2021 Preseason Rankings & Preview

It’s that time of the year again, who is ready for some football! Well, this is our 5th year (crazy right?) doing the preseason rankings, so we decided to also add a mini preview. Let’s see how well these rankings and predictions hold up over the course of this football season, either way, it’s great to just have football back!

Feel free to leave a comment down at the bottom and for more preseason content check out our All-State teams!





7A

1. Collins Hill
2. Milton
3. North Cobb
4. Walton
5. Grayson
6. Lowndes
7. Colquitt Co.
8. Roswell
9. Marietta
10. North Gwinnett

The Favorite – Collins Hill

The state runner-up in 2020 finished with a 12-3 record and ultimately fell to a star-powered Grayson squad 38-14 in the Class 7A state title game. They are returning experience across the board including the star duo of Travis Hunter (WR/CB) and Sam Horn (QB). Horn, who is committed to Mizzou, will look to eclipse the 4k marker passing the football this fall, while Hunter, a Florida State commit, will continue to be his favorite target. Last fall the two connected for 1746 yards and 24 touchdowns, which led all of 7A. With several senior receivers graduated from last year’s squad, a new group of pass-catchers will be vying for Horn’s attention. Our bet as the emerging #2 target is junior Ethan Davis, a basketball turn football player who stands 6’5″ 215 lbs. and already has P5 offers just from his offseason exploits. On defense, Hunter is also a star where he led 7A with 8 interceptions, and currently has 15 interceptions over the last two seasons. Senior linebacker Rich Dorsey is the returning tackler with 162 under his belt and should be in contention to be the 7A leader in 2021. Dion Crawford is a rising junior edge defender who tallied 123 tackles with 23 of those coming for a loss while also grabbing 11 sacks. Expect the speedy defenders to create chaotic turnovers that the offense will take advantage of all the way to the school’s first state title.

The Darkhorse – Walton

Walton low-key has one of the best offensive lines in the state of Georgia with three senior starters, which is led by South Carolina commit and All-State OL Cason Henry. This experienced group should give them a solid foundation to execute an efficient offensive attack both through the air and on the ground. Senior QB Zak Rozsman will be starting his third season, and will have Rawson MacNeill, a 6’6″ senior WR to target, but who also will step up? Senior Nate Lyons is dependable, and it looks like UNC DB commit Marcus Allen will have his freakish athleticism utilized more on the offense side of the ball, as well. Sutton Smith transfers over from McEachern after earning All-State on our site in 2020 as a returner. The super-quick athlete will be a jack of all trades lining at RB and WR. AJ Brown, who is one of the best tackling safeties in the state, should continue to see reps at running back. There are certainly more questions on defense, but Walton’s efficient offensive attack should control games throughout the season, and who knows, maybe that places them in the state title game where anything can happen.

The Underdog – Duluth

In 2019, Duluth went 1-9 and was blown out of most games. In 2020, they went 6-4 including a 3-3 record in region play, and barely missed out on the playoffs. Senior Lonnie Ratliff returns as one of the states leading passers with 4979 passing yards and 36 touchdowns the last two seasons. Juniors DeMarco Ward (MLB) and Anthony Miller (TE) are two exciting FBS caliber athletes and SR Rishon Spencer is a dynamic receiver who is set for a 1k season catching the football.  Head coach Cam Jones has put together a strong coaching staff and has two years of development with most of the top players staying in the program instead of greener Gwinnett pastures. This third year under the Jones regime should prove to be an interesting one, and certainly not a team to underestimate.

Player of the Year – Travis Hunter, Collins Hill

Dale Zanine – Gwinnett Daily Post

Gut-pick Championship Prediction

Collins Hill 35 – 31 Milton





6A

1. Buford
2. Lee County
3. Hughes
4. Westlake
5. River Ridge
6. Allatoona
7. Kennesaw Mt.
8. Rome
9. Carrollton
10. Valdosta

The Favorite – Buford

There must be some kind of magic in Ashton Daniels shoulder when the 4th quarter arrives because the young man has come up clutch in back-to-back state title games leading Buford to key scores late and ultimately winning in overtime. The Stanford commit has been nothing short of huge in these moments, and that’s sharing the quarterback duties over the last few seasons, and this fall, again, it will be QB by committee with talented JR Dylan Wittke. The rest of the Buford squad outside of QB is loaded with talent as well. Jake Pope, the recently new Alabama commit, is a dynamic wide receiver and defensive back. Fellow senior Isaiah Bond has an equally impressive skill set at both WR and DB, but just a tad shorter and lightning-fast. Seniors Victor Venn and CJ Clinkscales are explosive all-purpose backs. On defense, seniors Malik Spencer, Victor Payne, and Aubry Smith are flexible lining up at a variety of positions and more than capable of an explosive tackle. At this point, with so many championships and experience under the main core’s belt at Buford, it’s really hard to pick against them, especially with several younger athletes who will soon emerge onto the national spotlight like KJ Bolden. Our biggest question remains on the offensive line and the lack of experience, and that should certainly be tested right away on August 20th again North Cobb in the Corky Kell Classic.

The Darkhorse – Hughes

The two-headed monster of Prentiss Noland and Xavier Smith at QB gives two exciting signal-callers that can hurt defenses in multiple ways. Noland, a dynamo thrower with 1300 yards as a freshman, and Smith, an electrifying dual-threat who can break off runs for 50 yards in a blink. SR All-State RB Antonio Martin is back and fully healthy, and looks to show why he is one top backs in the class of 2022. Rising junior Johnathan Hughley is a monster on the offensive line at 6’7″ and 260 lbs. and slotted into All-State OT into the preseason. Another talented junior for Hughes is Terrance Love, a 6’2″ 190 lbs. rangy safety with excellent instincts reading the play. This team is loaded with a lot of depth and size, making them one of the most talented teams in all of 6A. Maybe putting our #3 team as a ‘darkhorse’ might be worth contesting, but that’s more of a testament to the extreme talent that Lee Co. and Buford both possess. But Hughes has the general talent to hang with those top dogs, and that gives them the potential of winning the school’s first state title.

The Underdog – South Paulding

Never doubt a team with a strong core of young athletes who are progressing into their own, and that’s exactly what South Paulding shows. With a few key 2020 playmakers now graduated, the brunt of the offensive attack will be on the shoulders of junior QB Kasen Weisman. The class of 2023 signal-caller has a unique talent for making plays on the fly and looks to have improved his arm strength greatly. Junior Madden Sanker is an explosive athlete who we have slotted preseason All-State on the OL, and the staff is confident that junior RB Jamarion Wilcox is set for a big season on the ground. There is a good supporting cast, but can they fill the holes left by some of the star power of 2020? Well, that’s a good question, and what makes them legit underdogs in 2021.

Player of the Year – Antonio Martin, Hughes

Gut-pick Championship Prediction

Lee Co. 24 – 14 Westlake





5A

1. Warner Robins
2. Blessed Trinity
3. Ware Co.
4. Calhoun
5. Coffee
6. Cartersville
7. Jones Co.
8. Starr’s Mill
9. Harris Co.
10. Woodward Acd.

The Favorite – Warner Robins

What caught my eye during the 2020 state title game was how Warner Robins just steamrolled through the Cartersville defense. Their offensive line was truly dominant, and that’s why Jose Gonzalez and CJ Brooks both are preseason All-State picks. Malcolm Brown is a stud junior running back who is set for an elite year, but don’t sleep on sophomore QB transfer Jeff Davis out of Griffin. The young man can loft it out deep downfield, and guys like Daveon Walker and Deuce Petty should be a problem for opposing defenses. Jay Carter is set to take a lot of the production at linebacker after both Walker and Robinson graduated – he is set to be one of the state’s leaders in tackles. Victor Burley is a dominant junior defensive lineman that has been starting since his freshman year and has a bevy of P5 offers in his hands. Warner Robins senior Antwon Jackson was a lockdown cornerback who didn’t give up a touchdown in 2020. Our expectations for Warner Robins is much of the same, and they should march towards a state title in 2021. My only real question is how many rushing yards does Malcolm Brown go for?

The Darkhorse – Calhoun

Cole Speer enters the year with a big target on his back after being All-State as a junior, and recently landing a huge UGA offer. The speedy receiver is the favorite target of fellow senior QB Christian Lewis. They have built a great connection over the last few seasons and figure to once again be a threat to all defensive secondaries. Gage Leonard was an All-State player at Christian Heritage last year in Class A Private and should be a good two-way athlete at running back and linebacker. On the offensive line, Kendrick Kirby is a powerful 6’3″ senior, and Brody Balliew is a high-potential 6’6″ 275 junior that will help pave the way. On the defensive side of the ball Christopher Lewis, twin brother of the aforementioned Christian, and Mason Green hustle around cleaning up tackles at linebacker. With Jerrian Hames graduated at RB, sophomore Caden Williams is an interesting x-factor with his powerful 6′ 195 lbs. picking up tough yards, but expect Gage Leonard to get a lot of reps. With a few more players emerging, Calhoun could really gel and be making a state title appearance in 2021.

The Underdog – Harris Co.

Something about this team, just give me a gut feeling they’ll give a lot of state powers trouble. After going 6-5 in 2020, and just 3-3 in region play, Harris County is returning most of their top playmakers including senior KD Hutchison, a do-it-all athlete committed to Vanderbilt, and Cooper Corey, a savvy 6’2″ quarterback with good command of the offense. The receiver corps has Hutchison as the star but junior Kobe Askew has looked like a terror this offseason and SR Jaylin Marshall also will have an impact. On the defensive side of the ball, Malachi Youman has been a consistent rock, getting off blocks and making tackles in the backfield, but Harris Co. will need more players stepping up on that side of the ball to make some legit noise in the playoffs.

Player of the Year – Thomas Castellanos, Ware Co.

@ESPNCoastal on Twitter

Gut-pick Championship Prediction

Warner Robins 45 – 21 Blessed Trinity





4A

1. Jefferson
2. Carver-Columbus
3. Benedictine
4. Marist
5. Bainbridge
6. Hapeville Charter
7. Cedartown
8. Perry
9. Flowery Branch
10. Thomas Co. Central

The Favorite – Jefferson

How can you doubt Jefferson at this point with all the talent they have returning from their 2020 runner-up finish in 4A? Marist lost a ton of talent from that championship team, and it has really cleared the path for dynamic SR Malaki Starks and the Jefferson Dragons to take the title. Starks is a do-it-all athlete who lines up at QB on offense and wherever they need him on defense. Sophomore Sammy Brown will be the new back lining up behind Starks, and we figure he’ll get some play on defense as well. Brown had a sensational freshman year in Class A Public at Commerce rushing for over 1k yards in 2020 and is a weight lifting freak, so big expectations with the 2024 ATH being a unanimous preseason All-State selection. SR Jordan Perry and Kadin Bailey are two more dynamic rangy athletes who cover some serious ground on defense. Senior SR OL Brian Habeck, another Preseason All-State pick, is a sound-run blocker with excellent leg drive and we are certainly interested in fellow SR Jamarcus Hill, a 6’6″ 260 lbs. OT/DL who just recently earned his first offer from Southeast Missouri.

The Darkhorse – Bainbridge

The Bouie twins are going to be in the opposing team’s nightmares soon enough. Deyon, who was hurt in 2020, comes back now as the starting QB with Quayde Hawkins now graduated and headed to Troy. His twin brother, Zion, will be alongside in the backfield and looks to have kicked up his speed another gear. Those two will be read-optioning opposing defenses into exhaustion. Bainbridge is always a mentally tough team, loaded with athletic talent that can fly around. Dontravious Broadnax is a 2023 two-way player the staff is extremely excited about rushing the football too. All three players mentioned will be dynamic on the defensive side of the football. On the offensive line, Alvin Parker and Jebson Logue will be paving the way for what we expect to be one of the more dynamic rushing attacks in 4A. So strong running game and stout defense. That’s the recipe of a darkhorse state champion, but it all starts with star athlete Deyon Bouie.

The Underdog – Luella

Luella was 6-5 in 2020 but had a solid finish in region play with a 4-2 record which ranked them 3rd in Region 5. They had a first-round exit to Flowery Branch losing 40-7, but retain a lot of their core, and are set for a strong 2021 push. SR Destin Ingram returns another year as the QB, he’s an elusive dual-threat who is quick on his feet. SR Detrique Lawrence and JR Isaiah Brown are linebacker terrors who hit with authority and junior receiver Ronnel Johnson can flat out fly. Seniors DB Donovan Bradley, OT Jaylen Lester, and NT Isaiah Mitchell add experience and additional talent. This squad is ready to take a jump and make some serious noise in the playoffs in our opinion, so watch out!

Player of the Year – Malaki Starks, Jefferson

@ChadSimmons_ on Twitter

Gut-pick Championship Prediction

Jefferson 31 –  28 Carver-Columbus





3A

1. Cedar Grove
2. Oconee Co.
3. Peach Co.
4. Pierce Co.
5. Carver-Atlanta
6. GAC
7. Crisp Co.
8. Rockmart
9. Appling Co.
10. Burke Co.

The Favorite – Cedar Grove

2020 was truly a bizarre season for Cedar Grove, who started a month later than most of the teams in the state and just could never get enough consistency and ultimately bowed out of the playoffs with a 16-13 loss and a measly 4-5 record for the powerhouse program. They lost QB Austin Smith to Eastern Michigan and will be looking to replace his leadership with most likely sophomore Jamar Graham. The 2024 signal-caller will have the luxury of playing with talented FBS prospects in senior RB Rashod Dubinion and senior WR Janiran Bonner. Truthfully, there are too many skill players to name from this talent-heavy team. The defensive line is downright special with Christen Miller, Carlton Madden, Joshua White, and Camren Jackson all having FBS destinations to choose from or currently committed. Their size, power, and speed will give them potentially the top DL of any team in the entire state of Georgia. Cornerback Kayin Lee is that ‘dude’ who can lockdown anyone in the state and is the definition of a competitor taking receivers of all sizes. Cedar Grove has some question marks, sure, but their defense will be elite in 2021 and they have more than enough skill players for key impact plays to decide close games.

The Darkhorse – Carver-Atlanta

All things considered, Carver-Atlanta is one of the most talented teams in 3-A. Senior Quintavious Lockett moves over from Douglass-Atlanta and will be the thunder on offense at RB, and a thumper on defense at LB. The element of lightning will be fellow senior Jarveous Brown who is coming off a 1000 yard season where he averaged 145.6 yards per game. Kiontae Strozier should provide additional production rushing the football, but a lot of his impact is on defense too. Receivers Deandre Buachannon and Quintavious Davis are solid vertical threats and we are interested to see how sophomore Dashawn Calhoun will handle the heat at QB or maybe Adam Sheely emerges? The QB situation is seemingly up in the air. On defense All-Stater Dialo Mosley has been tackling machine with over a 100 the last few seasons and his counterpart Devonte Amarsiani has produced similarly. Controlling the football and rushing down other team’s throats will give Carver-Atlanta the fuel to make a run for 3k yards on the season, and ultimately a push to a state title – if everything lines up correctly. They are certainly one of the most talented teams in 3-A, that’s for sure.

The Underdog – Morgan Co.

The Bulldogs went 6-5 on the year and finished 3rd in the region at 4-2 with a quick playoff exit in the first round against Appling County in 2020. SR Key Malone and JR Jacere Cooper are two linebackers to keep an eye on. Antavious Elder a sophomore defensive lineman looks to be set for a great season and is a 6’3″ 245 lbs. 2024 prospect to know. Preseason All-State Senior Chance Reid and SR Dominic Frazzitta are both rock-solid OL. Sophomore Talan Fuller will be the starting QB, and he is a bit of an unknown but is coming off a strong scrimmage last Friday where he was named offensive player of the week. Also, Morgan County does an outstanding job developing QB’s, so by the end of the season, we expect Fuller to be more than up to speed with the offense, making Morgan County a dangerous squad to match up against.

Player of the Year – DJ Bell, Pierce Co.

@BVEvery on Twitter

Gut-pick Championship Prediction

Peach Co. 21 – 20 Oconee Co.





2A

1. Rabun Co.
2. Bremen
3. Callaway
4. Northeast
5. Fitzgerald
6. Haralson Co.
7. Thomasville
8. Washington Co.
9. Vidalia
10. South Atlanta

The Favorite – Rabun Co.

The stars are lining up for the fighting Jaybo Shaw’s with Gunner Stockton entering his senior year as one of the most dynamic QB’s in the history of the state totaling 9518 yards passing the football and 3416 yards rushing with 184 career touchdowns too. A trio of transfers in Nicholas Baloga (JR RB Dawson Co.), Jaden Gibson (JR WR Dawson Co.), and Baxley O’Brien (SR TE Flowery Branch) figure to bolster the already potent offensive attack that amounted to 621 total points on the year (2018 Rome Wolves scoring record is on watch!). Junior speedster Lang Wingham looks to pick up where he left off in 2020 after rushing for 1378 yards and receiving 497. Seniors Bear Old and Will McGraw are D1 caliber linemen who will set the tone in the trenches. Senior linebacker Will Trupin is one of 2-A’s returning tacklers with 124 on the year and 14.5 for a loss. Rabun County is the clear favorite in 2-A with their high-powered offense, and it’s hard to ignore the parallels from this year’s team to the one that made it to the state title in 2017 behind the arm and legs of Bailey Fisher. Will Rabun County finally get over that hump, and win a state title? We think so.

The Darkhorse – Haralson Co.

Haralson County started 2020 strong but ultimately dropped 3 out of their last 4. They had a first-round exit in the playoffs against Rabun County where they lost 35-7. Their ball-control attack is built around the brute force of Clay Hyatt, a 6’1″ 215 lbs. QB who moves more like Tim Tebow than Tom Brady. Hyatt is a preseason All-Stater with fellow class of 2022 o-lineman Eli Salmon also making the list. Senior DL Riley Bell and LB JoJo Chandler are two defensive standouts who are tenacious pursuing the ball carrier. Haralson County is a tough physical team that is well-coached and has come on strong the last few years. There seems to be momentum building towards this season in a way. Ultimately, it will be the time of possession and moving the chains that will ascend Haralson County to the 2021 state title game.

The Underdog – Chattooga

The Indians went 3-8 in 2020 and 2-4 in region play, so suffice to say they are underdog status with little debate, but they did finished 4th in region play. For their efforts, they made an appearance in the playoffs and ultimately lost to Region 6 champions South Atlanta 26-14 in the first round. So what will be the driving force for these underdogs? Senior back Lashaun Lester who rushed for 1016 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2020 will be back and ready to make a statement here in 2021. On defense, Rowan Burdick is a hard-hitting SR safety who is one of the more secure tacklers in 2A and Zander Cook is a steady SR defensive lineman who gets after it. A pair of sophomores could really be the X-factors in Billy Settlemoire on the DL and Nic Hester, who could really play any position this fall, including QB.

Player of the Year – Gunner Stockton, Rabun Co.

Rabun Co. Athletics

Gut-pick Championship Prediction

Rabun Co. 35 – 28 Bremen





PUBLIC

1. Irwin Co.
2. Brooks Co.
3. Warren Co.
4. Metter
5. Clinch Co.
6. Bowdon
7. Macon Co.
8. Commerce
9. Wilcox Co.
10. Washington-Wilkes

The Favorite – Irwin Co.

The last few seasons have been pretty dominant for Irwin County with back-to-back state titles now. They enter the 2021 season with once again the biggest target on their back. Junior QB Cody Soliday slots into the preseason All-State spot; he was rock-solid last season as a sophomore throwing for over 1500 yards on the year and did a great job facilitating the ball around to his playmakers. SR offensive linemen William Johnson and Noah Brown will pave the way once more for their high-powered rushing attack that accumulated 2649 yards and 33 touchdowns. Several key offensive playmakers are graduated though in Kam Ward and Gabe Benyard, but what we have learned about the Indians as they often reload with new talent each season. Incoming freshman Shane Marshall looks to be that ‘guy’ and just last week he dominated a scrimmage looking more than varsity ready at 5’9″ and 210 lbs. Senior Eli Roberts is a rock-solid TE prospect with excellent size at 6’4″. Senior linebacker Nehemiah McCoy will look to replicate what Kam Ward did in 2020 and increase his production on the offensive side of the football at RB. On defense, Bryce Clements is a 6’1″ linebacker with excellent instincts and fundamentals who we slotted preseason as an All-State pick. As usual, the beat goes on over at Irwin County. They are the favorites until proven otherwise.

The Darkhorse – Bowdon

A lot of media outlets are sleeping on Bowdon not even ranking this squad, but this is an experienced group that has worked their tails off for multiple offseasons under head coach Rich Fendley. Junior QB Robert McNeal is a versatile threat that is looking to make another jump in his development. SR Tanner Langley is a DE/RB who plays with an intensity that is unmatched on the field. Gage Stephens is an explosive athlete who can break off long runs and has become a rock-solid defender too. Bowdon has a very strong program with sneaky-good talent, especially on the offensive side of the football, but will the defense take a jump forward and match the intensity of their head coach? It’s certainly possible.

The Underdog – Trion

We are bullish on Trion’s potential in 2021 behind the legs of Rob Brown, a 1000-yard rusher in 2020. The preseason All-State back is 5’11” and 205 lbs. and he will look to power them past their 3-8 record in 2020. The Bulldogs have another All-Stater on the defensive side of the ball in tackling guru Brantley Willbanks who will look to top his 128 tackles from last fall. On the offensive line SR Kaleb Park is a good run-blocker with a huge motor and lining up a little over is SR TE Cole Calvin, a big matchup problem in the redzone and solid blocker himself. Don’t expect to sleep on Trion this year, they will be a tough squad.

Athlete of the Year – CJ Donaldson, Metter

All On Georgia

Gut-pick Championship Prediction

Irwin Co. 17 – 10 Warren Co.





PRIVATE

1. Trinity Christian
2. ELCA
3. Calvary Day
4. Prince Ave.
5. Savannah Christian
6. Holy Innocents’
7. Christian Heritage
8. Athens Academy
9. North Cobb Christian
10. Mt. de Sales

The Favorite – Trinity Christian

No team in the 2020 playoffs played Prince Avenue closer than Trinity Christian did in the state title game, and going into 2021, they looked primed to win a state title. The Dallas twins are back! David, the dynamic QB headed to Western Michigan, and Josh, an explosive two-way player currently committed to Liberty. They have a posse talent surrounding them including national junior recruit Aaron Gates, who makes jaw-dropping plays on both sides of the football. SR LB Christian Hanson has had back-to-back 100 tackles seasons and stops ball carriers dead in their tracks. SR Bryce Wilcox is a swiss-army knife who made preseason All-State at returner. SR Zion Marseille and SO Cam Matthews holds things up on the defensive line but they are surrounded by dynamic talents all over on defense. Tyson Wall is a steady 1000 yard rusher from last season with good quickness and change of direction. Truthfully, there is just too much talent coming back on this team, and another year of development puts them in line for a state title, which is truly remarkable since they have only been playing GHSA football for what? 3-4 years? Amazing stuff by coach Kenny Dallas and his staff.

The Darkhorse – Calvary Day

You could probably argue that #3 team in our rankings is not a darkhorse, but not a lot of media outlets seem to think as highly as we do. Junior DT Terry Simmons and DE/LB Troy Ford make the Preseason All-State team. Junior lineman Jalin Scott is another good one from the class of 2023. This team in general is dripping with D1 talent across the board. Sophomores Michael Smith (TE) and Jake Merklinger (QB) have FBS upside and should prove to be difference-makers. Yes, this is a very young team with most of their top players not being seniors, outside of DB Juwan Johnson, but they have the jimmies and joes to make some legit noise. The first test will be this Friday against Prince Avenue, so we’ll see how quickly this prediction holds up, but we think this young Calvary Day team could shock a lot of pundits across the state.

The Underdog – Brookstone

Every year this team sneaks up on us with a few surprise wins, and here in 2021 they fully have our attention as this year’s underdogs. Brookstone has a strong core of players with a lot of experience. Senior LB Andrew Newton was a tackling leader in 2020 in Class A Private with a total of 90. Junior Dylan Thornton is an athletic edge rusher who gets off the snap quickly and sophomore Jeremiah Branscomb looks to be set for some explosive plays this fall. Brookstone is locked in with solid senior leaders like Jack Schondelmayer, Mansell Amos, Tripp Duncan, and Joel Jones. This group managed to go 5-6 in 2020, but we think they are set to make some legit noise here in 2021.

Athlete of the Year – David Dallas, Trinity Christian

Coweta Score

Gut-pick Championship Prediction

Trinity Christian 42 – 28 ELCA


Preseason All-State




3 Comments

  1. Reply Post By Wendy Weisman

    Thanks for including South Paulding in your article. But correction ~ Kasen Weisman is class of 2023 not 2022. Thank you!

    1. whoops, thanks for the correction

  2. What about Lincoln county?

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