Are you ready for some football?! Another year is kicking off, so here are our preseason rankings and mini-preview for each classification! With heavy reclassification across the state, this football season is set to be an interesting one to say the least. So follow along from now until Week 15 when they are crowning the state champions! Feel free to leave a comment down below and be sure to check out our preseason All-State picks HERE.
2. North Cobb
4. Colquitt Co.
5. Mill Creek
7. Collins Hill
8. Kennesaw Mt.
The Favorite – Buford
Buford moves into 7A and immediately is the top dog in the classification. That’s a testament to the powerhouse program and what they have done under coach Appling winning three state titles in a row, but also the current talent level of the program. Playing in one of the toughest classifications in the entire country will be a litmus test for the Wolves and they will have to rely on highly-talented athletes stepping to the forefront. Senior QB Dylan Wittke will stand behind center as the main guy leading the offense after rotating with Mr. 4th Quarter, Ashton Daniels who is now at Stanford. His primary target will be do-it-all athlete KJ Bolden, a junior who is regularly regarded as one of the best players in the country. Moving over from Blessed Trinity is senior RB Justice Haynes. The dynamic back has rushed over 1500 yards all three years of high school; another year would certainly put him near the top of the record books for a career. Senior offensive tackle Paul Mubenga will be paving the way for Haynes to go along with more talented backs like Ryan McKinnis. On defense, Buford is absolutely loaded. The defensive line is experienced with seniors Alijah Williams and Aiden Jeter will be lined up with star juniors King Joseph Edwards and Eddrick Houston. Beyond the front line, Buford is replacing a lot of talent and sophomore linebackers Jadon Perlotte and Mantrez Walker could prove to be helpful. Junior safety Tyshun White will use his experience in the defensive backfield to go along with the talented aforementioned KJ Bolden, who will play both ways. There are some question marks around Buford though, specifically their young OL, and we would be remiss to say that last year’s team was by and large deeper. But at the same time, we have seen this team reload with talent each year and new names emerge. 2022 should be no different.
The Darkhorse – Mill Creek
Mill Creek stepped into the front stage of 7A last year after being left off our preseason rankings and was a regular in the top 5 for the 2nd half of the season. They finished the year 11-2 and will be returning a bulk of their starting 22. At this point, everyone in the state who follows football knows about Caleb Downs. The senior has been elite at defensive back for several years now, while also making an impact on offense but we expect a different dynamic here in 2022, and Mill Creek will find ways to get the ball into his hands right at the snap. Senior QB Hayden Clark is a very underrated athlete who can throw the football 70 yards down the field and is very quick in the pocket too. His favorite targets will be seniors wide receivers Brendan Jenkins and Makhail Wood, both players he has years working with. Offensive linemen Cooper Bothwell (SR) and Aidan Banfield (JR) are both punishing blockers and developed under the tutelage of coach Lovelady. On defense senior linebacker Jamal Anderson is all over the field making plays in coverage or firing off the edge causing havoc in the backfield. Fellow seniors Khai Greene (LB), Bryce Bothwell (DT), and Nick Maxey (DE) to go along with hard-hitting junior Josh Anglin provide a stout defense for Mill Creek. If Mill Creek can get their running game going, they have a lot of the key ingredients you look for in a state champion, so watch out!
The Underdog – Meadowcreek
Meadowcreek looks like a program ready to make a jump. The Mustangs have tickled the playoffs in recent years, but here in 2022, they field their most talented program ever. Senior QB Cameron Ellis and RB Jordan Louie have transferred over from Paul Bryan HS in Alabama. They both figure to be instrumental to their offensive attack, but also, senior receivers Keshuan Singleton and Andre Craig are both FBS caliber talents to watch for. On defense, juniors Jivan Baly and Champ Thompson are high-level recruits looking to take their production to another level. Meadowcreek is not a program built around success historically only winning 7 games twice in school history but they have been taking steps the last few years under Jason Carrera and now Todd Wofford enters the helm as head coach after winning a state title as the offensive coordinator for Collins Hill. So here is what we know for sure, the offense is going to be fun to watch.
Player of the Year – Caleb Downs, Mill Creek
3. Lee Co.
5. Woodward Acd.
6. South Paulding
The Favorite – Hughes
The state runner-ups last year finished with a 13-2 record and ultimately fell to Buford 21-20. Hughes returns this year as arguably the most talented team in the entire state of Georgia in terms of depth and star power. Star QB Prentiss Noland helped the program to new heights last year but has unfinished business in his junior year. Seniors (TE) Jelani Thurman, (FS) Terrance Love, and (OT) Johnathan Hughley are elite P5 level talents, but the program will be looking to replace the heart and soul of their team in 2021, running back Antonio Martin. How that position develops will be interesting to follow in the early season. On defense, Gannon Weathersby is a tackling-machine and Joshua Horton is a stout defensive lineman with excellent size at 6’5″ 280 lbs. Hughes has support from additional seniors in speedy receivers CJ Lockhart and Jaden Barnes. Also, Aiden Watkins is a rock-solid interior lineman who is not talked about enough and sophomore offensive tackle Dontrell Glover has a ton of talent too. This will be year 4 under coach ‘Boone’ Williams at Hughes. Each of the last two seasons he has set the school record in wins, will he make it 3 years in a row with a championship at the finish? We think so.
The Darkhorse – Roswell
Roswell drops down into 6A with the reclassification shuffle and instantly becomes one of our favorites to win it all. The Hornets are a very experienced team returning a lot of starters from their 2021 squad, who was consistently ranked in the top 10 all year long in 7A but will be breaking in a new QB. Junior KJ Smith has varsity experience under his belt for the Hornets and new Peachtree Ridge transfer Hayden Thompson has a lot of tools to excel. They will have a trio of experienced receivers to lean on with Ethan Nation, Ethan Crite, and pass-catching tight end Zeke Moore. Senior linebacker Jayven Hall was an All-State selection last year and is prime to have a bigger impact on offense at running back. Anthonie Knapp is a really promising junior offensive lineman and defensive end Chase Morrison should have D1 programs all over him by the end of the season. Christian Elko and Hill Plunkett are savvy senior defensive backs and cannot forget about Ethan Nation on defense too, who is one of the current active leaders in career interceptions in the state with 9. The underlying story here in 2022 goes beyond football for the Hornets tho. Shortly after last season, Roswell tragically lost their star senior QB Robbie Roper, and though few players can recreate the passion and drive that Roper played with, the Hornets will do their best to ‘live like 5’ this fall.
The Underdog – Alpharetta
The Raiders are set to breakout this season after winning just 3 games in 2021. Dual-threat QB Ben Guthrie is constantly raved about amongst the coaching staff. Garrett Young is a dynamic receiver with excellent hands and the ability to high point the football. They have a pair of senior offensive linemen in Elias Cloy and Parker Peterson who are both headed to FBS programs. Seniors Jake Gil and Kenyon Pipes are both solid skill players in their own right. Senior Aven Kelley is a good pass-rusher on the defensive line and junior Tyjai Hopper is an electric defensive back with college football bloodlines. The team is loaded with a lot of young talent from players like Ethan Barbour, Julius Holly, and CJ Wiley – all of who figure to be FBS athletes. Alpharetta is not a team to sleep on in 2022.
Player of the Year – Kasen Weisman, South Paulding
2. Warner Robins
5. Jones Co.
6. Ware Co.
7. Clarke Central
The Favorite – Creekside
Five years ago when head coach Maurice Dixon first got to Creekside they went 0-10, but he flipped the script quickly and in the last 4 years they have gone 33-15, including an 11-win season last fall. The football factory is called Creekside ‘University’ for a reason, and in 2022 they have a wealth of talent that should prove to be championship caliber. After a dynamic sophomore year at Luella, Vinson Berry is now the starter for the Tribe. The dual-threat QB was impressive throughout the offseason and helped them win the Corky Kell 7v7 back this summer. SR WR Krishon Lett is a new transfer over from Hapeville Charter and we keep hearing about dynamic sophomore receiver Dylan Vickerson. Offensive linemen BJ Williams (SR) and Caleb Holmes (JR) will both help pave the way for the offense. The defensive secondary is the most talented in the state with senior Daiquan White locking down receivers and juniors Roderick McCrary, Ricky McCrary, and Travis Terrell blanketing the field as well. Senior edge defender Javeon Miller was one of the state leaders with over 20 sacks last fall and will look to repeat his efforts. Defensive lineman (SR) Malik Tullis and (JR) Jordan Cadentey are both rock-solid with excellent size. Keep an eye out for junior DT Michai Boireau who stands 6’6″ 350 lbs. and already holds a bevy of P5 offers. Overall, there is little doubt who has the most FBS talent in this classification, but can the Tribe synchronize and synergize a 5A championship? Yes.
The Darkhorse – Calhoun
Calhoun is back again as our Darkhorse candidate in 5A. With several key contributors now graduated, there are more questions going into this season than last, but they still have a lot of talent across the board. It all starts with junior Caden Williams, who rushed for 1400 yards last year as a sophomore and has maniacally worked this offseason to get quicker and more explosive. If the Jackets can block well enough, Williams has a chance to lead the classification in rushing yards. Senior Brody Balliew was our pick at All-State offensive tackle and hopes to carve out space for Williams. Junior Trey Townsend will be taking over the QB duties and has looked good leading up to the season. Sophomore TE Emaree Winston really came on strong at the end of the season and already has P5 offers including Ohio State. Seniors (WR) Cam Curtis, (WR) Dustin Kerns, and (RB) Kaleb Ray both figure to be important skill players, but we suspect a few more to emerge as well. On defense, Khristyane Gregory is a powerful junior prospect who consistently beats his blocks and gets into the backfield, but we do have our questions about the unit as a whole, but historically, those concerns are usually calmed rather quickly when it comes to Calhoun. This season should be no different.
The Underdog – Cass
If there is a trendy pick to make in 5A, then having Cass as your surprise team must be near the top. JR’s (QB) Devin Henderson and (ATH) Sacovie White have been starting since their freshman year, and the dynamic duo is looking to elevate Cass to a winning record in 2022. Kaden Ellis is a hard-working sophomore defensive tackle who reminds us of Grady Jarrett and his brother Kail Ellis should be an instant starter on the offensive line as a freshman. These two are serious ball players. Tayvian McKibbins is a sophomore offensive lineman who shows a ton of promise. Plus, do not be surprised to see freshman QB, Brodie McWhorter, with the football in his hands this fall. Overall, Cass is still a very young team, but the talent accumulating is eye-catching, to say the least.
Player of the Year – Sammy Brown, Jefferson
2. North Oconee
4. Trinity Christian
8. Starr’s Mill
9. Wayne Co.
The Favorite – Benedictine
The reigning champs return at the top again after going 13-2 with a 35-28 victory over Carver-Columbus in the state title game. Junior Luke Kromenhoek takes over at QB and will have some big shoes to fill from Holden Geriner who is now at Auburn. The 6’4″ signal-caller got plenty of reps last year and provides a different, more dual-threat playstyle while also getting vertical in the passing game. Za’Quan Bryan led Class 4A in receiving last year and will repeat once more. The Minnesota commit is also a standout as a defensive back. Senior linebacker Keiran Glover and new transfer Jonathan Hardy from Don Bosco Prep will roam the middle. Senior defensive tackle Cole Semien will anchor the defensive line and set out wide is fellow senior Alijah Alexander at defensive end. With ample speed and size across the board, the Cadets should prove again to be at the top of 4A in 2022. That would give Danny Britt his 4th title in the last 10 years with Benedictine – many would say dynasty at that point.
The Darkhorse – Troup
Last year Troup won 8 games and started to really gel in region play winning 7 out of 8 before an early exit to Spalding in the first round. Consistency has seemingly been an issue the last few years for the Tigers. Where they show so much talent on the field, but then lose 10-3 to a team whose best players were borderline D1 talent. Times are changing, and juniors Taeo Todd (QB), Noah Dixon (ATH), and Qua Birdsong (DE) are looking to step up and move the program to 2018 heights. Todd has shown that he can run the football with the best of them, and is looking to showcase his arm this fall. Birdsong is a freak of nature edge defender who was one of the state leaders in sacks last fall. Dixon is a super athletic cornerback who figures to be an even big part of the offense in 2022. More will have to step up, and we can see players like sophomore Jatorian Blackmon or juniors Isaiah Hall and Braden Smith having a bigger impact on the offensive line. If that unit has taken a step forward, then Tiger Tempo might just be back, and that’s a scary proposition for the rest of 4A.
The Underdog – Eagle’s Landing
Eagle’s Landing only won 3 games last year and just 1 in region play, but outside of a couple of games, they were in each of them. With Shaihi Brown back at QB for his senior year, we think Eagle’s Landing is one of the real underdogs in this classification. Fellow senior Quentin Thomas is a highlight reel at receiver and will be his favorite target and Luella transfer Ronnell Johnson should be some instant offense too. On defense, senior safety Caleb Hardy is a powerful tackler heading up top. Senior CB Camani Cobbs is a lockdown defender who is committed to Georgia Southern. Keep an eye on sophomore lineman Chase Stephens who is built like a brick house. There is a lot of talent at Eagle’s Landing this fall, and we think they make a jump into the playoffs in 2022.
Player of the Year – Aaron Gates, Trinity Christian
1. Cedar Grove
2. Crisp Co.
4. Sandy Creek
5. Calvary Day
6. Oconee Co.
9. Peach Co.
10. Monroe Area
The Favorite – Cedar Grove
Another day, another preseason #1 ranking for Cedar Grove in Class 3A. You know, with all the shuffling around the last few years, Cedar Grove has stood firmly as one of the powers in 3A and that should be no different after this latest classification upheaval. Leading the way for the returning state champions is sophomore QB, EJ Colson. While he lost his favorite target at receiver, Nebraska commit Barry Jackson should serve well as the #1. Junior back Jakarri Ponder has moved over from Griffin and is a stout runner who sheds tackles with ease and will join senior Ventrilo Dunlap in the backfield. Darius Neals a big 6’4″ 315 lbs. senior lineman who leads the way on the OL. On defense, Cedar Grove is headlined by seniors Kayin Lee, Everett Roussaw, Adonijah Green, and Ricky Lee. Kayin Lee is an explosive cornerback who can completely shut down his side of the field. Roussaw is a heavy linebacker who hits with authority and Adonijah Green is a lanky defensive lineman who can get off blocks fast. Ricky Lee’s versatility on the field provides a lot of value for the Saints. With so much talent across the board, Cedar Grove is set to win their fifth title in seven years.
The Darkhorse – Calvary Day
Calvary Day was our Darkhorse pick last year, but that was now the defunct Class A Private. It was certainly a surprise pick for many, but they certainly backed it up with a 12-1 record and a quarterfinal finish. Junior Jake Merklinger jumps back into the starting job and is one of the dynamic young passers in the class of 2024. He will throw to his favorite targets senior Noah Gilliams and junior Michale Smith. Navigating the traffic in the middle is senior center, Jalin Scott. He is a relentless blocker. Moving over to defense which is headline by seniors Troy Ford (LB) and Terry Simmons (DT). Simmons is an excellent defensive tackle who is headed to Duke and Ford is an explosive-hitting linebacker committed to UCF. There is plenty of talent across the board including junior Antonio Butts (LB) and Tyler Snipes (OT) to watch for this fall. Calvary Day has high-level D1 talent on their roster, and the potential to win it all in 3A.
The Underdog – Mary Persons
Mary Persons won 7 games last fall, so they don’t fit our usual narrative as underdogs but that’s because our expectations are set much higher than most. For a team that historically runs the ball well, we think this could be a big year through the air too. Logan Hickman is a smart senior QB who has been building an excellent relationship with basketball-star-turn-receiver Khamren Little and junior Ty Dumas. Both are set for breakout years. Of course, junior Duke Watson is back at running back – he was one of the state’s leading rushers last fall with 1700 yards and 27 touchdowns. Watson has also been flashing some excellent hands this offseason too. Mary Persons offensive line is always productive and Andon Riley, JaMai Davis, and J’vyon Tatum will look to keep that tradition going. Defense is a bit more of a question mark but we are big fans of senior linebackers OJ Evans and Brandon Alford. The offense should be humming in 2022 so the defense just needs to keep up and come up with stops for this underdog to crack our top 10 rankings before you know it.
Player of the Year – Whit Weeks, Oconee Co.
3. Fellowship Christian
4. South Atlanta
5. Appling Co.
6. Pierce Co.
8. Washington Co.
The Favorite – ELCA
After dominating for years in Class A Private, ELCA had back-to-back seasons where they didn’t win a state title. What’s next? How about a move up to Class 2A and the replacement of legendary coach Jonathan Gess who is now at Hebron Christian. Enter the Tanner Rogers era which is luckily assisted by a senior-laden squad filled with FBS talent. Jumbo senior offensive lineman Zechariah Owens and DJ Chester will both pave the way. Wake Forest commit Charlie Gilliam is back at QB and his favorite targets are seniors RJ Johnson and Colton Hood, who are both All-State defensive backs in their own right too. Junior back Brandon Hood is back after rushing over 1400 yards. Senior slot receiver Jacque Holley can stretch the field with his speed. Senior offensive guard Chance Missouri is an under-the-radar prospect who blocks well. They’ll need some underclassmen to step up on defense to help assist senior linebackers Malachi Futch and Nicholas Lemons. With so much power at the line of scrimmage, the Chargers should be too much to handle this year in 2A.
The Darkhorse – South Atlanta
South Atlanta reminds me of Hapeville Charter from about 6-7 years ago in Class 2A. They are really starting to accumulate D1 talent across the board, and even becoming a destination among athletes around the city. If you haven’t heard, senior running back Keyjuan Brown is that guy. After rushing for 2500 yards as a junior, Brown is almost impossible to get a clean tackle on and should prove to be South Atlanta’s ace all season. Cevan Edwards was one of the leaders in tackles for loss last season and fellow senior lineman Sedrick Smith has made a lot of strides in the last year. Senior skill players James Ferrell and Nick Brown will be two of the top targets for senior signal-caller Jontez Adams. Junior receiver TJ Summerall is an explosive athlete who is set to make a big jump this year. The offensive line is headed by seniors Jermain Carroll, Raylene Magby, and Tony Gamble. The headline transfer though is Taye Seymore out of Lithia Springs. He was one of the state’s leaders in tackles for loss and his elite speed (10.7 100M) on defense will give South Atlanta a true weapon. This is a dangerous squad with enough talent to win it all.
The Underdog – Sumter County
After winning just one game the last two seasons, Clifford Fedd will have his work cut out in his first year on the job at Sumter County. That said the program, has a lot of talent and narrowly lost a lot of games last year. They should benefit greatly from the drop-down in classification on top of the hardnosed coaching they will receive from the former Dutchtown head coach. Senior QB Cameron Evans is the real deal, and he will have a slew of receivers to throw to. Junior Anthony Tyson was the top target last to go along with seniors Traveon Lamar and Kadarrius King. We are also intrigued about the possibility of several basketball players giving football a shot. Athlete Canaan Jackson is absolutely huge at 6’8″ 230 lbs. and could be an X-factor if takes to a position. We aren’t expecting a miracle this year by coach Fedd, but Sumter County is a team to know about for sure.
Player of the Year – Keyjuan Brown, South Atlanta
Class A DI
1. Prince Avenue Christian
2. Irwin Co.
3. Rabun Co.
5. Brooks Co.
7. Whitefield Acd.
8. Bleckley Co.
The Favorite – Prince Avenue Christian
Prince Avenue stays in Class A, just a new form called Division 1. The 2021 state runner-ups in Class A Private finished off the year 13-2 before losing to Trinity Christian in the state title game. They are back with the 4k arm in Aaron Philo at QB. Two of his favorite targets Ethan Christian and Bailey Stockton are back at receiver for the senior year. Preseason All-State seniors Mason Goodyear (OL) and Uriah Howard (DL) will be the cornerstone of their respective lines of scrimmage but don’t sleep on the underclassmen. Sophomores Jake Atha and Christian Garrett look like promising young talents. Mason Durning, Wade McCormick, and Josh Britt are three steady defenders with multiple years of experience heading into their senior years. Prince Avenue is set to have a strong showing in 2022 for another state title, their second in three years.
The Darkhorse – Brooks County
Crazy to think the reigning Class A Public champs are the darkhorse pick in Class A D1, but they proved me wrong last year, so why not again? Senior Jamal Sanders will be the focal point of the offense now that Omari Arnold has graduated. The staff raves about this young man, and we have him picked on our preseason All-State team at dual-threat QB. Marquis Williams is a solid sophomore offensive lineman who can drive the pile. Junior safety Amar Thomas is coming off a 100 tackles season where he made a lot of key plays. Senior Kamari Blankumsee is the leading tackler from last year and tough as nails. Seniors Saveon Cason (CB) and Di’lon Harvey (DL) will help the stout Brooks County defense bring the hammer. Brooks County team plays with a ton of fire and their defense moves as a unit. Each year they lose several key contributors but after making three state title games in a row (two in public and one in Class 2A), you got to become a believer in what coach Freeman is doing over there.
The Underdog – St. Francis
St. Francis has been really close to pushing the needle over and becoming a winning program. We think 2022 is the year. Branden Strozier the Region Athlete of the Year is back. The long athlete is an absolute ballhawk on the field. Junior QB Jaiden Jenkins is an often raved about thrower this offseason. Junior Roman Stamps is a legit athlete who can upfield in a hurry at receiver. Juniors Jordan Hancock (LB) and Andre Medlin (DL) have continued to develop nicely. The sophomore class is the one that will turn heads. AJ Benton (LB), Nick Brooks (OL), and Brayden Jacobs (OL) are the headliners with FBS offers/interest already. You can expect St. Francis to make that jump this year, the better question is how high do they go?
Player of the Year – Aaron Philo
Class A DII
1. Wilcox Co.
2. Schley Co.
4. Charlton Co.
5. Turner Co.
6. Macon Co.
8. Lincoln Co.
9. Montgomery Co.
The Favorite – Wilcox Co.
The reigning region champs and Class A public semifinalists find themselves at the top of Class A DII. Abe Stowe who has been playing on the varsity since his freshman year is returning back from his All-State performance last fall. The senior is set up for a special season. His top targets at receiver will be junior BJ Gibson, senior Willie Butts, and senior Devon Grace. Workhorse running back Dayshawn Lawson is set for a huge season this year too. On defense, they are looking to replace a few key contributors and a lot of the key playmakers on offense also double on defense like Devon Grace, who is excellent at DB. Junior Trevion Coley is also an excellent defender too. Since coach Rob Stowe took over at Wilcox County they have won no less than 9 games, and here in 2022 they might not have the same elite talent as others in this classification, but they play excellent team football.
The Darkhorse – Charlton Co.
Charlton County has an up and down season in 2021 with several highs and lows. They finished off the year with 7 wins, an improvement from the year prior where they only won 4 and the year before that where they won just 1 game. If the trend continues, Charlton County is set for double-digit wins in 2022. Basic addition aside, senior athlete Jaylen Lilley will be the driving force for that kind of success. The two-way running back/linebacker is tough as nails, playing almost every snap of the game and just brutalizing his opponents with his rugged play. Lilley aside, there is some good talent on this squad including seniors Jaylen King at QB and Dairion Jones at safety. Senior Kyler Williams and junior Ja’Mari Hamilton figure as the top two targets for King. Elyiss Williams is a complete monster at 6’8″ and 215 lbs. who could be an x-factor for the Indians. Senior Collin Lloyd will hope to pave the way for Lilley for a big season on the ground. We expect big things from Charlton County this year.
The Underdog – Greene Co.
Greene County welcomes new head coach Terrance Banks who looks to improve their 4-6 record from last year. He will certainly have some talent to work, albeit young in certain cases. Senior playmaker Arkiyus Wright is back again, looking to make defenders miss in tight spaces. Sophomore QB Steve Miller will be looking to improve on last year’s strong start to his HS career. The 6’3″ 180 lbs. signal-caller has some legit upside. Sophomore lineman Kevin Wynn is a big moving 6’4″ 310 lbs. young man with FBS interest already. Dooly County transfer Dayshanw Copeland is an excellent hybrid defender who can line up all over the field and is expected to have a big junior year. Offensive lineman Ricky Picasso is an underrated blocker who is very tough. If coach Banks can get the ball rolling, and the young talent working together they could end up being one of the big surprised of 2022.
Player of the Year – Robert McNeal, Bowdon