Football Fridays in Georgia: Preseason Preview All-Star Edition
On this episode of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast, Hannah and Jon get a preseason preview from the FFIG podcast all-stars: Jack Patterson, Marvin James, Phil Jones, Mary Alex Anders, and Matt Stewart.
Hannah Goodin: We're not going to waste one minute.
Jon Nelson: This is a no dilly, no dally zone for this one.
Hannah Goodin: This senior class has a chance to make history.
Matt Stewart, Voice of Football Fridays on GPB: This might be the most talented team we've ever seen assembled in the state of Georgia.
Jon Nelson: LEH-GO!
Marvin James, 13WMAZ: That's pretty good.
Hannah Goodin: It doesn't sound as much like a sneeze anymore.
Jon Nelson: Welcome to another round of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast, All Stars Edition. This is where we take the tour around the state. We get you caught up. Now that everybody's at practice, acclimation week is done. Everybody is all optimistic in its 400 plus schools getting ready for the 23 season. Hannah is off to my left. What do you have in store?
Hannah Goodin: The season's only a couple of weeks away, so we wanted to catch up with all of our favorite high school football reporters across the state and we're going to dive right into it. Jon. We're not going to waste one.
Jon Nelson: This is a no dilly, no dally zone for this one.
Hannah Goodin: Because WRBL TV Columbus Sports anchor Jack Paterson has joined us. Jack, how the heck are you, buddy?
Jack Patterson, WRBL News 3: Man, I am fantastic. Yes, The summer flew by so fast.
Jon Nelson: Well that's what happens when you get married!
Jack Patterson, WRBL News 3: Okay, okay. I did get married, but I mean, yall know better. I mean, you got to get married in the fall, I mean in the summer when you have a fall as crazy as ours down over these bars, right? Yeah.
Jon Nelson: I got married. I got married in January. I know exactly what you're saying.
Hannah Goodin: I got married in July. So, yes, we're all in the same boat. Congratulations, by the way, Jack.
Jack Patterson, WRBL News 3: I appreciate y'all. it's good to be back. Yeah.
Hannah Goodin: It's good to have you. Well, et's get right to it. The crown jewels of your area, Sly Carver, La Grange Troupe, among many others. Give us the update on what you've seen in the off season.
Jack Patterson, WRBL News 3: Man, I know I didn't think that we could top last year, but this year is sure going to try. So, you know, you talk about at the top and you're talking about Sly County, who was in the state championship Game one and won a Division two last year. You know, they came up just short. You know, the beautiful thing about that is they've got a large amount of that team coming back and this is going to kind of be the last ride for that squad. So this is going to be a year where I think Sly's really, you know, more so today, more so than ever. They're really going to try to go all out and try to bring their trophy home to L.A. So that's definitely a big storyline we're going to be following. You know, all we are always following Carver year to year. The year one was good, you know, But, you know, you go out on the Hill, they'll tell you that they expected more and expect more this season. So definitely going to be looking forward to that. Is that the city of Columbus, a couple new coaching changes as well. You got Ryan McKenzie going from Chat Co to Hardaway and then you've got Johnny Garner, who was an assistant coach on Carver Squad. He is taking over at Shaw, and that's a really big deal for the Raiders over there. But the Raiders have been the subject of our In The Trenches series. You can go over there to WRBL.com. My old boss, Rex Castillo, has been doing an amazing job along with Drew Platta. And yet that last name sounds familiar. Nellie, his son works in our creative services department, so they've been doing an amazing job going in-depth with the Raiders through training camp. The first two episodes are out as we speak, and then the third one will be out. They'll be five total. So definitely check that out on WRVO is our version of Hard Knocks and they put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into that project in these shows. So definitely do that. Well, definitely a lot of the stuff we're looking at for them and then you go the county you're talking about Troop Callaway in La Grange, the three teams that just they just keep winning, you know. You know, Troup obviously had that remarkable run last season, you know, going nine and one regular season, winning in La Grange, the battle back. And then that one loss that Troop had in the regular season came to La Grange in the last week of the season. And yeah, Taeo Todd is still there, it's his swansong. And this just happened as we are recording this. I just found this out minutes before I jumped on the ball with yall- Taeo just committed to Georgia Southern.
Hannah Goodin: Whoa!
Jon Nelson: Pick up!
Jack Patterson, WRBL News 3: Oh yeah, that just happened. So big deal for Taeo and you know, Troop's got a lot of talent, Qua Birdsong is still there. You know, he's a Beast, he's Power 5 bound. So definitely a lot of talent still for Troop. La Grange has got talent galore. That running back room is still you know, I'll put that up against some of the best running back rooms in the southeast. They have a lot of talent in that room and in Callaway. You know, a lot of people kind of thought Callaway was down last year and they still made a run. I still think they will be a problem in two way for a lot of teams.
Jon Nelson: So then let's go next step. And the last question for me, Gimme give me a team below the radar that you think might come up and surprise some folks. Is it a Northside Columbus in an encore? Who do you think could come up and surprise folks maybe?
Jack Patterson, WRBL News 3: I like Northside, but North has got a big piece to replace a Malachi Hosley now at in that that's a big, big piece to replace. So but I do like the framework that Northside still has in place. You know, I'm going to go north east only I'm going to go to Manchester High School and the Blue Devils. What Stephen Holmes has been building up there is really, really nice and a lot of people don't really know about it. You know, they gave suah a run for their money last year in that game that ended up being in the fact or region championship game. So don't sleep on Manchester. That's going to be my prediction. Like, you know, Sly is going to be good. They're going to be amongst the elite in the state. But Manchester, don't forget they went to the Elite Eight last year, so don't sleep on them either.
Jon Nelson: And when you got a guy like Justice Terry, who is not small. 6'5, 275 coming at you. Single A! 6'5, 275. Ran into him. And that interview will be up in short order as well. You've got a tall drink of water like that. Definitely something to pay attention to. Hannah, go.
Hannah Goodin: Last question for me. Besides Taeo Todd, give us one player.
Jon Nelson One more cheat code!
Hannah Goodin: That the folks listening should keep their eye on this season.
Jon Nelson I can do one, I'll do two. If the dynamic duo down at Sly County, Jay Kanazawa and Jalewis Solomon. Those two are magic together you know. Kanazawa, the quarterback who I feel like is tremendously underrated, you know? You don't hear a lot of noise around him. I think you should be hearing a ton of noise around him. I think Kanazawa is one of the best quarterbacks in our area, and I think he's going to continue to show that this year. And then Jalewis Solomon, he's got all the noise. As deservedly so. You know, he's going to be a Power Five target. and you don't really see that coming out of single-A. But, you know, he's you know, Florida State has been heavy on him among the other schools. But that dynamic duo, I think if Sly County going to go to go to the top of mountain top this year is going to be because of the play of those two amongst so many other guys.
Jon Nelson: Well, Jack, as always, great to catch up with you, my friend. It makes sure that everybody knows what's going on down there at WRBL every single week, congratulations on becoming a husband to an incredibly talented wife. It's been a very busy off season and business is about to pick up as Old J.R. used to say. For you, my friend, thanks for hanging out with us here in the All Stars. We'll catch up with you soon.
Jon Nelson Appreciate you all. PrepZone starts August 18th. Can't wait!
Hannah Goodin: Bye Jack!
Jon Nelson: Batting second in the batting order. Rod Carew was a great number two hitter, by the way. And that's that's your Google search for today, kids. Batting second in our batting order this time around for the All Stars. Number two is from number 13. WMAZ's Marvin James So. Marvin, since we are officially in a no dilly, no daily zone with you. In all the time that you spend down there in middle Georgia, I've been warming up.
Hannah Goodin: Oh, no.
Jon Nelson: I've been warming up.
Jon Nelson: LEH GO!
Marvin James, 13WMAZ: That's pretty good.
Jon Nelson: See? And, see? And Hannah. You know, Hannah just-
Hannah Goodin: No, you're really actually getting much better at it. It doesn't sound as much like a sneeze anymore. Marvin, what's up? Give us the update there in central Georgia.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ: Okay. I guess we have some of the usual suspects down here, if you will. The Warner Robins Demons, Northside Eagles, Peach County Trojans.
Hannah Goodin: New coaches.
Jon Nelson: Three new coaches!
Marvin James, 13WMAZ: Oh, right. Well, why not? So let's go with that monster for right now. Warner Robins, looks like they're playing, trying to play for their unprecedented seventh straight title game. They were in their last year and they lost to Ware County, but just for them to be there and six straight. Pretty amazing. But as we know the head coach is not there any longer. Marques Westbrook has gone over the Peach. The new head coach is Shane Sams, a really sharp guy, a former Demon graduate. He was there on their staff during, I think, their first or second state championship run as their office coordinator with Dylan Fromm as quarterback, so he is no stranger to the program. I think that they're going to be okay. I mean, they are losing Victor Burley and we know how big Big Vic was a mainstay for them for at least the past six, seven, eight years. But he had to move on to the Clemson now. But I expect some good things. Northside cross-town coach Chad Allengood He's gone. He's at Jones County as the new AP over there and Ben Bailey now the head coach. Ben Bailey has been at HoCo and Peach County the last couple of years as coordinator status so he brings in a lot of experience. Ricardo Jones is the big name here from over there, he's big time safety and he's headed Clemson over there from Northside. In Peach County. We talked about Marques Westbrook, He's over there now. We know what he's been able to do the past four years at Warner Robins. He was straight to the title game, four years there in his time. And before that he was there as a defensive coordinator. So he's been there all six years and he's willing to under his belt. So. It's going to be a different look over there on that side of town in Fort Valley for Peach County. You know, the Campbells are going. Coach Campbell has been there for a long time, but those guys over there are ready to win. And when they have to win right away, I don't think the pressure is going to be any less for Coach Westbrook. It's probably going to be even tighter over there. But the good news or the big news out of Peach County, I don't know if you guys know this, but after about 40 years, I know as long as I've been here at the station over at 24, they are starting to play games at 7:30. They usually play at 8. So now they're playing at 7:30. So that helps them with their line. Yeah, we're excited about that.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah, every minute counts.
Jon Nelson: No doubt, especially when you're trying to make slot on a Friday night.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ: No kidding.
Jon Nelson: I mean, when when you and Frank and Ben and everybody and you're trying to get there, any that half hour definitely counts. Well, Marvin is always great to catch up with you, my friend. Getting the lowdown of everything there in the central George in the four, seven, eight in. I'll be keeping an eye on you when you know you're going to be on our speed dial all season long for a very, very interesting year down there in middle Georgia. Thanks for hanging out.
Marvin James, 13WMAZ: No doubt. No doubt about that one. Let me tell you one more name to watch down here in central Georgia, Nick Woolfolk, 2700 yards rushing, 40 touchdowns for northeast. He's got a 4.0 and he's just a junior, folks. Remember that name.
Hannah Goodin: Wow. Thank you.
Jon Nelson: What he said.
Hannah Goodin: Next up is host of Extra Point for ITG Next Georgia, Phil Jones. And Phil, you guys have been putting out some amazing stories from all over the state. You even got to spend some time at Buford. Tell me what you took away from that visit.
Phil Jones, ITG Next: Yeah. Well, guys, first of all, thank you so much for the kind words, Hannah. And thank you guys for having me. I really look forward to another season of talking high school football with you guys. So we did spend we were embedded with the Buford program for about three days, and it was during the the first half of spring practice. You know, Buford actually played their spring game right in the middle of spring practice. They practiced for a week, played Norcross, and then came back and wrapped up spring spring practice with week two. But they answer your question, you know, and remember, this was before Dylan Raiola came to town. So, Buford. Every bit as advertised, guys. I mean, I came away so impressed. I got to sit down with him during the practice. Yeah. Again, we went with him to Norcross and guys, they were clicking on on all cylinders. Now, that was even again, with a couple of quarterbacks who unfortunately, you never them or however you want to look at it, are no longer with the B four program. But it's like I've said, you know before, it's going to be fine with or without a great quarterback. Yeah, they've got so many great athletes, guys. It's just. And what else? You know, what else can you say about me for? I think they are definitely going to be the prohibitive favorite in seven eight, especially now with the addition of Dylan Raiola, they really looked sharp against Norcross, albeit a spring football game, but just I came away so impressed, as always, as you always are with the Buford program. The facilities-- Coach Appling, guys is one of the best, so he does such a great job at keeping those guys focused, humble. No matter what the outside world -people like me- are saying about it.
Jon Nelson: So who else in your touring, in all of your research and all of your early stories, who is also coming across as advertised for you this year in '23?
Phil Jones, ITG Next: Gosh, I'm really big on Lee County. Um, I think. Well, there's some great players in this state. We all know that. But I really like Ousmane Kromah I think every chance I get, you know, to talk to you guys, I'm always talking about Ousmane. He's been our ITG Next offensive player of the year the last two years as part of our annual football banquet. You know, I don't want to obviously, you know, cast any bad omens on him.
Jon Nelson: Don't want to want to jinx him!
Phil Jones, ITG Next: But I got to tell you right now, he would be my favorite to take it for a third consecutive year. The young man is phenomenal. So, anyway, got a lot of guys coming back for Lake County. They didn't lose many at all. Lee County did. And so I really look for Lee County to make some noise this year. Gosh, who else? I think Hughes is going to be back. I know a lot of people are talking about they lost a lot. They did lose a lot. But man, it's just I'm a big believer in as your quarterback goes, so goes your team. And with Prentiss Air Noland, he's going to put this team on his back. I think he's going to take them a long way.
Hannah Goodin: Well, I was going to ask you if there is a player that you had your eye on. I guess it's hard to narrow it down to one player, but somebody, I guess besides Air Noland, that the people listening can can kind of zero in on this season. Who do you think?
Phil Jones, ITG Next: Yeah, I really and again, not necessarily a dark horse, but I really like Nick Woodford, Northeast Macon. Just a pure runner for those of you and I'm showing my age here. Well, he reminds me so much of Jim Brown.
Jon Nelson: Wow.
Phil Jones, ITG Next: Yeah. Jon, you probably-- Hannah's probably too young. Jon, you're the old guy with me here and the bunch. But, you know, I don't know if you see that or not with Nick Woodford, but and this will be yet another great running back. They're starting to pump him out there and northeast make and so I like him a lot. Um, Benedictine quarterback.
Jon Nelson: Roman Hawk. Yeah.
Phil Jones, ITG Next: Yeah, absolutely. You know FSU offered him, before he even stepped foot as a starter at Benedictine. Yeah. Danny Britt was telling me about him. Yeah. Again, when he was playing behind, what was the guy's name? Geriner?
Jon Nelson: Holden Geriner, yeah.
Phil Jones, ITG Next: Yeah. So, boy, what a great thing that Danny Britt's got going at Benedictine, you know?
Jon Nelson: Yeah, They are not, they are not average. They're not an average program.
Phil Jones, ITG Next: I shared this with you before And Hannah, you know, I think to be the first time I had a chance to talk to you about this. But I think it's going to be interesting to see what happens at Irwin County um, with Soliday no longer the quarterback there. He's moved on, of course, going to Mercer to actually play baseball. Mm hmm. But it's going to be interesting to see what Coach Soliday can do there. Again, as your quarterback goes, so goes your team. And man, it's big, big shoes to fill.
Hannah Goodin: Well so you're you're teasing our next guest because I'm asking her all about that.
Jon Nelson: Yes, Mary Alex Anders is coming on after you about this last question from me. Give me a sleeper. You know, you've talked about teams that don't have their you know, they're learning without new with learning, with new quarterbacks. Gimme somebody below the radar from a team perspective that you think could surprise. You mentioned Lee County there are stalwart there in 16A. Is ther e somebody that's kind of flying below the radar that you've been keeping your eye on this year that might surprise some folks?
Jon Nelson: Yeah, You know, I've been I like Kell. I think they're a team to watch. And I know this is going to sound crazy when I say this, but keep an eye on Valdosta. Now, some people may say Valdosta, They're the one you still program in the country. Yeah, but, you know, I think they have fallen off a lot of people's radars. They were 8-0 last year. And then, of course, they fell you know, dropped their final three games last year. But look out for the Valdosta Wildcats this year. I think they are going to have a-- they're poised to have a phenomenal season.
Hannah Goodin: Well, thank you so much, Phil. We appreciate it as always for your insight about high school football on the state.
Jon Nelson: Thank you so much for having me.
Jon Nelson: Batting cleanup on the All Stars. It is Mary Alex Anders, and she is a coach's daughter, so she knows what's going on in South Georgia to begin with because she's grown up in it doing sports at South Georgia TV with CBS down there. So, Mary Alex, let me ask you this. To lead off here. What has summer been like for you? What have you seen coming into '23? Give me some of the highlights of what you've been able to report on so far.
Mary Alex Anders, South GA TV CBS44: So as far as football, I mean, really lately. It's just pretty much been a bunch OTA's. You know, and but I think mainly what I've been doing in the summer is just a bunch of camps.
Hannah Goodin: So hot out there. I'm so sorry.
Mary Alex Anders, South GA TV CBS44: Oh, my God. Hey, I'm not complaining cause I've gotten pretty panned, but, yeah, I think I'm about camped out. I'm definitely ready for football season, but, you know, it's been pretty fun. I've definitely been able to meet a bunch of kids and a bunch of. And a bunch of different sports that normally we don't get to cover during football season as much as we'd like to, though. I mean, that's been the great part about it. But no, as far as football, it's just been OTAs and really just calling the coaches and saying, you know, hey, what's going on? What are you looking like this year?
Hannah Goodin: Well, one of the stories you've been covering is Irwin County. Last season was the first season since 2017. The Indians did not make it to the state championship. Soliday's no longer a QB. What have you seen out of them and what are your expectations from them this season?
Mary Alex Anders, South GA TV CBS44: So when I talk to a Coach Soliday, I believe it was last week or like Friday, I went out there for kind of like a preseason opener. I thought it was going to be more of like an actual scrimmage, but it was kind of just them pretty much doing drills and stuff like that. But I mean, it's Irwin County, so you can always expect a lot of good things out of them. I did ask him about the quarterback position and he said they're, you know, they're still looking good this year. He said that. Luke Schneider is their junior quarterback that they're kind of looking at this year. And he is also a coach's kid. I'm pretty sure from what if I can remember correctly, what he told me. But he said that Luke's looking pretty promising at quarterback this year and they have a lot of kids kind of back. So they're hoping to definitely go back to the state championship this year because I think last year was definitely an eye opener. And he said that the kids are kind of going in there with a chip on their shoulder into this season. So I think we can always expect some good things out of Irwin County.
Mary Alex Anders, South GA TV CBS44: So then let me ask you as a follow up about Region 17-A, and I know that you spend a lot of time keeping an eye on what's going on over at Colquitt with the Packers. What are you what's your take away? I know that when you talked to Sean Calhoun about last year, he'll sit there and say season ended prematurely disappointed with the result. He wants to be playing in that last game of the year. When I mentioned Colquitt County to you, what what's the vibe like?
Mary Alex Anders, South GA TV CBS44: I mean, it's pretty much the same vibe as last year. You know, they're just a solid team. They have so many kids coming back. The senior class, especially offensively, is just loaded. And, you know, they have Neko Fann returning, their quarterback, and he's really grown as a quarterback, but also just as a person. And he's one of the leaders on their team. He's a man of very few words, Neko is, but when he speaks, his team listens to him. And so Neko is awesome and I'm excited to see what he's going to do and how much he's going to grow this year at quarterback. But you know, they still have five star tight end Landon Thomas who actually just split from Georgia to Florida State. He'll be joining Dougherty County's Kam Davis who is quarterback for Dougherty but he's been recruited as a running back for Florida State so they're both going over there next year as far as right now. And yeah, you know, Nye Parr is still there and Nick Pace on defense is coming back. And so they also have Zay Williams, who's a receiver and he's pretty good. He has he's a he has a few small offers right now, but he's a really good athlete and he's going to do some big things for the Packers this year. I know a lot about them offensively. I haven't really been able to talk to coach about them defensively this year, but I think you can pretty much expect the same the same powerhouse of a defense this year from the Packers as you normally do.
Hannah Goodin: Oh yeah, I'm sure. Well, your area of coverage you've got Fitzgerald, Lowndes, Cook, Valdosta as well. My last question for you and I'm not going to ask you about every school but like what else has stood out to you in your preseason coverage from from the other schools down there in South Georgia?
Mary Alex Anders, South GA TV CBS44: Yeah, well, I talked to Coach Pruitt over at Fitzgerald the other day at their OTA, and that was Colquitt. And then we're also there. But I really spent a lot of time with Coach Pruitt getting a, you know, kind of preview of the season. And he actually said that this senior class has a chance to make history for Fitzgerald athletics being the most winningest team and history there, too, because, you know, this is the senior class that's been to all of the state championships with him. And so, hey, they're definitely ready to, you know, be on that track of redemption this year and go back to the state championship and hopefully get another title. But they have a lot of kids coming back. I really do. And I think we're going to expect a lot of things out of Fitzgerald as we normally do. And as far as Lowndes, you know, they have a new coach, Coach Carter, and after I talked to a pretty reliable source down there in Lowndes County.
Jon Nelson: I don't know who that could be.
Mary Alex Anders, South GA TV CBS44: Yeah, well, my father. I called him just to kind of ask him a little bit because I don't really get to go down there a whole lot. But he said offensively, you know, he can expect them to be really, really good. They have a bunch of really good kids. Senior tight end Grant Laskey is he's six five, 230 pounds tight end. So he's going to be pretty solid. He's committed to Charlotte right now, but we're going to expect big things out of him. And then they call him Smoke Slim, and he's a running back. He runs a 4-4-40.
Hannah Goodin: Nice.
Mary Alex Anders, South GA TV CBS44: And so he's solid. Their quarterback is coming back. But my dad also said that, you know, defensively is where he says they're going to have to put in a lot of work. They're pretty young on the defensive side, but they're you know, they're doing what they can to kind of get them geared up. But he's super excited about it and he has a few kids on there that he's excited about. Coleman Lewis is their middle linebacker. He has a bunch of power, five offers from like Auburn and LSU and a bunch of stuff. And then he said, Trey Thomas is a 6'1 safety who's really one to keep an eye on this year down there at Lowndes that he expects pretty good things out of him.But you know most of them are two sport athletes. A bunch of them went to the state championship in track this year and they did pretty well. They won it so Lowndes is looking pretty good. I think Dougherty County is going to look good, too, as far as like in their region. You know, they still have Kam Davis, who's four or five star quarterback. But, you know, like I said, he's been recruited as a running back. And Maurice Davis, who's a 6'4 edge, actually just committed to Ole Miss.
Hannah Goodin: Hi to Tony!
Mary Alex Anders, South GA TV CBS44: Well, as a Missisippi State graduate--eh. *Laughs*
Jon Nelson: We've got Egg Bowl discussions that need to be had with you two!
Hannah Goodin: I had to say it at least once.
Hannah Goodin: Oh yeah for sure but I mean they're we're expecting a bunch of things out of South Georgia football this year. I think you can always count on them. But also I think it's going to be an interesting team to watch this year. You know, they've had a bunch of stuff going on off the field, but I think they might have a few kids coming back. And so that also is going to be one that I'm going to be interested to watch this year. But yeah, I think it's going to be a really good season wown here and I haven't had the chance to talk to as many coaches as I'd want to. But, you know, obviously Lee County has a bunch coming back. Quarterback Weston Bryan's only a Junior and you know, he's coming off a wrestling state championship and this is going to be his first full season as their starting quarterback. And then obviously, they still have somebody who's like the number one running back in his class. Yeah. And so that but last time I talked to Coach Fabricio, he said this is probably one of the most veteran teams he's had coming back. They didn't graduate a whole lot of kids last year. So I think we can definitely expect a different outcome at the end of the season this year for Lee County than we did last year.
Jon Nelson: Well, Mary Alex, as always, it's great to catch up with you and everybody down there at South Georgia TV. Thanks for hanging out with us here, batting clean up on the Football Fridays in Georgia All Stars. We'll be keeping an eye. And don't be a stranger, okay?
Jon Nelson: Yes, sir. Absolutely. Thank y'all.
Hannah Goodin: Last but not least, Voice of Football Fridays in Georgia on GPB Sports, Matt Stewart. And Matt, we've been asking all of our guests today to name one or two players to watch this season. But with you, we're going to ask you a bunch of them. Well, first off, let's let's start with Buford, shall we? Quarterback Dylan Raiola, what have you seen--
Jon Nelson: I'll see you guys in a half an hour.
Hannah Goodin: And who else on the Buford team stands out to you?
Matt Stewart, Voice of Football Fridays on GPB: Well, you know, the thing about Buford is I thought they were overwhelming favorites to win the 70 state championship before they added Dylan Raiola, who's he number one prospect in the entire country, as we know, quarterback committed to the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2024 signing class. I think the addition of real puts them in a category where they legitimately, you know, compete for a national championship. I think they're a three touchdown favorite better than any seven or eight. Now, that doesn't mean they can't get beat and certainly they can. And certainly there are teams out there capable of putting up an upset against them and knocking them out. But I think on paper I'm just saying they they look that good to me, that they are an overwhelming favorite against pretty much anybody they would play in seven. Much less any other, you know, classification in the state of Georgia. It could be. It is probably. And we've seen a lot of them like the 2019, you know, Marietta team and the duo combination of Sam Horn and Travis Hunter a couple of years ago with Collins Hill. But as far as just flat out talented teams, this might be from a college recruiting, you know, prospect. This might be the most talented team we've ever seen assembled in the state of Georgia. And, you know, it's not just Dylan Raiola, but they've got the five star Eddrick Houston, K.J. Bolden, the five star Safety who will also play wide receiver. The Bolden/Raiola combination is going to be hard for just about any high school football team to stop would be hard for some college football teams to stop you know Eddrick Houston, five star defensive lineman and you know the list just goes on and on and on. They've got you know, they got more five and four stars than a lot of power. Five conference teams do. So it just is what it is.
Jon Nelson: So then let me ask you this. How many of the teams that won championships last year would you anticipate repeating or challenging to repeat here in 23?
Jon Nelson: Okay. Well, you know, remember, Buford didn't win it last year. They got knocked out in the second round by Walden. got to the finals. I think Carrollton, you know, it is, you know, not seeing the brackets. And we know that depends upon region play. I think Carrollton has got a great shot to get back in the state finals and play Buford if they don't meet along the way and I haven't studied the brackets, I'm sure there's a, there's a way that's possible. And I'm guessing if they're region champions, hopefully that's not possible. But yeah, Langston Hughes I've got as a repeat favorite in 6A. I've got Gainesville as a repeat favorite to get to the state finals and play him again. Warner Robins I have as at least a semifinal team where county a quarterfinal team in 5A. I've got Creekside is my number one and Kell is my number two in 5A. I got Benedictine going for the three peat this year and a favorite to do it. I got North Oconee as a team to likely get there and play him in the finals. Cedar Grove I've got as a-- bear with me here. I always refer to them not trying to make any kind of a statement. I refer to them as co-champions in 2022, in my mind, that game didn't get to get finished in the right way.
Audio from Game: Here's the play. One more time. Here's the play. Is his knee down? Does he get the ball? A lot of people are wondering. They're seeing that replay and saying, what? We had no replay in high school, by the way. You can hear the boos and a stunned crown on the Cedar Grove side.
Jon Nelson: I mean, now, South, you know, the game just didn't finish the right way. And that's why we've got instant replay going into this season. So, you know, it is, you know, it is a matter of everybody recognizes that game did not finish the way it was supposed to. And it's brought about a big change in high school football this year where we're going to have instant replay in the state finals and they're going to do a test run of it here coming up in a couple of weeks on Corky Kell. Now, if they'd run that play over, they get, you know, Sandy Creek scores and they're a state champions. But in my mind, that game stopped right there where the call went wrong. And so I consider Cedar Grove and I know it's a long winded way to get to where I'm saying I think the Grove is this is, is the favorite for me in 3A. So the rest of them, as far as repeat, I don't have any other repeat winners but I think I think teams that got there last year got a good chance to get there again. I got a Sly County in 1A, D2 as my favorite. St Francis, the team that, you know, legitimately could have knocked off Prince Avenue in the semifinals last year. I got them as my 1A, D1 favorite and I got Appling County as my 2A favorite with Thompson and Fitzgerald two and three. So those were your two state finalist in two way last year. I got them two and three in my preseason.
Hannah Goodin: I always love to hear a Matt Stewart underdog. Matt, who do you think could us sneak into the state championships or have a deep run in the playoffs this year?
Matt Stewart, Voice of Football Fridays on GPB: Well, my my really, really big dog is in for a. Where I've got Spalding, a team that really hasn't done much of anything ever. I got them as a team that could make a deep run in the playoffs seven and five. But they returned more all-region players than any other team in the for a classification. So we'll see how that transpires. But they're a team. I think that could make a deep run. Stockbridge that has done it in the past, you know, I think I think they're a top eight team in for a to looking at the rest of my you know who else stands out as as anything shocking that those those right they're probably the ones that have elicited the most response from people. I think Hiram is a team, you know, a team that, again, a program that really has ever done much of anything. I think they had a ten one season a few years ago, but they were five and five last year. But they're loaded with college football, recruiting talent, one of the top tight in the country who this summer committed to Southern Cal, a close to four star offensive lineman who just in the last week committed to Georgia Tech. And quite frankly, part of the problem with Hiram in the past is a lot of their talent got picked off from other teams. That hasn't necessarily happened this year. So we'll see what that if they, you know, maintaining their talent level, I think they could be a top eight team. And, you know, when I say top eight team, I'm talking about a team that gets to the quarterfinals. You know, to me, that's really where the playoffs start. Once you get to the quarterfinals, you're kind of you're kind of in it. You're you're season's kind of legit at that program. If at that point, if you get to the quarterfinals that the team I you know, I like, you know, maybe a surprise team. I think, you know, Hebron Christian, I thought I mean, I really had them up there until they lost their quarterback, Gavin Hall, who transferred to Gainesville. Gavin Hall might be one of the most underrated from a college football recruiting perspective. He might be one of the most underrated players in the entire state. You know, went for over 4000 yards of total offense last year, over 2000 passing in 2000, rushing last year. I think he accounted for a 40 or 50 touch. That was just ridiculous numbers playing for Jonathan Guest. And he's transferred to Gainesville. So even with that we'll see how Hebron does. They could still be a top eight seed. But the big question mark, top eight team, that the big question mark with them is going to be the the quarterback position. I like Spencer to come back and have another strong season and two way the team out of Columbus who you know had kind of a historic season last year. I think they have the makings to come back and have another good year. So yeah, that's kind of kind of it in a nutshell. We could jump down into 1A, D2. Jenkins County, Dooley County, both of them seven win teams a year ago. They got a lot coming back. I think they could be teams that you know, make some waves this season.
Hannah Goodin: Those are good ones. Those are really good ones. Well, last question, Brian.
Jon Nelson: Saving the tape.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah, Jon's taking notes. Last question for you. I just, like, totally blanked out. We mentioned Raiola. Tell us about some of the other top players in the Atlanta area and in the higher classifications that are a must watch this season.
Matt Stewart, Voice of Football Fridays on GPB: Oh, yeah. Well, Sammy Brown from, you know, Jefferson, a five star linebacker rated as high as the number one linebacker in the entire country. He's also a great running back for the Jefferson Dragons. He's committed to Clemson over the summer. Now, he'll be a fun one to watch. He'll play both sides of the ball. Andy Brown, the guy to watch Mike Matthews, who just in the last couple of weeks, five star out of Parkview wide receiver just in the last couple of weeks, he committed to Tennessee. He's going to be a fun one to watch. Air Noland, of course, who was our Player of the Year on our all GPB team last year, our overall player of the year, Air Noland He was our offensive player of the year. Pardon me. Anyway, he was up there. He's like, you know, he's one of our top three awards. Air Noland committed Ohio State over the summer. You know, he's going to be a guy to watch and he's going to be a fun one to watch. And, you know, big reason why a guy who's getting back to the state championship game and the possibility of winning it in Carrollton, of course, as as we know, Juju Smith. Juju Lewis. Pardon me, who is, you know, a sophomore. He's still just a baby in all of this. And one of the top quarterbacks in the entire country and his top target that Caleb Odom committed to Alabama over the summer and they got a big offensive lineman, Zykie Helton, who's just a sophomore. He committed to Alabama over the summer. So Carrollton is going to be really good. Are they good enough to beat Buford, as you said, had been predicted? I don't know about that, but it'll be interesting if they, you know, indeed meet up in the semifinals instead of the state championship game.
Jon Nelson: Really looking forward to it. No doubt about it. With a great season coming up here at GPB with Football Fridays in Georgia and all of our coverage. Matt, obviously he's going to be front and center for all of that. And so that's the rundown for the day. Jack Patterson, WRBL. Marvin James, WMAZ. Phil Jones, ITG Next. Mary Alex Anders of South Georgia TV and CBS South Georgia. Matt Stewart, The play by Play Voice, the Emmy Award winning play by Play Voice.
Hannah Goodin: Congratulations, Matt.
Matt Stewart, Voice of Football Fridays on GPB: Hannah, it was a team award. They can only put four names on the thing, but it was it was truly a team award. mean, you know, and we all know how many people go into making Football Fridays in Georgia, what it is, and it's certainly not one person nor just four. It's a it's an army of people of which you are a big part of. And just because you know, my name got on the award this year doesn't mean it was a-- it was a team award.
Hannah Goodin: It was.
Jon Nelson And we're going to start it up all over again in short order.
Matt Stewart, Voice of Football Fridays on GPB: Looking forward to it.
Jon Nelson: That is the 2023 preview with the GPB Football Fridays in Georgia All Stars. For Ambassador Jeremy, for Governor Reagan, for King James, Jake the Snake and for Hannah. I'm just Jon. Kick offs are now! That's the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast. We'll see you next time.