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STOVALL: The predicted best of times and worst of times for Southern Crescent high school football teams

Gabriel Stovall

Gabriel Stovall

Time to put on my prediction hat and bring to you my third annual Brian Paglia Memorial Best-Case, Worst-Case scenario column — my former colleague and current sports editor at the Forsyth County News.

He first wrote one and I liked it so much I bit it hard after he left the paper we worked at together for his current position, and since then have added a bit to it.

It’s where I peer into my foggy crystal ball and do my best to either make myself look like a high school football guru or goofball.

For those of you who followed my prediction columns at my last sportswriting gig, you may be inclined to say that I presented myself as the latter, more than the former. And that’s okay!

I was once told by a seasoned sportswriter that you’ve not made an impact in sportswriting — or any other journalistic style of writing for that matter — until you’ve been called an idiot.

And I have. A few times. Bully for me! However, thanks to that good ol’ tough skin I inherited from my mother, I keep willingly putting myself on the chopping block.

I’m particularly excited about this season, because after four seasons of covering one half of the Southern Crescent — Henry and Clayton counties — this new baby of mine gives me the opportunity to include the whole Southern Crescent area, which brings Fayette and Spalding counties into the fold. And probably a few more relatively close areas next year.

But first things first. This season and this current four-county area with its 3o-plus Georgia High School Association schools. I’ll pitch to you my regular season record prediction given the perfect season with perfect variables — aka, the team at its absolute best — and then my worst case which is what could happen if the bottom falls completely out.

After this initial prediction column, I’ll write a subsequent one each Wednesday leading up to the new week of games, predicting scores and winners for area high school and college games.

Feel free to insult me regularly this season. But be gentle. I emotionally bruise easily.

Okay, that’s a lie. On with the predictions — this time by county.


 

SPALDING COUNTY

GRIFFIN BEARS

2014 record: 11-1

2015 best-case record: 9-1

2015 worst-case record: 6-4

THE OUTLOOK: We all know the kinds of expectations that surround the football team in GriffinLand, but I have a two word admonition for the Griffin faithful: Be. Patient. Why? Because this could arguably be the youngest, greenest collection of football talent Griffin’s had in the last 20 years. The talent could blossom. But if it doesn’t, don’t run coach Jarrett Laws out of town.

SPALDING JAGUARS

2014 record: 6-4

2015 best-case: 9-1

2015 worst-case: 6-4

THE OUTLOOK: Nick Davis has been grooming his guys for this. He’s had three seasons to cultivate this group of seniors, and now with a medium-sized question mark standing beside the Griffin Bears, this could be Spalding’s chance to stake its claim as Spalding County’s best.


 

FAYETTE COUNTY

FAYETTE COUNTY TIGERS

2014 record: 4-7

2015 best-case: 7-3

2015 worst-case: 3-7

THE OUTLOOK: Here’s one of my sleeper squads for the 2015 season. And if you got a chance to watch them practice, and if you’ve seen that mammoth offensive line, you’d know why. Like Spalding, Fayette’s got a hungry senior class that’s steadily improved and looks ready to peak.

MCINTOSH CHIEFS

2014 record: 3-7

2015 best-case: 5-5

2015 worst-case: 2-8

THE OUTLOOK: The Chiefs lost a LOT last year. Maybe more than any other team, and not so much the number, but the quality of players lost — the ones who meant the most. It’s truly a rebuilding season for McIntosh.

SANDY CREEK PATRIOTS

2014 record: 11-2

2015 best-case: 10-0

2015 worst-case: 8-2

THE OUTLOOK: It’s state championship or bust for the Sandy Creek class of 2016. They were freshmen when the class of 2013 brought home the Patriots’ third state crown. The Creek is one of, I believe, three area teams who could make a state championship run.

STARS MILL PANTHERS

2014 record: 6-5

2015 best-case: 7-3

2015 worst-case: 4-6

THE OUTLOOK:

WHITEWATER WILDCATS

2014 record: 7-4

2015 best-case: 7-3

2015 worst-case: 4-6

THE OUTLOOK: I’m giving coach Amos McCreary the benefit of the doubt with that best-case scenario. Only because in his 12 seasons at the school, he’s never had a losing season — not even in year one of the program back in 2004. That’s saying a lot on the high school level. Whitewater loses probably just as much as McIntosh, but all-purpose player Ian McIntyre is one of the Southern Crescent’s best.


 

HENRY COUNTY

DUTCHTOWN BULLDOGS

2014 Record: 5-5

2015 best-case: 8-2

2015 worst-case: 4-6

THE OUTLOOK: High school football is funny in that if you’ve got a good quarterback, you’ve got a good chance to be in most games. Dutchtown senior K’lin Epps qualifies as such. Keep an eye on DB D.J. Montgomery as a major playmaker.

EAGLE’S LANDING GOLDEN EAGLES

2014 Record: 8-3

2015 best-case: 7-3

2015 worst-case: 5-5

THE OUTLOOK: By far, this is the hardest team to put a finger on. If coach Joe Teknipp were still with us, I’d give them another 8 win season, no brainer. The talent is there, but it remains to be seen how interim coach Shawn Jones will be able to navigate this bunch through what will probably be a pretty emotional season.

ELCA CHARGERS

2014 record: 7-7

2015 best-case: 7-3

2015 worst-case: 5-5

THE OUTLOOK: Not sure how many GHSA teams have finished .500 AND state runner up in the same season. Pretty sure ELCA’s at the top of a very short list. The meat grinder schedule is back, but the Chargers are more talented and more prepared for it. Expect a couple of wins against teams in higher classifications, and a return trip to the Dome.

HAMPTON HORNETS

2014 record: 0-10

2015 best-case: 2-8

2015 worst-case: 0-10

THE OUTLOOK: You can’t really measure the progress of this program in wins and losses just yet. In just the school’s second year of competition, coach Chad Ashley has seen improvement. But depth, accumulating playmakers and team cohesiveness is still a work in progress.

HENRY COUNTY WARHAWKS

2014 record: 4-6

2015 best-case: 7-3

2015 worst-case: 4-6

THE OUTLOOK: Coach Morris Starr has done a better job of getting more out of less than anyone else in the four-county area. Competing in Class AAAA with Class AAA numbers in the county’s most sparsely populated school is daunting. But Starr and company make no excuses. Tough, gritty ballclub.

LOCUST GROVE WILDCATS

2014 record: 8-3

2015 best-case: 9-1

2015 worst-case: 6-4

THE OUTLOOK: I’m pegging the Wildcats for a breakout season this year behind senior quarterback Cameron Maddox, and tailbacks Caleb Huntley and Demonta Smith. That trio, running behind a mammoth offensive line, will be one of the area’s toughest ground games to stop.

 

LUELLA LIONS

2014 record: 5-5

2015 best-case: 7-3

2015 worst-case: 3-7

THE OUTLOOK: You hate to pin the fate of an entire team on one man, but Luella running back and Syracuse commitment Darius Stubbs is just that good. In addition, Luella’s got questions at quarterback, and defensively, the Lions have young but unproven talent.

OLA MUSTANGS

2014 record: 4-6

2015 best-case: 7-3

2015 worst-case: 3-7

THE OUTLOOK: You heard it hear first: Ola Mustangs will nab their first winning season in school history. Coach Jared Zito’s emphasis on “bigger, faster, stronger,” is noticeable on the field. And the Mustangs were just a few unfortunate ball bounces away from achieving that milestone last year.

STOCKBRIDGE TIGERS

2014 record: 11-3

2015 best-case: 10-0

2015 worst-case: 9-1

THE OUTLOOK: Last year it was the semifinals, the year before, quarterfinals. Before that Stockbridge was just amazed to find the postseason, period. Now, the next logical step is a trip to the Dome. I see no reason why it can’t happen this year.

UNION GROVE WOLVERINES

2014 record: 3-7

2015 best-case: 6-4

2015 worst-case: 3-7

THE OUTLOOK: From culture to discipline to good vibes and warm, fuzzy feelings, new Wolverines football coach Craig Melton has gotten it all right so far. Now let’s see how quickly the paradigm shift at Union Grove translates to Friday night success.

WOODLAND WOLFPACK

2014 record: 7-3

2015 best-case: 6-4

2015 worst-case: 4-6

THE OUTLOOK: One word as to why I have pause in predicting Woodland to take that next step from a 7-3 first-season with coach Steven Davenport. Quarterback. Woodland’s got good pieces in other places, particularly running back, but until that quarterback position gets settled, there’s a question mark next to the big, red “W.”


 

CLAYTON COUNTY

DREW TITANS

2014 record: 7-4

2015 best-case: 8-2

2015 worst-case: 6-4

THE OUTLOOK: Stellar offense capable of outscoring anyone they play. Defense looked a little problematic in Lovejoy scrimmage. If that unit grows up, watch out.

FOREST PARK PANTHERS

2014 record: 0-10

2015 best-case: 1-9

2014 worst-case: 0-10

THE OUTLOOK: Here’s all you need to know about the Panthers in regard to their season outlook: Dale Myers is the school’s 10th coach in 13 seasons. Came on board the weekend before school started back.

JONESBORO Cardinals

2014 record: 4-6

2015 best-case: 8-2

2015 worst-case: 6-4

THE OUTLOOK: Top shelf talent all around for the Cardinals’ top units. The difference between a region title run and sneaking in the postseason through a play-in game will be good health and developing depth.

LOVEJOY WILDCATS

2014 record: 7-4

2015 best-case: 8-2

2015 worst-case: 6-4

THE OUTLOOK: This is one of a handful of teams I say can catch you if you sleep on them. Everybody thinks the Wildcats are down because they’re younger and smaller than in years past. But don’t underestimate their level of speed and talent, and most important, team chemistry.

MORROW MUSTANGS

2014 record: 3-7

2015 best-case: 5-5

2015 worst-case: 2-8

THE OUTLOOK: In year four, it’s time for coach Larry Foster’s squad to find the postseason. There’s been steady improvement in each of his four seasons, and quite frankly, I’m slightly surprised that he’s stayed as long as has. It can only be good for the program. Mustangs could take a big leap forward this year.

MOUNT ZION BULLDOGS

2014 record: 2-8

2015 best-case: 4-6

2015 worst-case: 3-7

THE OUTLOOK: Kevin “Bull” Jones can coach. This much we know. But this year will be the first time in three head coaching stops where he’s had a second season to build on progress. Mount Zion was close in several games last year. They get closer to getting over the hump.

MUNDY’S MILL TIGERS

2014 record: 7-4

2015 best-case: 8-2

2015 worst-case: 4-6

THE OUTLOOK: Every time you look up at Mundy’s Mill, you’re tempted to think their success is of the flash in a pan variety. But coach Greg Manior is building a winner, and they’ve got another stud at tailback to carry them.

NORTH CLAYTON EAGLES

2014 record: 3-7

2015 best-case: 5-5

2015 worst-case: 3-7

THE OUTLOOK: Here’s another team that could be sneaky good this year. I believe coach James Soza is quietly building a Class AAA contender in College Park.

RIVERDALE RAIDERS

2014 record: 3-7

2015 best-case: 8-2

2015 worst-case: 5-5

THE OUTLOOK: The Raiders always have talent, but this could be the year…scratch that….this MUST be the year Riverdale puts it together and, even in a worst case scenario, will find their way into the playoffs. Too much top-level talent to not make it.

Gabriel Stovall is the founding editor of thecrescentbuzz.com. Follow him on Twitter @GabrielStovall1 and follow thecrescentbuzz.com @crescent_buzz. We’re also on Instagram: @screscent_buzz. Gabriel can also be reached via email at gstovall@thecrescentbuzz.com.

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