLOTTE 24.
Football is back and in full effect, folks! Enjoy!
Gabriel Stovall is the founding editor of thecrescentbuzz.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for sports news tips and story ideas. Follow him on Twitter also @GabrielStovall1, and follow Southern Crescent Buzz @crescent_buzz.