South Georgia Small School Preseason Top 10
NUC Sports South Georgia Small Schools has the largest number of teams with 58 spreading over nine regions. Last year Fitzgerald made the State Championship game in GHSA AA; region foes Clinch County and Irwin County met in the GHSA A State Championship game.
The biggest changes in Small school are Dodge County (11-1) dropping from AAA to AA and Macon County dropping from AA to A. Also Calvary has a new coach in Rick Tomberlin, former head coach Mark Stroud takes over at Swainsboro.
Tomberlin last coached at Effingham County in 2012. He has accumulated a (236-118) record in his 30-year career which includes three undefeated State Championship teams at Washington County in the 90’s.
Starting the year off at #1 is the Fitzgerald Purple Hurricane. They return 18 starters including the state’s leading rusher JD King. Last year the Purple Hurricane accumulated 5,173 yards rushing and believe it or not 100% of that production is back.
But it won’t be that easy for Fitzgerald as Region 2-AA power Benedictine also returns a plethora of offensive weapons. The Cadets return their two leading rushers Tyleek Collins and John Kennedy who accounted for 2,779 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns.
The #1 team in South Georgia for Class A is the defending State Champions Clinch County Panthers. Clinch County plays in the toughest region in Class A which had five teams make the 16-team playoff bracket last year. The Panthers return loads of offensive weapons with their entire starting backfield coming back in their single-wing attack. This includes running backs Shannon Young and Zebulon Johnson who ran for over 2,400 yards last season.
Macon County should be a force to be reckoned with in GHSA A. They return prolific passer K’Hari Lane who passed for 3,156 yards and 30 TD’s. The Bulldogs also return their two leading rushers Jared Daniels and Akeevious McLendon who combined for 2,123 yard rushing and 30 touchdowns.
Possibly the biggest prospect in Small schools is Vidalia two-way standout Nathan McBride. McBride missed his entire junior season with an injury.
There are three huge opening season matchups on Friday September, 19. Brooks County plays host to Cook, Glynn Academy pays a visit to Benedictine and Vidalia opens the season on the road at Dodge County.
1. Fitzgerald Purple Hurricane (1-AA)
Head Coach: Jason Strickland, 5th Season (41-12-1)
Last Season: (13-2/5-1)
Key Losses: Darrius Hampton, DE 95 tackles, 8 sacks; Markarius Lundy, LB, 97 tackles
Key Returnees: James Graham, QB/ATH, Jr. 1,536 yards rushing 19 TD’s; Montreil Harris, RB/ATH. Jr. 934 APY 9 TD’s; JD King, RB, Sr. 2,434 yards rushing 33 TD’s; Anthony Ransey, NG, Sr.; Josh Reliford, DB, Sr. 88 tackles, 5 INT’s
Top Non-Region Opponents: Irwin County, @Macon County, @Tift County
Key to Success: The Purple Hurricane ran for a whopping 5,173 yards last year and 100% of that production is back. If the Wing-T run out of the spread stays on all-cylinders and the defense can continue to improve Fitzgerald should make another trip back to the Dome.
2. Benedictine Cadets (2-AA)
Head Coach: Danny Britt, 6th Season (51-14)
Last Season: (12-1/7-0)
Key Losses: Jacob Collins, RB 753 yards rushing 11 TD’s; Tru’Self Cooper, LB 164 tackles; Dasch Bergmann, S 78 tackles
Key Returnees: Tyleek Collins, RB, Jr. 1,262 yards rushing 11’s Chris Harris, LB, Sr. 116 tackles, 9 TFL’s; Nick Iannone, QB, Jr. 1,581 yards passing 16 TD’s; John Kennedy, ATH, Sr. 1,157 yards rushing 18 TD’s, 35 catches 787 yards 8TD’s
Top Non-Region Opponents: Glynn Academy, @St. Pius X
Key to Success: Another AA team with a ton of offense coming back in 2016. A number one seed coming out of Region 2-AA will all but assure another deep run in the playoffs.
3. Clinch County Panthers (2-A)
Head Coach: Jim Dickerson, 13th Season (116-39-1)
Last Season: (13-1/6-1)
Key Losses: Quincey Cooper, LB 110+ tackles; Chauncey Manac, DE 61 tackles, 8 sacks
Key Returnees: Kentarius Felton, LB, Sr. 110+ tackles; Jervonta Johnson, LB/ATH Sr.; Zebulon Johnson, RB, Sr. 750+ yards rushing; Trezman Marshall, QB/ATH, So. 800+ yards rushing; Charles McClelland, QB/ATH, 890+ yards rushing; John Mincey, DE, Jr.; Octavius Morris, LB/ATH, Sr.; Shannon Young, RB, Sr. 1,600+ yards rushing
Top Non-Region Opponents: Brooks County
Key to Success: This team has so much offensive power coming back it’s insane. They must replace some offensive lineman and take each game one at a time in Georgia’s toughest A Region in the state.
4. Macon County Bulldogs (4-A Div. B)
Head Coach: Dexter Copeland, 2nd Season (10-3)
Last Season: (10-3/5-0)
Key Losses: Ramsey Jackson, CB 54 tackles; Kyron Smith, CB 56 tackles 2 INT’s
Key Returnees: Trey Brown, WR, Jr. 49 catches 1,033 yards 11 TD’s; Jared Daniels, RB, Sr. 1,465 yards rushing 22 TD’s; K’Hari Lane, QB, Sr. 3,156 yards passing 30 TD’s; Christian Meadows, OL, Jr.; Curt McDonald, DB, Sr. 82 tackles, 4 INT’s; Akeevious McLendon, RB, Jr. 658 yards rushing 8 TD’s; Keldrick Thomas, WR, Jr. 31 catches 497 yards 7 TD’s
Top Non-Region Opponents: @Irwin County; Fitzgerald; @Warner Robins-Northside
Key to Success: They must do a better job stopping the run; that being said this team is flat out loaded and can win it all in GHSA A. When they get off the bus opposing teams and fans will be shocked by their size.
5. Brooks County Trojans (1-AA)
Head Coach: Maurice Freeman, 9th Season (81-24)
Last Season: (10-3/6-0)
Key Losses: Jared Cody, WR; Demontay Jones, QB/ATH; Tyvon Maxwell, DT (First Team All-State)
Key Returnees: Michael Edmonds, LB, Jr.; Mac Perry, QB/ATH, Jr.; Naiquavis Sutton, RB, Sr.; Kendrick Wade, LB, Jr.; Jonathan White, RB, Sr.
Top Non-Region Opponents: Cook, @Clinch County, Pierce County
Key to Success: It’s really going to be hard to replace dual-threat quarterback Demontay Jones. But the Trojans always have athletes and are going to only get better as the season progresses.
6. Vidalia Indians (2-AA)
Head Coach: Lee Chomskis, 10th Season (71-31)
Last Season: (8-4/5-2)
Key Losses: Hayden Garvin, OG
Key Returnees: Samuel Collins, OL; Sr.(First Team AA All-State); Nathan McBride, LB/RB, Sr. (missed all of last season with injury)
Top Non-Region Opponents: @Dodge County, Appling County, West Laurens
Key to Success:
7. Calvary Day Cavaliers (3-A Div. A)
Head Coach: Rick Tomberlin, 1st Season
Last Season: (9-2/4-1)
Key Losses: Ryan Garvin, LB, 80 tackles, 14 TFL’s; Alex Herndon, DL 57 tackles, 18 TFL’s, 7 sacks; Brent Sanders, LB 67 tackles 16 TFL’s
Key Returnees: Sal Calderon, QB, Sr. 1,762 total yards 14 TD’s; Nolan Smith, RB, So. 696 yards rushing 14 TD’s; Taequan Washington, LB, Jr. 67 tackles, 198 TFL’s, 5 sacks; Thomas Wells, WR , Sr. 26 catches 421 yards 6 TD’s
Top Non-Region Opponents: @Aquinas
Key to Success: The Cavaliers lose some big playmakers on defense and have a new head coach. Tomberlin will have some offensive experience coming back as the Cavaliers return their top six players in all-purpose yards. They will count mightily on three-year starting quarterback Calderon.
8. Emanuel County Institute Bulldogs (3-A Div. B)
Head Coach: Chris Kearson, 6th Season (47-13)
Last Season: (11-2/4-0)
Key Losses: Zach Thompson, OL
Key Returnees: David Durden, WR, Sr. 25 catches, 425 yards and 8 TD’s; Rhett Gay, QB, Sr. 1,744 yards passing 22 TD’s; Dazhun Steele, WR, Jr. 33 catches 621 yards 9 TD’s
Top Non-Region Opponents: Swainsboro
Key to Success: The Bulldogs have a very doable schedule and if they can stay healthy they can make a deep run in the playoffs with all that offensive firepower back.
9. Irwin County Indians (2-A)
Head Coach: Buddy Nobles, 3rd Season (21-5-2)
Last Season: (10-3-1/6-1)
Key Losses: DJ Pollard, RB/LB ran for over 1,900 yards and was teams leading tackler; Jared Johns, DE 19 TFL’s and 7.5 sacks
Key Returnees: Jay Ashley, ATH, Sr. (Transfer from Coffee); Cartavion Benyard, DB, Sr.; Zyan Ross, DL, Sr.; Zach Tolar, QB/ATH, Sr.
Top Non-Region Opponents: @Fitzgerald, Macon County
Key to Success: Replacing Pollard will be near impossible, but never under estimate a Buddy Nobles coached squad. Coach Nobles has taken the Indians to the State Finals in each of his two seasons at the helm.
10. Dodge County Indians (3-AA)
Head Coach: Rex Hodges, 6th Season (34-22)
Last Season: (11-1/6-0)
Key Losses: Three leading rushers Kyle Glover, Clint Thompson and Cameron Young.
Key Returnees: Peyton Bush, K 49-52 XP’s, 6-8FG’s; Larry Johnson, ATH 466 all-purpose yards 4 TD’s
Top Non-Region Opponents: Vidalia, @West Laurens
Key to Success: The Indians have some major loses, but Coach Hodges should benefit from dropping down from GHSA AAA.
|Just Outside: Charlton County (7-3); Dooly County (7-4); Early County (7-4-1); Hawkinsville (5-5); Marion County (10-2); Pacelli Catholic (7-4); Savannah Christian (9-3); Spencer (8-4); Turner County (8-3)|