CLASS AAAAAA Overview
The state’s second-biggest classification is no minor league. It features some of the best teams, best talent and deepest regions in Georgia.
It starts with the ultra-competitive five-team Region 1, which features three of the top teams in the state in Northside-Warner Robins, Houston County and Coffee—and Valdosta and Lee County are no pushovers, either. Each of the top three teams in that region features a ferocious defense and playmakers on offense. These five programs are as strong as they’ve ever been, and the state title likely runs through a team from Region 1.
The 2015 5A runner-up, Glynn Academy, should rule the five-team Region 2 to position itself for another big playoff run, and Lakeside-Evans, Evans and Grovetown will duke it out for the No. 1 seed in the six-team Region 3.
Region 4 showcases great depth and talent with state contenders in Stephenson and Tucker, as does Region 5 with Creekside, Langston Hughes and Mays. The defenses will once again be the hallmarks of those schools, but they will be able to put up points as well. With nine teams each and a ton of top talent, Regions 4 (which also has Drew, Lovejoy and Jonesboro) and 5 (with contenders in Northgate, Alexander and South Paulding) should be among the most entertaining leagues in the state.
Last year’s 5A champion Allatoona lost a significant amount of talent but should be the front-runner for another region title in Region 6, a league that also includes a senior-laden contender in Dalton and a few teams on the rise.
Region 7 looks to be a close race with Alpharetta, Centennial, Northview and Johns Creek all jockeying for position, and Region 8 features Top 10-worthy squads in Gainesville and Lanier.
Here are Recruit Georgia’s 2016 Class 6A region rankings. The leagues were ranked using a combination of top-to-bottom team depth and overall talent, taking into account differing region sizes. (Part 2 will be posted Saturday & Part 3 will be post Sunday night).
REGION 3-AAAAAA (No. 8)
Several teams in this region may be rebuilding, but playoff seeding at the top will be hotly contested.
The four Columbia County schools—Evans, Greenbrier, Grovetown and Lakeside were region mates last year—move away from travel to Middle Georgia and join a region with Alcovy of Newton County and Heritage of Rockdale County. This creates a league that will travel along I-20 and make for a trip of about 120 miles between the farthest members (Heritage and Lakeside).
Lakeside, Evans and Grovetown should form a competitive top of the region and will fight for playoff seeds one through three. Those three teams finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, in a Region 2-AAAAA last fall that featured four Middle Georgia powerhouses. Greenbrier should see a big jump in competitiveness under second-year head coach Tony Kramer, as he has worked to build a roster up in both physical strength and numbers. Both Heritage and Alcovy are coming off 1-9 seasons with new head coaches at the helm; the Metro Atlanta schools have potential but will need time to rebuild.
Evans returns head coach Lemuel Lackey’s son, Levin Lackey, at quarterback for his senior year. He was second-team all-region last year in a strong quarterback league and will be the premier signal-caller in 3-AAAAAA. He has potential in big targets Breshawn Willis and Connor Warren, both 6’2”. Lakeside hopes an offense centering around playmaking WR Lathan McLaurin and other talented skill guys takes off under new QB Nick Reid. Grovetown received two big transfers in WR Justin Gibbs and DB/WR Verenzo Holmes from Aquinas. Both players are sought-after FBS prospects and should impact the program in a major way. Each team has promising athletic talent and should improve as the season goes on.
Before region play starts, Grovetown and Lakeside will test themselves with traditionally strong Burke County of 4A, and Evans and Lakeside will play border battles with North Augusta (S.C.).
Predicted Order of Finish
Player to Watch
QB Levin Lackey, Evans
RB Jonquavous Brown, Greenbrier
REGION 2-AAAAAA (No. 7)
One of a few five-team regions in the state, Region 2-AAAAAA consists of a budding powerhouse and some teams primed for turnarounds.
Glynn Academy reached the Class AAAAA state title game last December after a 51-year drought. Despite being armed with one of the most dynamic athletes in the Southeast, QB DeeJay Dallas, the Red Terrors were stymied offensively in a 10-6 loss to Allatoona. Glynn will no doubt be on a mission for another deep playoff run after getting so close to hoisting the hardware. Expect the Red Terrors to be the class of the league with the rest vying for playoff seeding.
The race for second place, and the four playoff spots, should be very competitive. Both Brunswick and Richmond Hill return young and promising rosters from 3-7 teams and have no shortage of playmakers between them. Effingham County, the model of consistency, will look to break out of its usual win total of six to seven games. Bradwell Institute aims to rebound from a winless 2015 but had a promising spring and has solid speed on defense. The annual Glynn Academy-Brunswick grudge match at their shared venue of Glynn County Stadium should be closer than last season’s 28-0 Glynn shutout win; Brunswick returns 18 starters, while also receiving a transfer from Camden County’s star running back Brandon McMaster.
McMaster joins Dallas (University of Miami), Brunswick OL D’Antne Demery (UGA) and WR Shawn Smith (South Carolina) and Richmond Hill dual-threat QB Brian Hughes (24 total TDs as a junior), making a formidable group of top talents to watch. Effingham has a budding star in the secondary in Demonte Lee, and two-way (WR/DB) junior Sam James is an electrifying athlete for Richmond Hill.
This region in the southeast part of the state spans from north of Savannah (Effingham County) down to the Brunswick schools (Brunswick and Glynn Academy) at a distance of about 80 miles between the farthest opponents. So travel isn’t nonexistent, but it’s manageable.
The non-region will offer a few early tests. Brunswick and Glynn Academy will take on 7A power Camden County in back-to-back weeks in September; Brunswick and Effingham face Coffee in back-to-back weeks in August; and Glynn will face 2A power Benedictine and 5A power Ware County to begin the season.
Predicted Order of Finish
1. Glynn Academy
3. Richmond Hill
4. Effingham County
5. Bradwell Institute
Player to Watch
QB DeeJay Dallas, Glynn Academy
DB Demonte Lee, Effingham County
REGION 7-AAAAAA (No. 6)
For the North Fulton teams in Region 7-AAAAAA (and Pope from Cobb), reclassification was a godsend, helping them avoid much bigger schools in 7A and giving them a better chance of playoff success. With the exceptions of Dunwoody and North Atlanta, all of the region’s schools are above 1,900 in enrollment, and Alpharetta and Johns Creek both crack 2,000, making them among 6A’s largest schools.
The records from last year won’t wow anyone, and only one of the nine teams (Northview, which went 6-5) made the playoffs. But the change in competition should do them good, and the top of the region sports some good college talent. For sheer entertainment value, 7-AAAAAA will feature high-octane offense and talented skill players. The defenses, which gave up a ton of points last season, will have some catching up to do.
Alpharetta returns an experienced squad from last season. Junior QB Matthew Downing (1,449 passing yards and 19 touchdowns) looks to get the offense running with lanky Maryland WR commit Carlos Carriere, WR Spencer Gaddis and versatile RB Nolan Edmonds, who rushed for 1,300 yards. Northview has top 2018 RB Emeka Nwanze, who rushed for over 1,500 yards as a sophomore. Johns Creek should have the strongest O-line with massive 6’6” junior Reuben Unije, and Centennial has a high-flying offense led by QB Casen Conway (2,669 pass yds, 432 rush yds, 29 total TDs) and WR Blane Mason. Notable defensive players include Northview’s Chike Otaluka (Navy commit) and Johns Creek MLB KJ Simpson.
Cambridge returns RB Kaelin Byrd while also adding fleet-footed King’s Ridge transfer Matt McCree, making a nice thunder and lightning tandem in the backfield. If Chattahoochee can shore up the defense and O-line, the Cougars could be poised for a big jump from last year’s 1-9 mark. Both North Atlanta and Dunwoody, the region’s only teams coming from 5A, will have to adjust to better competition and continue to rebuild, but North Atlanta’s Dominic Ham, the junior son of Atlanta Hawks assistant coach Darvin Ham, presents some athletic possibilities at QB and elsewhere. Pope is looking for improvement after an 0-10 season in which it started a slew of underclassmen. Running back Nathaniel Hope started most of last season as a freshman and has made significant improvements in his game from last fall.
The region is a bit spread out geographically, mostly because of the outliers in Pope and North Atlanta. It’s 27 miles from North Atlanta, just west of I-75, to Cambridge, up in Milton, the region’s longest road trip.
As for the two-game non-region slates, marquee matchups include Alpharetta at Gainesville and Northview at Lanier, both Region 8-AAAAAA foes, and Centennial at old region-mate South Forsyth, a 6A quarterfinalist last year. Johns Creek and Cambridge both meet playoff teams in Lassiter and Creekview, respectively.
Predicted Order of Finish
2. Johns Creek
7. North Atlanta
Player to Watch
RB Emeka Nwanze, Northview
QB Dominic Ham, North Atlanta
Preseason All State Teams