This is the first of John McClellan’s weekly columns posting each Monday on Hometown Headlines now through the state championships in December. John also joins us at 7:40 this morning on Hometown Headlines Radio Edition on WRGA 98.7 FM and online at wrga.streamon.fm.
The 2017 high school football season was another banner year for teams in Northwest Georgia. The Rome Wolves scored more points in a season than any team in Georgia high school football history as they won their second straight Class AAAAA state championship with a 38-0 win over Warner Robins. The Calhoun Yellow Jackets had a closer call in the Class AAA state title game with a 10-6 win over Peach County. The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes fell short in their bid for a third straight Class AAAA state championship as they suffered a 21-17 second round upset loss to eventual state champion Blessed Trinity.
The Darlington Tigers defeated Mt. de Sales and Aquinas to reach the Class A Private School quarterfinals before losing to Prince Avenue Christian 31-18. The Pepperell Dragons beat Banks County in the Class AA first round before Heard County defeated Pepperell 41-28. The Rockmart Yellow Jackets also reached the Class AA second round with a win over Monticello followed by a 40-35 loss to Callaway. The Cedartown Bulldogs, in Class AAAA, also made it to the second round with a win over Northwest Whitfield and a 31-18 loss to state runner-up Marist. Other playoff teams who were eliminated in the first round included Adairsville in Class AAA, Coosa and Chattooga in Class AA, Trion in Class A Public, and Unity Christian in the GICAA playoffs.
The beginning of the 2018 season is upon us with the official start of practice after months of weight lifting, conditioning, and drills. Preseason scrimmages start this week for a few schools with other teams taking the field against other opponents next week. Coaching changes, classification adjustments, new rules, and new schedules all are a part of a new season.
Jeremy Green is the new head coach at Armuchee. Green, a 1996 Armuchee alumnus, takes over the head job for the Indians after serving as offensive coordinator at Cass. He was an assistant coach at Armuchee from 2002 through 2004 and also was defensive coordinator both at Franklin County and Sonoraville. Green succeeds Muhammed Abdellatif, another Armuchee graduate, who resigned after a four-year stint in which the Indians won six games and lost 34 games. Abdellatif now is defensive coordinator at Kennesaw Mountain.
The retirement of Gordon Powers also opened up the Model job where Ricky Ross takes over as head coach. Ross comes to Model from Sonoraville, where he served as defensive coordinator. He also was defensive coordinator at Calhoun for five years during a streak where the Yellow Jackets won one state championship and reached the state title game every year. Ross was head coach at Marion County (Tenn.) for two years and defensive coordinator at McCallie between his time at Calhoun and Sonoraville. Powers was head coach at Model from 2003 through 2008 and again from 2012 through 2017, making six playoff appearances with an overall record of 60 wins and 67 losses.
Other coaching changes in schools in regions in northwest Georgia:
- Jim Bob Bryant takes over at North Paulding after serving as head coach at Freedom High School in Morganton, N.C. He succeeds Scott Jones, who retired.
- Jason Thompson, who was defensive coordinator at Johns Creek, is the new coach at South Paulding. He succeeds Ed Koester, who retired.
- Pete Fominaya is the new head coach at Hiram after serving as head coach at Gulf Coast High School in Naples, Fla. He succeeds Chris Brown, who resigned.
- Paul Ellis is the new man at LaFayette after serving as head coach at Fort Payne, Ala. He replaces Chad Fisher, who moves to Northwest Whitfield as offensive coordinator.
- Courtney Braswell takes over at Ridgeland after serving as head coach at Chattanooga Central. He replaces Wesley Tankersley, who is the new head coach at Stephens County.
- Chuck Gibbs, who was head coach at Scottsdale Christian Academy in Arizona, is the new head coach at LaGrange. He replaces Dialleo Burks, who resigned.
- Rich Fendley is the new head coach at Bowdon after working as defensive coordinator at Westside of Macon. He replaces Robert Andrews, who is the new head coach at Walnut Grove.
- Former Cartersville head coach Frank Barden moves into the head role at St. Francis after heading up Stephens County for four years. He succeeds former Shorter University assistant coach Tim Mathis, who left to become head coach at Cumberland University.
Classification & Scheduling Changes
Even numbered years in Georgia high school football normally involve reclassification with large numbers of schools moving to new regions and different classes. The Georgia High School Association, in 2016, switched from a two-year to a four-year reclassification schedule that pushed the total reorganization of regions back to 2020. Instead, the GHSA did a classification adjustment for the coming two seasons.
The one region directly affected in Northwest Georgia is Region 6-AAA. Bremen was one of a handful of schools forced the past two years to play up in class due to having a huge percentage of students from outside Haralson County. The GHSA granted Bremen and Jefferson, another affected school, relief to return to their appropriate classifications.
As a result, Bremen will drop from Region 6-AAA to Region 5-AA, a region that run from Bremen and Temple in the north to Columbus in the south. This means that Region 6-AAA, the only non Class A region in the state that was divided into subregions, will play as one nine-team region the next two seasons. Adairsville, Calhoun, Coahulla Creek, Haralson County, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Murray County, North Murray, Ringgold, and Sonoraville will play a full region schedule like other schools in the state with the top four teams reaching the state playoffs.
Another change that will indirectly affect the members of Region 7-AA involves Benedictine. The change requires Benedictine, an all-male Catholic school located in Savannah, to move up from Class AA to Class AAA. The result is that, for the first time ever, there will be no private schools that play football remaining in Class AA. Schools in Class AA had pushed for the change for several years.
Other than teams in Region 6-AAA, there will be no change in region opponents for the remaining GHSA teams. Teams in Regions 7-AA and 5-AAAA will play the same region opponents in the same order the next two seasons. Regions 7-AAAAA and 6-A have made adjustments to the order of games but region opponents will remain the same.
The Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association has reorganized its classifications and regions for 2018 and it will affect Unity Christian School. The UCS Lions once again will play in the 8-man football division of the GICAA. UCS will be I Region 2 of Division II with Hearts Academy, Holy Spirit Preparatory School, Horizon Christian Academy, Praise Academy, and Victory Baptist School. The 23 schools who play 8-man football in the GICAA all are in the4 same classification this year,
Outside the region, the highlight of the early season in Northwest Georgia will be the playing of the first two games of the Corky Kell Classic on Thursday, Aug. 16, at Barron Stadium. Calhoun will play the Ridgeland Panthers in the 5:30 p.m. opener. Rome will host the Marietta Blue Devils in the 8:30 p.m. nightcap. The other Corky Kell Classic games will be played on Friday night at Georgia State University and on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The 2018 rules changes are relatively minor compared to some recent seasons. The most significant will permit receiving teams to take the result of the play when the kickoff team commits a penalty instead of forcing a rekick. A second change requires a player who is wearing improper equipment to sit out one play in addition to the 15 yard penalty assessed to the team.
All teams may play one scrimmage against another opponent. In addition, teams who did not conduct spring practice may play a second scrimmage. Here is the preseason scrimmage schedule for 2018.
- Pepperell at Temple
- Rockmart at Bremen
- Whitefield Academy at Darlington
- Northwest Whitfield at Calhoun
- Trion at LaFayette
- Southeast Whitfield at Armuchee
- Coosa at Bowdon
- Mt. Zion at Model
- Pepperell at Cass
- New Manchester at Rome
- Adairsville at Woodland
- Cedartown at Chattooga
- Temple at Rockmart
- Sonoraville at Gordon Central
Unity Christian School v. Twiggs Academy at John Hancock Academy