It feels like years, but it's really only been eight months since we left the Georgia Dome with Buford and Brookwood as football state champions.
The biggest question I got this summer was who is going to be the top team in Gwinnett this year. I get asked that all of the time. A few years ago I would have said two or three teams. Now that list has grown to four or five.
By my count we've got 12 teams in Class AAAAA that have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs, but there are only eight slots available. It will be fun to see how that works itself out. You can read more about each team for the upcoming season in our annual high school football preview section, which comes out on Sunday.
There are a lot of questions I have for this season and not a lot of answers right now.
I'd have to say Mill Creek was the surprise team last year. The Hawks were a No. 4 seed in the region and reached the third round of the playoffs. Who will be that team this year? Is this the year Duluth finally gets back in the playoffs? Can Central make things interesting in Region 8 with a host of talent back?
North Gwinnett was the top team in the state at the end of the regular season, but lost in the second round. Can the Bulldogs improve on last year's disappointing finish?
We saw Grayson's Robert Nkemdechie emerge as a superstar last year. Who will it be this year?
And of course, can Brookwood and Buford repeat as state champions?
Those are just some of the things I'm looking forward to about Friday night football in Gwinnett this year. What's on your mind?
I thought about cramming a ton of info into this one blog, but I want you to come back at least another week, so I'll have a recap of the Corky Kell Classic, my preseason all-county team and team-by-team predictions for you next week.
Daily Post Super Six released
The Daily Post unveiled its Super Six last week. To be considered for the Super Six you have to be a heavily recruited senior. We feel these are the top six. Here's who made it in case you missed it.
- TE/DE Kurt Freitag, Buford
- OL Chase Roberts, GAC
- RB/DB Nick Tompkins, Brookwood
- LB Dillon Lee, Buford
- WR Jason Croom, Norcross
- OL Vadal Alexander, Buford
Do you agree with the Super Six? Who did we leave off?
There are two things you might notice about the Super Six. Arguably the county's best player, Grayson's Robert Nkemdiche, is not on the list. Nkemdiche is a junior and you have to be a senior to make the football Super Six.
Also, the Super Six is half Buford players. Since the Super Six began in 2000, this is the second time one school has had three players selected in the same year. The last time was Parkview in 2002 when Sean Dawkins, Zeb McKinzey and Dustin Wade were named Super Six. If you remember, that group had an undefeated season for the third straight year. Buford is going for its fifth straight Class AA state title this year.
I wrote the story about Vadal Alexander for the Super Six and one thing I had to ask his father was how he got the name Vadal.
It turns out the name is from the TV character Vidal Thomas in the 1992-93 comedy series 'Out all Night', starring Patti LaBelle and Morris Chestnut.
"He always looked at the brighter side of life," Vadal's father James said.
Top games this season
Just a casual high school football fan? Here's a list of the top games each week to check out.
Aug. 18-20 Footballpalooza
Three days featuring seven Gwinnett County teams in six games of high school football to start the season. It kicks off with Dacula at Norcross on Thursday, Buford at Blessed Trinity and Lowndes at South Gwinnett on Friday. Then the Corky Kell Classic on Saturday at the Georgia Dome, which features Brookwood vs. Lassiter, Grayson vs. Kell, North Gwinnett vs. McEachern and Peachtree Ridge vs. Walton.
Aug. 26: Mill Creek at Dacula
One of the newest rivalries in Gwinnett has been the most exciting. Dacula has won the last two meetings, but the last two years the game has been decided in the final minutes.
Sept. 2 Collins Hill at Brookwood
These two teams met twice last year. Brookwood won both meetings, the first in double overtime and the second in the state semifinals.
Sept. 9 Buford vs. Eulee (Fla.) at Westminster
This could be Buford's only test of the season. Eulee is a playoff team from Florida that features a handful of Division I prospects.
Sept. 16 North Gwinnett at Collins Hill
North was the region champ last year, but Collins Hill went deeper in the playoffs.
Sept. 23 Norcross at Mill Creek
Mill Creek has never beaten Norcross, but with the Hawks coming off their best season in school history and a solid group of talented players returning this could be the year.
Sept. 30 South Gwinnett at Brookwood
Region 7 is off this week, but there are still a bunch of good matchups in Region 8. The best of the bunch is the Battle of Snellville, which Brookwood won last year.
Oct. 7 North Gwinnett at Norcross
The two programs have won four of the last five Region 7 titles. This could be the game that decides it again this year.
Oct. 14 Collins Hill at Mill Creek
These two teams were Region 7's only teams to make it past the second round of the playoffs last year. Last year's game was a barnburner with the Eagles walking away with a 42-34 win.
Oct. 21 Parkview at Brookwood
The Battle of Five Forks has decided region titles and state championships. In recent years it has been a defensive battle, which Brookwood has won the last two seasons.
Oct. 28 Brookwood at Grayson
The region's two dominant teams the last four years. This game will likely decide the region champ
Nov. 4 North Gwinnett at Peachtree Ridge
The final week of the regular season has 7-AAAAA's last two region champs battling.
Gwinnett County will have four new head coaches this season. Here's a look at the new hires.
Mark Fleetwood, Peachtree Ridge
Previous job: Offensive Coordinator at Peachtree Ridge
Pros: Fleetwood is in his second season at Peachtree Ridge and has had success at many stops during his long coaching career. The triple option offense averaged 23 points a game under his direction, but the Lions have switched to the multiple-I.
Cons: Fleetwood has made six different coaching stops in his career, but will the Suwanee school be his last? Fleetwood is the fourth coach in nine years at Peachtree Ridge and the Lions need stability at the helm.
Final analysis: Fleetwood inherits a very talented team. The Lions missed the playoffs last season, so the team is hungry for a return in the highly competitive Region 7.
Jared Zito, Dacula
Previous job: Head coach at North Forsyth
Pros: Zito has been a winner at his previous coaching stops. He took North Forsyth, which was 2-18 over two seasons, to the playoffs the last two years. Zito didn't have quite the resources he has a Dacula, including a senior class of 32 players.
Cons: Zito's record against Gwinnett County teams isn't very impressive. He's 4-14 over four seasons, including a 31-0 loss to Region 8 power Grayson in the first round of last year's state playoffs.
Final analysis: Zito has done well in rebuilding programs, but that's not the case with Dacula. The Falcons have a nice foundation and need someone to take them from playoff participant to region contender and a deep postseason run. Zito certainly has a talented team that could do that in his first year.
Brian Montgomery, Shiloh
Previous job: Head coach at North Atlanta
Pros: Montgomery led North Atlanta to its first winning season since 1996 last year.
Cons: In his three years as a head coach, Montgomery has never had a team make the playoffs. That was in Class AAA. Now Montgomery has to coach in Class AAAAA in a region that features the defending state champion. ?Final analysis: This won't be a quick fix for Shiloh. Montgomery is the Generals' fifth head coach in 10 years. Shiloh has had success in the youth league, so it may take a few years before Montgomery has the Generals competing in Region 8.
Sal Battaglia, Hebron
Previous job: Offensive Coordinator at North Oconee
Pros: Battagila's offense averaged 33.9 points a game last season.
Cons: This is Battagila's first head coaching job. He has had success as an assistant, winning a state title at Amsterdam High in New York.
Final analysis: Hebron is in its fifth year of football and Battagila is the third head coach. The Lions are coming off the best season in the program's short history and it will be tough for Battaglia to duplicate that kind of success. However, Hebron is playing a non-region schedule and the program is still building for the future.
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