The football season is kicking off, so here is our preseason preview of the GHSA. Underneath we have top 10 rankings for each of the eight classifications in the state of Georgia. Also, we have selected a ‘favorite’ to win the championship, a ‘darkhorse’ contender, an ‘underdog’ team that we expect to surprise classification opponents, the classification player of the year, and the championship game result.
Be sure to check out our Preseason All-State teams HERE.
5. Colquitt Co.
7. Mill Creek
The Favorite – Carrollton
The 7A runner-ups surprised many in the state last year. After moving up a classification, virtually no one had the Trojans on their radar in 2022, but concerns were quickly calmed as they proceeded to beat up the competition. Star class of 2026 QB Julian Lewis set the state on fire throwing for 4k yards his freshman year and breaking the single-game passing record for a GHSA state championship game. He is back again with his favorite target 6’6″ senior Caleb Odom towering over defensive backs. Bryce Hicks does his best impression of Marshall Faulk, being one of the most dangerous pass-catchers out of the backfield in recent memory. He totaled 2397 all-purpose yards and 32 touchdowns in 2022. Offensive linemen junior RJ Sizemore, junior Cole Norred, senior Godgift Dudley, and sophomore Zykie Helton will be leading up front. Defensively, Carrollton is led by senior backer Montreze Smith who is committed to Duke. Kelvin Hill is a do-it-all athlete for the Trojans and an interception magnet last fall. Juniors John Levy and Antonio Cromartie Jr. might lack size but show some of the best fundamentals of anyone at their positions.
The Darkhorse – Milton
Milton is loaded this year. After making it to the state semifinals and returning a ton of talent, the Eagles look set to contend for a state title. Junior Luke Nickel is back for year #2 at QB, and if he continues to progress like he did last season, then watch out. Debron Gatling is a senior technician at receiver who is committed to Texas A&M and is set for a great season. A lot of new offensive weapons have joined the squad this season like juniors TJ Lester, CJ Wiley, and Amauri Anderson. They join junior pass-catching TE Ryan Ghea. On defense, junior Dylan Lewis is a shutdown corner along with Ty Redmond. Caleb Bell and Caleb Ellis are two junior defensive linemen set for big seasons. They will team up with senior Drew Cohen in the trenches. Junior AJ Benton is a linebacker that could really be an X-factor for Milton.
The Underdog – McEachern
Coach Kareem Reid is back in Georgia after spending time at UCF and Florida. The former metro Atlanta coach of the year at Westlake will look to bring his winning ways to McEachern, who didn’t make the playoffs two out of the last three years. SR QB Jaydon Kinney is going to use his dynamic skills to create game-breaking plays. Parker McClendon and Leon Wesley are two senior linemen blocking up front and junior Paul Bowling is stout as well. Daniel James is a super-speedy SR CB for the Indians who blanket receivers. The Indians are definitely not a team to sleep on this fall.
Player of the Year – Julian Lewis, Carrollton
Championship Pick – Milton beats Carrollton 42-35
4. Lee Co.
5. Houston Co.
6. Woodward Acd.
8. Blessed Trinity
The Favorite – Hughes
Hughes broke the state scoring record last season with 792 points and won their first-ever state title against Gainesville 35-28. The Panthers are led by elite senior QB Prentiss ‘Air’ Noland. With 55 touchdowns on the season and just 4 interceptions, Noland had one of the most efficient seasons in state history with a 149 QBR in 2022. He is back, but several offensive weapons are being replaced from last year’s vaunted attack. LSU commit Joseph Stone transfers from Grayson and should immediately be the top target. A pair of junior offensive linemen in Dontrell Glover and Tavaris Dice are no-doubt P5 targets. On defense, seniors Ameir Glenn and Fred Tigner will be stuffing the middle at DT. Seniors Jakob Gude and Jordan Thompson are two headhunters that are going to fly around and create chaos. No doubt, Hughes has a ton of talent again in 2023, but some additional questions than last year’s obvious juggernaut.
The Darkhorse – Houston Co.
Offense was king in 6A last year, and if you couldn’t put up big numbers, then you were in trouble. Going into the 2023 season, Houston County should have one of the most dynamic offenses in the state. Junior QB Antwann Hill has a rocket attached to his arm. He threw for 36000 yards and 40 touchdowns on just 3 interceptions in 2022. Ricky Johnson and Kale Woodburn is the best WR tandem in 6A. Senior offensive tackle Kahlil House is one of the best blockers in his class and has fellow seniors Luke Willhide and Jeremy Blute lining up beside him. Ryan Taleb is another versatile running back to watch for. No doubt, Houston County will put up big offensive numbers but who is going to step up on the defensive side of the ball? Jaquari Brown is an explosive senior defensive back who recently committed to Georgia Southern. Senior Jayden Jackson is an underrated defender who plays with a big motor.
The Underdog – Veterans
Veterans plays in the hardest region in the state, so earning a spot in the 6A playoffs is a daunting one, to say the least. That said, they have a good mix of starters returning that should make them a tough out. SR Preston Bird, the team’s most reliable playmaker over the last year is back, and ready to make an impact on both sides of the ball. Telfair County transfer Antonio Scott is a long-twitchy senior athlete that is under the radar. Jake Maxwell threw for 2400 yards and 15 touchdowns his junior year and is looking to take another step. Can they surprise a few of the powerhouse teams in Region 1 and sneak into the playoffs? Well, if last year’s games were any indication, then their defense needs to improve, but we have hope.
Player of the Year – Prentiss Noland, Hughes
Championship Pick – Hughes beats Gainesville 35-28
1. Warner Robins
2. Ware Co.
The Favorite – Warner Robins
Warner Robins starts off this season with a new head coach in Shane Sams who is coming over from Rome. The former offensive coordinator is looking to tweak a few offensive gears, which should unleash senior wide receivers Isiah Canion and Cam Flowers. Senior QB Chase Reese will be looking to continue to build a connection with those elite receivers. Offensive lineman Nick Reeves has been a multi-year starter for the Demons and he will be paving the way for powerful 215 lbs. running back William Gunnings. On defense, Junior Resean Dinkins is an All-State DB who was one of the state leaders in interceptions with 8 back in 2022. Junior defensive lineman Isaiah Gibson eats up space with his 6’5″ 250 lbs. frame. Warner Robins is still looking for some answers to emerge in the early season, but we think coach Sams can open up their passing attack and create big plays. That should be a huge advantage for Warner Robins as they compete for another state title.
The Darkhorse – Calhoun
Once again, we have selected Calhoun to be our darkhorse contending team. After going 9-4 in 2022, Calhoun is back at it in pursuit of their 5th state title. On offense, SR running back Caden Williams was a preseason All-State pick and set to rush for over 1500 yards. Trey Townsend was one of the top passers in 5A last year and his top target will be All-State junior TE Emaree Winston. The cornerstone of the defense is Liberty DT commit Kristyane Gregory, who is now up to 270 lbs. and should be a terror for opposing offensive linemen.
The Underdog – Hiram
No underdog in our preview has more star power than Hiram. With senior P5 prospects like OT Jameson Riggs, TE Walter Matthews, ATH Chase Tyler, and DL Clinton Richard, very few 5A teams have the size and athleticism to match Hiram. The Hornets went 5-5 last year, including a shocking win against Calhoun in the middle of the season. Could that victory foreshadow a breakout season here in 2023 and a big playoff push? We think so. They are deeper than many realize, so don’t be surprised to see the Hornets cracking the top 10 at some point this season.
Player of the Year – Roderick McCrary, Creekside
Championship Pick – Warner Robins beats Ware County 21-17
2. Troup Co.
6. Holy Innocents’
7. North Oconee
9. Wayne Co.
10. New Hampstead
The Favorite – Benedictine
Returning as the 4A champions, Benedictine has everything going for them. Luke Kromenhoek is back for his senior year at QB before going to college at FSU. Speedy SR running back Naseir Samuel is prime for a breakout season. At receiver, Benedictine is hoping for RaSean Matthews and La’Don Bryant to replace the void of last season’s top target Za’Quan Bryan. Jacobe Ward is an All-State offensive lineman and a P5 talent. At linebacker, Wilkes Albert is one of the returning tackle leaders in 4A and a Preseason All-State selection. Junior Herbert Scroggins II and senior Bryce Baker are equally reliable backers who are set for a big season as well. SR defensive tackle Jeremiah Thomas along with his sophomore counterpart Kameron Cody will be a brick wall upfront allowing their linebackers to let loose. The Cadets have been a well-oiled machine for years now, and 2023 looks like another year where they can win a state title.
The Darkhorse – Perry
Perry is back in the top 5 again after being a denizen for most of 2022. The Panthers have been a pass-happy program the last few seasons, and with the addition of senior QB Colter Ginn, they are set for perhaps their biggest season through the air yet. All-State WR Dakarai Anderson with his incredible top-end speed should be the leader in receiving yards in 4A. Rising junior WR Kory Pettigrew can blow the lid off a defense too, making the duo one of the more dynamic groups in the state. A pair of TE’s in Donovan Funsch and Colby Dixon provide Perry with one of the more prolific passing attacks in 4A. On defense, Perry is looking to replace several of last season’s impact seniors and will lean on players from the class of ’24 like Trejean Day to step up.
The Underdog – Miller Grove
Miller Grove is going to catch some teams by surprise this year. SR athlete Keshawn Weathers is a laser on the field playing on either side of the football. David Price, who was a tackling machine last year for Lithonia, will be patrolling the middle of the field. Tajon Corbitt is a steady 1k-yard rusher at back with excellent balance and top-end acceleration. Preseason All-State OL John Nyiam will be paving the way for him. Amonte Harden is an intriguing QB transfer that is also from Lithonia. Up front, they have some legit size with junior defensive tackle Maurice Seals prime for a big season. Miller Grove could very well be in store for the best season in their 19-year history.
Player of the Year – Taeo Todd, Troup Co.
Championship Pick – Benedictine beats Troup Co. 35-21
1. Cedar Grove
2. Calvary Day
3. Sandy Creek
4. Savannah Christian
5. Oconee Co.
8. Peach Co.
The Favorite – Cedar Grove
Winning 4 state titles in the last 7 years, there is little question that Cedar Grove is a dynasty, regardless of classification. However, the powerhouse program is coming off an upset loss to Sandy Creek in the 3A state title game where several controversial calls impacted the game. With the GHSA now implementing official reviews for state title games, the Cedar Grove community can breathe a sigh of relief. They can take another deep breath knowing that star junior QB EJ Colson is back again. The do-it-all QB who just recently committed to UCF shows incredible poise in the pocket and is cool under pressure. Jaylen Slaughter is an All-State OT that will be protecting his blindside. Decatur transfer Malachi Miller could really be the X-factor for the team in all three facets of the game. On the defensive line, Kyle Mosley and Chase Kerns will look to cause havoc on the field. Senior safety Kayre Horton gets the nod on our Preseason All-State team along with Kerns. Maryland CB commit Lahki Roland is expected to have an impact on both sides of the football this year.
The Darkhorse – Savannah Christian
Last season Savannah Christian went 11-2 on the year and was ranked in our top 10 for most of the season. Going into their 2nd year of 3A football, we feel like the program is ready to make a jump to contend. David Bucey, the Swiss army knife senior, had 100 tackles and 750 yards receiving last season. The South Carolina commit earned Preseason All-State athlete on our site. Elijah Griffin for all intents and purposes is the best player in 3A. The junior is an absolute freak of nature on the defensive line and some consider him to be the nation’s top player in the class of ’25. Two-way player Logan Brooking is a junior coming off a strong season where he had 515 yards receiving and 12 sacks. Seniors Zo Smalls and Kenry Wall provide some exciting plays on offense. Junior speedster Jaden Miles is another two-way player to watch for too. Savannah Christians’ bread and butter ultimately is a great defense and controlling the clock – two ingredients that can make a team a championship contender.
The Underdog – Hephzibah
Last season the Rebels had 6 wins on the year but were ousted from the playoffs in the first round to Savannah Christian 41-26. Several key seniors have left, including their QB Jalen Patrick graduating, but there is still a strong unit heading into the 2023 season. Telly Johnson is a senior who rushed for 1k yards last season and is prime for a huge season on both sides of the football. Underrated senior athlete Nate Cogle is another standout who is 6’4″ and has made several explosive plays in his career. On top of the standout seniors, there is a lot of returning starters, so maybe this is the year the Rebels finally make it out of the first round of the playoffs. That would be the first time in school history dating back to 1954.
Player of the Year – Kameron Davis, Dougherty
Championship Pick – Cedar Grove beats Calvary Day 42-21
3. Appling Co.
4. Fellowship Christian
8. Pierce Co.
The Favorite – Fitzgerald
In our opinion, Class 2A is wide open this year, so why not pick the team that has been to the state title game the last two years in a row? With a loss last year to Thomson in the title, the Purple Hurricanes are looking to make amends but will have to realize the loss of key senior playmakers. Brandon Brown is a hard-nosed senior linebacker who is set for a big year. He gets the Preseason All-State nod. He joins fellow senior, offensive lineman Gabe Pearce for the 2A honors. Stout SR back Diondre Paschal will be a workhorse for the rushing attack. Senior defensive tackle Jairus Lampkin brings his lunch pail to work each day. Two-way lineman Roderick Morgan is explosive on either side of the ball. One thing is for sure, with Tucker Pruitt back for another year as head coach, Fitzgerald figures to be in the title equation.
The Darkhorse – Appling Co.
In terms of pure D1 talent, Appling County is definitely near the top in 2A. Starting with senior defensive end Darion Smith, who is looking to bounce back to his sophomore-year production where he was one of the state’s leaders in sacks. SR Jamarion Williams is a 1k-yard rusher who should get the lion-share of the carries but expect juniors Edward Williams and Trent Griner to get some snaps too. JR QB Dayson Griffis was rock-solid last year managing the offense and even one of the better punters in 2A. His top target is Camden Hickox, a senior wide receiver that has D1 interest swirling. Senior safety Tre’Shawn Moore gets downhill in a hurry and delivers big hits. SR’s Mykel Reed and Jailen Bennett are some big dudes up front. Overall, Appling County has the right mix of talent, experience, and athleticism to be in the conversation for 2A champions.
The Underdog – Vidalia
Vidalia is set for a good 2023 season and one reason why is Preseason All-State RB Antonio Barron. The senior has really improved his top-end speed, and under new HC Rodney Garvin, he should be utilized in a much better way. On the offensive line, Max Beverly earns a spot on our Preseason All-State team and Stephen Cheek is another strong blocker to boot. SR Jacaree Washington has been a dynamic pass-rusher for Vidalia but also a more than capable receiver too. After not making the playoffs for the first time since 2011, Vidalia is not your normal underdog, but at the same time, people seem to be overlooking them. We are not, so watch out.
Player of the Year – Jadan Baugh, Columbia
Championship Pick – Fitzgerald beats Appling Co. 20-17
1. Prince Avenue
3. Irwin Co.
4. Rabun Co.
6. Bleckley Co.
7. Brooks Co.
9. Lamar Co.
The Favorite – Prince Avenue
If Prince Avenue is to repeat this year, they will have to rely on a whole slew of new offensive players. Of course, you have the familiar face in 4k passer Aaron Philo, our preseason Player of the Year in the classification, but outside of that, you are looking at new skill players. As they shuffle the deck at receiver, Prince can calmly rely on their powerful offensive line. Headlined by senior All-State selection Austin Head, juniors Jake Atha, Cody Mitchell, and sophomore Mason Townsend, no other team in Class A boasts a more vaunted starting line than Prince Avenue. On defense, junior defensive lineman Christian Garrett is the most dominant defender in the classification. Junior linebacker Mac Bradley flies all over the field and is set to be the team’s leading tackler. Senior specialist Tyler Denny is Mr. Consistent. After winning two state titles in the last three years, coach Greg Vandagriff seems poise to bring back another to Prince Avenue in 2023.
The Darkhorse – Irwin County
Irwin County made it to the state semifinals last year where they lost 22-21 to Swainsboro. The always competitive Irwin County is hardly a darkhorse candidate by most measures, and if the ball bounced their way in 2022, they probably wouldn’t be. Regardless, most pundits are picking a rematch of the 2022 state title in Class A DI, so that makes Irwin the most likely darkhorse title contender. Junior Shane Marshall has shown flashes over the last few seasons and is set to get the bulk of the carries for the Indians. We suspect a 1500-yard rushing season is on the horizon. On defense, seniors Michael Joiner (DT) and Ulysses Tomblin (OLB) set the tone and get the nod as Preseason All-State picks. Junior TE Brodie Suggs is a reliable pass-catcher for junior QB Luke Snyder. Certainly, Irwin County will need additional playmakers to step up, but that has always been the case, so 2023 shouldn’t be any different.
The Underdog – Bryan County
Bryan County went 6-5 last year and is looking to build off that success into 2023. The underdogs have Tanner Ennis as a Preseason All-State pick on defense. The senior safety is one of the biggest hitters in the state you don’t know about. Senior back Jacari Carney is a waterbug on the field sliding around tacklers and losing linebackers in the trenches. His senior offensive counterpart, RB Austin Clemons, is the thunder to his lightning. Bringing the entire offensive attack together is steady junior QB Trevor Lanier.
Player of the Year – Aaron Philo, Prince Avenue
Championship Pick – Prince Avenue beats Swainsboro 42-35
1. Schley Co.
3. Lincoln Co.
4. Early Co.
5. Johnson Co.
6. Clinch Co.
7. Dooly Co.
8. Wilcox Co.
The Favorite – Schley Co.
Under Darren Alford, Schley County has seen the greatest success in school history. Last season, they competed in the school’s first-ever state title game but ultimately came up short against Bowdon. Heading into the 2023 season and Schley has a lot of key pieces returning. All-Staters Jalewis Solomon and Zayden Walker could conceivably play anywhere on the field and have a monumental impact. But the player that makes the offensive wheels spin is Jay Kanazawa. The three-year starter passed for 3k yards and 35 touchdowns as a junior. The aforementioned Solomon is Kanazawa’s favorite target but senior Carson Westbrook will certainly earn his share of looks too. Preseason All-State offensive lineman Wyatt Halstead is a tenacious blocker up the middle at center. On defense, Jack Clark was a tackling machine last year and among the leaders in total tackles. Senior defensive tackle Trenton Stubbs will look to clog up lanes and allow the Schley County defense to fly around and do what they do best, create chaos. Preferably in the backfield. What gives Schley County the true edge though is Zayden Walker. The 2025 linebacker just flat-out dominates the defensive side of the field and we suspect he’ll have a sizeable impact running the football too.
The Darkhorse – Clinch Co.
When we first started to cover the state, Clinch County was always in the discussion for a state title but in the last few years that dominance has fallen off. In 2023, they look to buck that trend and get back to their contending ways. Senior Jeremy Bell had around 700 yards receiving as a junior and is among the most acrobatic receivers in Georgia. Senior athlete Keegan Clayton is equally as exciting with the football in his hands and even more versatile. Alvin Green is a promising sophomore defensive lineman who figures to be a D1 recruit. Elijah Cobb is a hard-nosed two-way player who earned a spot on our Preseason All-State team. Overall, we really feel like Clinch County is set to jump back into the state title discussions in 2023.
The Underdog – Marion Co.
Marion County only had two wins last year, but they were also extremely young too. Junior Kelby Tymes was one of the rushing leaders in the classification with 1124 yards and could quietly end up being at the very top in 2023. Ny’errius Houston is another junior who plays on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Haywood Baynor is an impressive blocking sophomore who plays with a lot of physicality. No doubt, Marion County has struggled the last 3 years winning just 7 games total, but they are due for a bounceback and have enough experience to push them back into the win column.
Player of the Year – Zayden Walker, Schley Co.
Championship Pick – Schley Co. beats Bowdon 28-21