Carrollton Head Coach Joey King

Choosing the GPB Sports All-State Coach of the Year from among what is essentially eight GHSA Classifications was an incredibly difficult task.  Eight coaches led their teams to state championships. That included first-timers Mill Creek’s Josh Lovelady, Daniel “Boone” Williams of Langston Hughes, Ware County’s Jason Strickland, Brett Garvin of Sandy Creek, Thomson’s Michael Youngblood, and Richard Fendley of Bowden.

Eight more got their teams to a State Finals finish including first timers Jamie Abrams of Cedartown, Swainsboro’s Scott Roberts, and Darren Alford of Schley County.

Many more had incredible first seasons like State Finalist Josh Niblett of Gainesville. Many more had fantastic breakthrough or turnaround seasons perhaps none more dramatic than Wayne County’s Jabo Shaw who inherited an 0-9 Yellow Jackets team and went 10-3!

All that said, the GPB Sports All-State Coach of the Year is Carrollton Trojans Coach Joey King.  His team was the only team out of the 16 to reach the State Finals that was NOT ranked by ANYBODY in the preseason.

Unfortunately, GPB Sports was a part of that group which also included Atlanta Journal-Constitution/GHSF Daily, Score Atlanta, 680 The Fan, Maxwell Ratings or in the Max Preps Top 10 for 7A.  So, all of us can take credit for giving Coach King’s young Trojans’ team plenty of bulletin board material to fuel their fire.

As Coach King told us in December, they were surprised to be unranked in the preseason while Buford a team that had beaten them 21-6 in the 6A semifinals eight months earlier, and like the Trojans had been elevated to 7A, was pretty much a consensus No. 1 (four of the six rankings).  In a moment of rare coaching honesty (ha-ha), Coach King admitted that motivated his team. I say that with all respect because nine times out of 10, coaches will tell you they don’t pay attention to the rankings.

So how was it that Carrollton could have flown so far under the radar that nobody in Georgia gave them notice in the preseason.  For one thing, the jump from 6A to 7A is not an easy one no matter how talented your team is.  Just ask Buford which had won three straight state championships (5A 2019 and 6A 2020-21) before being stopped in the second round of the 7A playoffs.  (Side note with all their returning talent the Wolves might just be pre-season No. 1 again here in 2023).

Another thing, the Trojans replaced five starters on offense not the least of which was quarterback M.J. Morris who ended up starting three games for N.C. State this season as a true freshman. Carrollton replaced Morris with freshman Ju Ju Lewis. Now granted Lewis arrived with the reputation of a middle school phenom but who foresaw 4,118 yards passing, 48 touchdowns and 12 interceptions ffrom a ninth grader?  To our credit (LOL) he was chosen to the GPB Sports All-State All-Stars Team at the end of the season.

Another thing. On defense the Trojans replaced five starters including two of three on the defensive line and three in the secondary. Carrollton’s defensive line had three sophomores (two of them starters) and two freshmen in their six-man rotation and not one of the starters over 230 pounds. That usually doesn’t cut it in 7A. 

Same could be said for the Trojans offensive line where outside of GPB Sports All-Finals Team Center Jaylin Walton at 6-1, 335-pounds, the Carrollton OL averaged 247 pounds per the other four starters. By no means small but compared to other 7A powers, lighter than most.

So, in his second season as the Trojans head coach, King got the Trojans to the State Finals for the first time since 2013 (when he was the OC for Coach Rayvan Teague), one win shy of what would have been Carrollton’s first state championship since 1998 which by the way is the only one for the program in the last 48 years.  The Trojans won 14 games for the first time since 2010 (King was OC) and one win shy of what would have been just the program’s second perfect season and first since 1961.

And one last thing, Joey King is now the winningest coach in state history among those who have coached at least 100 games.  He is 93-7 in seven seasons with two state championships, four State Finals appearances and six region titles.

All while flying under the radar back in August. We won’t make that mistake again.