Due to reclassification, the 2016 Georgia high school football season will feature both old region rivalries and new opponents that are sure to grab the attention of football fans across the Peach State. There are now seven classifications in the GHSA, each with eight regions, increasing the number of regions to 56 regions, as opposed to last season’s 48. Below are site contributor Markus Golden’s picks for the top 50 region games to watch in Georgia this fall. (This is Part 2, Nos. 40-31) – Read Part 1
40. Savannah Christian @ Calvary Day 10/28
Region 3-A, Division A
– Savannah Christian leads series 22-13
– Savannah Christian won last year’s matchup 14-3
These two Savannah-area private schools have met almost every year since 1979. Both schools hope to improve on last year’s nine-win season and contend for a state title. Calvary Day brought in legendary coach Rick Tomberlin and feature a young squad. They are headlined by DT Taequan Washington and sensational sophomore Nolan Smith, who plays DE and RB. Savannah Christian’s preseason All-State OT Zach Quinney (Georgia Tech commit) looks to open up big holes for powerful B-back AJ Davis, who was Offensive MVP for his team last fall (despite Demetris Robertson’s notoriety). On defense, they tout big-hitting seniors LB/DE Evan Reese, SS Ryan Smith and CB Neil Maclang.
39. Lamar County @ Heard County 10/28
– Heard County leads the series 7-6
– Heard County won the last meeting in 2009 18-17
These two central Georgia schools last met in a barn-burner in 2009, with Heard County winning 18-17. This year’s matchup should be another tightly contested affair. Lamar County hired Bryan Love, who led at that time a Class 6A Westlake squad, to a quarterfinals appearance last season while also posting the second-best offensive season in Westlake history (they finished behind only Cam Newton’s senior year in terms of offensive output). Heard County is led by Ohio State QB commit Emory Jones, slippery back DayVin Troy and versatile WR/CB Jaden Moreland. Both Jones and Moreland are preseason All-State selections. K Trey Wiggins has a boot for a leg and has been consistent from 50 yards out at camps this offseason.
38. Spalding @ Mary Persons 09/30
– Mary Persons leads the series 5-1
– Spalding won the last meeting in 2009 21-0
These two schools also hail from Central Georgia. Spalding joins Region 2-AAAA after being in Region 4-AAAA. Spalding and Mary Persons both made the Sweet 16 last season and are expected to improve this year. Each team is ultra-talented and feature some of Middle Georgia’s top talent. Mary Persons finished 11-1 last season and will feature two pass-rushing assassins in Tre Howard and preseason All-State selection Malik Herring. OG Caleb Etheridge is another preseason All-State selection and is one of the strongest linemen in the state, squatting 715 pounds. Spalding finished 10-2 and has ample talent at the skill positions. Their offense should put up big numbers and is led by seniors RB AJ Moses, QB Naricuss Driver, WR Rasheed Marshall and powerful OG Christopher Andrews. CB Quantavious Armstrong is a head-hunter on defense, and Kelvin Johnson has sideline-to-sideline speed.
37. Peachtree Ridge @ Collins Hill 11/04
– Peachtree Ridge leads the series 7-6
– Peachtree Ridge won last year’s meeting 28-13
These two Gwinnett County schools have played every year since 2004. Both schools are looking to have double-digit win seasons, but they will have to depend on some fresh talent at various positions. For Peachtree Ridge, Fred Payton looks to connect with senior WR Connor Heyward for big plays. Their offensive line features some big hog-mollies but are unproven. On defense, they are led by seniors DE Josh Johnson, MLB Kam Jones and S Zane Ashley. Collins Hill should have a lethal passing attack with signal-caller Drew Dinsmore tossing the rock to a talented WR trio of Marc Riley Jr., Des Howard and Braxton Curry. Collins Hill will also feature RB Jonathan Postell, FS Peyton Woodard and the big-hitting junior MLB Jomier Augustine.
36. Paulding County @ East Paulding 11/04
– East Paulding leads the series 9-7
– East Paulding won last year’s meeting 35-21
These two football teams represent the city of Dallas. No, not Texas; these are not the Cowboys, nor SMU, nor even Dallas Carter from the film Friday Night Lights. Paulding County and East Paulding both represent one of the fastest-growing areas in Georgia, and the region’s talent pool is only getting richer. Paulding County hired a new coach Van Spence, and he will have a stout defensive backfield that features CB Dionte Ruffin, CB Josh Singleton and FS Malik Branch. Gunslinger Brantly Mauldin looks to build off his big sophomore campaign when he slung it for 2,463 yards. Also watch out for senior RB Marquis Lewis on offense. East Paulding features massive offensive guard Mike Cone who is 6’5, 310 pounds. QB Dylan Prater is one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the state and WR Jalen Browder is a very explosive athlete. They should provide a pitch and catch combination that will be tough to stop. Their defense will be led by seniors DE Cameron Foster, LB Caleb Whitley and SS Brandon Smith.
35. Jones County @ Stockbridge 10/28
– Series tied 1-1
– Stockbridge won the last meeting in 2007 56-21
Jones County is the only team in Region 4-AAAAA that is not a Henry County school. On Halloween weekend, Jones County will make an epic spine-chilling journey up Interstate 75 to battle against Stockbridge. Since Jones County brought in head coach Justin Rogers, they have been playing an explosive style of offense that has made them major contenders. Jones County’s offense will feature a nearly unstoppable passing combo with QB Bradley Hunnicutt and WR Nick Singleton. Josh Skinner is one of the best kickers in the state, and he will get plenty of practice putting them through the uprights this season. Stockbridge is one of the most talented teams in the state. Their defensive front seven is battle-tested with DE Kelton Dawson, DE Aaron Robinson, LB Chris Hall and LB Brandon Lopes. They will also be receiving a big transfer from Miller Grove in the form of preseason All-State DE Brenton Cox. Their strong defensive backfield consists of FS Kendrick Duncan, CB Wesley Guilford Jr., Nasir Green and Ryan Massey Jr. Offensively, they run a spread-option attack under center, and RB Jalen Holston is one of the most talented backs in the state. He is joined by RB Michael Price, preseason All-State WR Marquez Ezzard and OG Austin Donaldson.
34. Walton @ Lassiter 10/21
– Walton leads the series 21-13
– Walton won last year’s meeting 34-20
Walton and Lassiter have been playing one another since 1982. The annual showdown is called “The East Cobb Super Bowl” and is a hotly contested rivalry between the neighboring high schools. Walton had an early exit in the playoffs last year and is still rebuilding after Rocky Hidalgo’s departure a few years back. Earlier this decade, both of these squads were playing at an elite level, and they are trying to build back up to that status. Walton will try to defeat Lassiter with their aerial assault led by QB Addison Shoup, who threw for 2,631 yards and 29 TDs last season. Sophomore phenom WR Dominick Blaylock, WR Clark Kent and WR Cole Watts will be a tough trio to handle. Massive 6’6 310 junior OT Matt Hall and Blake Landon look to open holes for young and inexperienced backfield. Lassiter’s defensive backfield of Derrik Allen and Tyriq Hardimon might be the best tandem in the state and they will be in charge of stopping Walton’s vaunted passing attack. RB Mason Waters and WR Evan Joseph will fuel the offense for the Trojans. Also keep an eye out for 6’3″ sophomore Andy Bickford, who played a lot last season at multiple positions.
33. Newton @ Archer 10/07
This is the first meeting between these two programs. These teams have something in common: They each had a major prospect transfer to region rival Grayson. Archer lost Jamyest Williams and Newton lost Kurt Taylor to Grayson. Despite this, there is still no shortage of prospects on each of these squads. Archer features QB Dillon Waye, WR Tyler Ranel, MLB Quinn Miller, CB/WR Taiyon Palmer and DT Will Choloh. There is also a whole slew of young players with little experience ready to make a name for themselves. Newton’s QB situation has been mostly quiet. Junior David Smith and senior Social Circle transfer Blake Brock are currently duking it out. Wide receivers Jeremiah Holloman, Justin Marshall, Myron Middlebrooks and Dante Johnson rank at the top for best receivers in Georgia. Their defense features LB Jaquan Henderson, DT Deion Watson and S Robert Black. They are also loaded with a ton of young talent. Be on the lookout for Nuru Tinch, a running back transfer from Stephenson.
32. Houston County @ Coffee 10/14
– Coffee leads the series 4-2
– Coffee won the last meeting in 2009 16-2
Both Houston County and Coffee won their respective region titles last year. Houston County finished 11-2, while Coffee finished 10-2 last season. Houston County will trek two hours down I-75 to battle at the Trojans’ home field. Road games in this isolated region should be tough, and the home teams will have an advantage with very hostile fans supporting them. Houston County will depend on a passing game led by UGA commit QB Jake Fromm to quiet the crowd. Fromm will toss the ball to wide receivers Amari Colbert and Eli Watson. Junior OG Deontrey Hill is a hoss out there in the trenches. Houston County will feature DE Trey Jones, who looks to supplant heavy senior losses on the DL. Coffee is loaded with an offense that features QB Max Hughes, RB Meaty Davis, WR Milton Jackson, WR Dalrone Donaldson and 6’6″ WR Adam Solomon. Their offensive line is powered by 6’3″, 315-pound Jay Turk and Kevin Tyre. Their defensive front seven is an intimidating bunch and will be led by DE Derrick Newton, DE Undray Heller, LB Jameon Gaskin and LB RJ Pace.
31. Lovett @ Westminster 10/21
– Westminster leads the series 18-10
– Westminster won last year’s matchup 26-23
This game between two private schools is one of the best rivalries in Metro Atlanta. Westminster and Lovett have been playing in “The Battle for Buckhead” since 1974 and consecutively since 1994. The two schools participate in one of the state’s toughest regions regardless of class and will be toughened come late October. Westminster had an up-and-down regular season but finished the season hot, winning the AAA state title. Offensively, they are led by do-it-all back Zay Malcome, who led the charge in their unbelievable overtime victory against Blessed Trinity in the title game. Lovett finished 6-6 last year while facing one of the state’s toughest schedules. This year, Lovett will feature young talents like QB Brady Tindall, TE Nick Jackson, LB John Sutton, CB Peyton Ringer and ATH KJ Wallace. Westminster’s title defense will be no easy task, and joining Malcome are CB Joe Egan, WR Nance Hill, DB Ian Ude, P Blake Gilliken and sack artist Cortez Alston. Be on the lookout for 6’5″, 240-pound junior Peter Rooney, who started a bunch last season at OT.
Preseason All State Teams