Three seasons of specified Class AAAA coverage, and I’d argue that this week’s top 10 rankings showoff the most competitive and well-rounded poll I have seen. There are only two minor differences in the AJC’s Week 10 poll from the one I posted earlier this week; I put Marist ahead of Eastside for No. 6 and Cairo is my No. 10 rather than Ridgeland.
Based on those two minor changes, here’s a quick overview of the top 10 as the playoffs wait just around the bend.
Defending state champion Blessed Trinity defeated Flowery Branch 21-20 in overtime two weeks ago to preserve its status at No. 1, and then scored a 42-0 win over Chestatee this past week to move to 8-0. The Titans will host Marist this Friday—the team they beat for last year’s state title, and also the last team that defeated them (25-24 last Oct. 20).
Mary Persons sits right behind the Titans in the poll as an absolute state title contender. The Bulldogs have reached back-to-back semifinals and have gotten better each and every week this season. The 45.88 ppg scored so far are the most in school history (by a mile) and they are using near-perfect offensive balance while lighting up the scoreboard. The offense is rushing for 227.6 ypg, while accounting for 214.6 ypg through the air. Running back Quen Wilson has averaged 8.4 yards per carry this season, and has rushed for 19 of the team’s 30 rushing scores. Coach Nelson has done an outstanding job managing his carries and this team will be fresh when the playoffs arrive.
Troup is 8-0 and in a somewhat familiar position as it was last season, but this time around, the Tigers will be looking to finish stronger. In 2017, Troup was off to a 7-0 start, but dropped two region games the final three weeks, and ended up losing three of its final five games when taking into account the second-round loss to St. Pius. This year’s Tigers team is every bit as explosive offensively as last year’s team, if not more so, but it has been the dramatic defensive growth that makes them a much better team this go around. The Tigers will close out the regular season with Cartersville in two weeks—a team that defeated them 52-13 to take last year’s Region 5 title.
St. Pius opened the year with a loss to Blessed Trinity and has reeled off eight straight wins since. Surprisingly, the Golden Lions hadn’t won a single non-region game since 2013 prior to this year, so the current run and level of consistency is a significantly positive sign. The biggest win this year came in a 17-0 victory at rival Marist in non-region action, and they have since cruised to the Region 8 title with a home finale slated in two weeks against Stephens County.
Marist had the tough loss to St. Pius, but the War Eagles’ 20-0 win over Flowery Branch this past week was an outstanding way to set Friday’s winner-take all Region Championship with Blessed Trinity this weekend.
Eastside is 8-0 and two very winnable games from posting the first perfect regular season in school history. The Eagles haven’t seen this level of success since 2008-09 when the team reached a quarterfinal and semifinal in consecutive years. The difference-maker this season has been quarterback Noah Cook, who was sidelined last season with an injury.
Pickens has already made history this season and clinched its first-ever region title with last Friday’s 31-21 win over Ridgeland. A potent running game and a dramatic defensive turnaround has been the key to success, and after two seasons of youth leading both sides of the ball, Pickens has become a truly dangerous opponent. The Dragons will close out their regular season this Friday at LaFayette with a chance to clinch the first perfect season in program history.
Flowery Branch came in to Class AAAA this year and their presence in Region 7 with Marist and Blessed Trinity has made it arguably--if not certainly--the toughest region in the classification. The Falcons were a failed 2-point conversion away from defeating the champs two weeks ago, and if they can shake off last Friday’s shutout loss to Marist, they will be right back to contention.
Cairo avenged last year’s 31-15 loss to Americus-Sumter with a 39-12 win over the Panthers last Friday. The victory was the Syrupmakers’ sixth-straight win and they now close the year against the two teams at the bottom of the nine-team Region 1 standings. Cairo has already clinched the region crown, its second since 2016, and took the Class AAA state title in 2008.