Stephenson at Parkview
This battle of jungle cats pits two veteran coaches. The Jaguars are led by head coach Ron Gartrell, who has coached Stephenson in every season since their inception and has led them to the playoffs 10 consecutive times. Parkview counters with Cecil Flowe, who has coached the team since 1993. Stephenson will field an impressive six members of the metro Score 44 (Reggis Ball, Willie Davis, Jordan Mincy, Kadetrix Marcus, Tarik Cook and Jared Boyd). The Panthers have become known as a traditional superpower in the state over the past two decades and have captured four state titles since 1997.
Bob Jones (Ala) at North Gwinnett
Bob Jones of Madison, Ala., will travel to North Gwinnett on Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Progressive Football Challenge. This is the first meeting between these two teams. Bob Jones was 11-2 last year and they are ranked No. 8 in the Alabama Class 6A preseason poll. North Gwinnett, No. 3 in Class 5A, is 1-0 this season after a one-sided victory over Lassiter last week in the Corky Kell Classic. Bob Jones lost to Fairhope 26-22 last week. Auburn commitment C.J. Uzomah is a player to watch for North Gwinnett at quarterback.
Spain Park (Ala.) vs. Grayson
This game will be played Saturday in the Progressive Football Challenge at North Gwinnett. Spain Park is ranked No. 6 in Alabama's Class 6A preseason poll coming into this weekend while Grayson is 0-1 after losing to Kell in the Corky Kell Classic last weekend. Spain Park head coach David Shores was involved this week in a “physical” incident at practice and will not be with the team Sat. Both schools reached the quarterfinals of their respective states’ playoffs last season.
Buford at Gainesville
The Wolves visit the Red Elephants for a Friday night tilt at Bobby Gruhn Field. Buford, who was Class AA champion a year ago, is again ranked No. 1. Gainesville, who was the 2009 runner-up in Class AAA, is ranked No. 10. Both programs finished with 14-1 records last season. The last time these two teams faced each other was in 2005 when Buford won 31-17. The Wolves feature quarterback Alex Ross, who threw for 1,564 yards last season, and running back Dominique Swope. For Gainesville, UGA commitment Blake Sims will start at quarterback.
LaGrange at Newnan
The Grangers were 8-3 last season and finished unranked for the first time since 2000 while Newnan was 13-1 and fell in the state finals to Camden County. The Cougars are currently ranked No. 5 in Class AAAAA. Newnan beat LaGrange 26-15 last season although the Cougars lead the series 49-30-4. LaGrange LB Chauncey Smith is wearing No. 2 jersey, which was worn by three famous Grangers linebackers: Sam Olajabutu, Travis Hart and Qua Huzzie.
Peach County at Warner Robins
Peach County was 15-0 last season in winning the Class AAA championship. The Trojans are ranked No. 2 in Class AAA. In the last meeting between these two, the Demons beat Peach County 49-6 in 1971. DL Randolph Williams and DB Jontavious Davis were voted GHSF Daily preseason all-state players. Peach County will feature Travis Richmond, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year. Warner Robins, who lost 35 players to the new Veterans High School, is changing from the Wing-T to multiple formations, which provides a better offensive balance.
Thomas County Central at Thomasville
Thomasville leads the series 24-20 and won last year’s meeting 13-9. This intense intra-county rivalry matches two teams ranked in their respective classes’ top 10. The Yellow Jackets are No. 5 in Class AAAA while the Bulldogs are No. 8 in Class AA. The rivalry features a matchup of defensive all-state members: Thomas County Central’s Ray Drew is the consensus No. 1 recruit in Georgia while Thomasville speedster QB/DB Jeffrey Dyson is a member of the GHSF Daily all-state team.
Tucker at Southwest DeKalb
Tucker is ranked No. 4 in Class AAAA and leads the series 9-6-1. Southwest DeKalb won the last meeting 26-0 in 2009. Coaching legend Buck Godfrey begins his 28th year at SW DeKalb where his record stands at 250-79-1 with one state championship (1995). Franklin Stephens begins his fourth year at Tucker as head coach with a record of 36-5 with one state championship in 2008. Tucker is led defensively by AJC Super 11 selection James Vaughters who had 57 tackles last season.
Westminster at St. Pius
Two old Atlanta private school rivals tee it up after an 11-year hiatus. St. Pius, which tied a school record for victories in 2009, lost in the quarterfinals to eventual state champion Peach Co. in overtime. The Golden Lions are currently ranked No. 4 in AAA. Westminster returns all-state running back Ralph David Abernathy IV, who had 1,500 yards rushing in 2009. The Wildcats are preseason No. 6 in AA. Westminster leads the all-time series 22-3 and won the last meeting 42-7 in 1999.
Contributors: Jay Thomason, Kavin Caruso