FREEDOM BOWL PREVIEW
Today, Craig Sager II previews the matchups that are headlining the Inaugural Freedom Bowl at Milton. Also, we release the Week 3 volleyball rankings and track the latest movement in the polls. V
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Thursday, August 30, 2018
2018 FREEDOM BOWL PREVIEW
By Craig Sager II
Powerhouses meet at Milton in first Freedom Bowl
The first-ever Freedom Bowl kicks off Friday at Milton High School and features six matchups with some of the most talented teams and players in the country. The six games are divided into a Friday night doubleheader and a four-game Saturday lineup.
Three reigning state champions headline the field and Florida, Georgia, Alabama, New Jersey and Canada are all represented in the event's first-year lineup. Like the matchups, the facilities at Milton are topnotch, and bringing communities to it to share a weekend of outstanding football, while honoring those who serve and have served this country is the Freedom Bowl's central foundation.
FRIDAY, AUG. 31
GAME 1 | Mainland (FL) vs. Bob Jones (AL) 5:00 P.M.
Class 6A Mainland (FL) finished with a 9-5 record last season and possesses tremendous size in the trenches, especially with senior guard Travis Robinson, a 6-foot-4, 335-pound 3-star prospect. The Buccaneers should come into this matchup motivated after opening the 2018 season last weekend with a 30-24 loss to DeLand (FL). Bob Jones (AL) finished 8-4 last season and fell 22-21 to Mountain Brook in the Alabama Class 7A playoffs. The Patriots feature the No. 10 ranked prospect in the state in 4-star cornerback Jaydon Hill and opened their season last weekend with a 17-16 victory over Christian Brothers (TN). Running back Khail Griffin punched in the game-winning touchdown from the 1-yard line with just 1.5 left.
GAME 2 | Cardinal Gibbons (FL) vs. Milton (GA) 8:30 P.M.
Cardinal Gibbons (Fla.) comes off an 11-2 season that ended in a 58-57 overtime loss to American Heritage-Plantation. The Chiefs opened their season last week against Miami Central and fell 48-21 after getting outscored 34-7 in the second half. The defense features 4-star defensive end Khris Bogle and 3-star linebacker Yahweh Jeudy. Offensively, Nik Scalzo is a 3-star dual threat quarterback who has 6-foot-5 tight end Nikolas Ognenovic, 3-star running back Vincent Davis and 3-star offensive guard Jamari Williams supplementing group that averaged 36.6 points per game last season. The Freedom Bowl's host team, Milton, is coming off a 9-3 season in what marked head coach Adam Clack's first year at the school. The Eagles return a trio of highly ranked Class of 2019 prospects, including Georgia Tech commit and dual threat quarterback Jordan Yates, 3-star linebacker, Louisiana Tech-commit and linebacker Allen Walker and Clemson commit Joseph Charleston, a 6-foot-2 safety. Rising junior Paul Tchio is a 4-star offensive tackle who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 325 pounds. The Eagles are off to a hot start this season with wins over Archer (21-19) and Alpharetta (37-27), both ranked opponents in their respective classifications.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 1
GAME 3 | Chaminade-Madonna (FL) vs. Muscle Shoals (AL) 10:00 A.M.
Chaminade-Madonna (Fla.) was 11-2 last season, but the nationally-ranked and defending Class 3A state champion Lions were defeated 13-10 by Deerfield Beach last weekend to open their season. Muscle Shoals produced a 9-3 record in Alabama's Class 6A last season and opened this year with a dominant 31-0 win over Deshler. Defensively, junior middle linebacker Jackson Bratton leads the way and is committed to Alabama.
GAME 4 | American-Heritage-Plantation (FL) vs. St. Josephs (NJ) 1:30 P.M.
American Heritage (FL) captured back-to-back Class 5A state titles and recorded back-to-back perfect seasons under All-Pro and retired NFL cornerback Patrick Surtain. This season, however, started off much differently as Carol City used its 20-6 scoring advantage in the second half to hand American-Heritage a 34-16 loss last weekend. This will be the season opener for the Patriots' opponent St. Joseph Regional (N.J.), a Garden State powerhouse that finished 8-4 last season. The Green Knights boast 4-star offensive tackle John Olmstead (6-foot-6, 290 pounds), 4-star defensive end Howard Cross (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) and 3-star safety Connor Grieco (6-foot-3, 198 pounds) in the Class of 2019, as well as the state's No. 1-rated Class of 2020 prospect in 6-foot-4, 270-pound guard Luke Wypler.
GAME 5 | Stoneman Douglas (FL) vs. St. Matthews (Ontario, Canada) 5:00 P.M.
Stoneman Douglas (Fla.) is coming off back-to-back 6-4 seasons, and the Eagles program has never experienced a losing season since head coach Willis May's arrival in 2013.
The offensive line could be the strength of this year's team, and Ryan Kavanaugh is a returning starter at quarterback that provided the offense with a spark when he took over the position midway through last season.
The St. Matthews Catholic (Ottawa, Canada) Tigers are coached by Jean Guillaume and will be representing "The Land of 10 Provinces" in the inaugural Freedom Bowl. Tiger teammates Xavier Gervais (QB) and Alex Ross (OL) are players to watch and both competed in the 8th annual International Bowl in Arlington, Texas, this past January as members of Team Ontario.
GAME 6 | North Gwinnett (GA) vs. Wekiva (FL) 8:30 P.M.
Last season, North Gwinnett head coach Bill Stewart led the Bulldogs to a 14-1 finish and state title (the first in program history) on his first year on the job. Plenty of talent and championship experience is back leading the Bulldogs and they opened this season two weekends ago at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a 37-2 win over Brookwood in the MetroPCS Corky Kell Classic. The Wekiva (Fla.) Mustangs went 12-2 in Class 8A last season and have a star-studded senior class leading them this season, especially defensively. Four-star linebacker Rian Davis and 4-star defensive tackle Tyler Davis are joined by 3-star cornerback Renardo Green and 3-star safety Brandon Hill. Last week, Wekiva opened its season with a 17-3 win over Orlando-based Jones (FL).
WEEK 3 VOLLEYBALL RANKINGS
By Graham David
Walton retains its grip at top of Class AAAAAAA
Walton's recent performances on the court have solidified their position at the top of class AAAAAAA. Their recent sweeps over sixth-ranked South Forsyth, class AAAA second-ranked St. Pius X and Roswell extended their streak of not giving up a single set to 12 games. Lassiter has seen the biggest jump in the rankings, advancing from the nine spot up to the second-ranked team.
Their only loss of the season, a 3-1 set, was dealt to them by Harrison earlier in the month. Since then, the Trojans haven't given up a single set while taking out teams such as Etowah and South Forsyth. The North Gwinnett Bulldogs may have three losses on the season, but they all came while playing against top-ten ranked teams in the state. Out of these losses, Blessed Trinity was the only team to sweep the Bulldogs, while Lassiter and Chamblee won with scores of 2-1. North Gwinnett has shown they can play with the top dogs, taking out St. Pius X earlier in August. They've simply rolled over all other competition and will continue to turn heads during their games leading up to a tough matchup against Hebron Christian.
Alpharetta snuck past previous top-ranked Harrison to claim the number one spot atop class AAAAAA following a series of sound victories, one of which was against Harrison. From unranked to third-ranked, Apalachee has strung together an impressive season with only one loss given to them by Mill Creek. Their upcoming game against Habersham Central will give them an opportunity to claim a big win and defend their spot in the top three of class AAAAAA. Habersham Central hasn't seen the toughest of schedules, but they're constant winning can't go unwarranted.
As the second-ranked team in the state, it's no surprise to find McIntosh sitting at the top of class AAAAA. Three of their last four victories came against Calvary Christian, Heritage-Newnan and East Coweta who are all ranked among the top 50 in the state. Their next tough matchup will be against Columbus, who have climbed up the ladder in class AAAA. Chamblee sits just behind McIntosh at the number two spot. Their perfect 17-0 record could be enough to warrant a top-ranked position, depending on how McIntosh proceeds with its upcoming schedule. While unable to defeat Chamblee, the Decatur Bulldogs have found success in all other matchups including a sound victory over Union Grove. They'll be put to the test during their upcoming game against Pope, who have previously taken out top notch teams such as Harrison and Fellowship Christian.
While Marist sat atop of class AAAA to start the season, they were quickly replaced by their 2017 GHSA championship finals opponent Blessed Trinity. Strong wins over North Gwinnett and Harrison to start the season showed the direction this squad was headed, and their recent wins over Pope and Hebron Christian support their number one spot. Right behind them at the number two spot is St. Pius X, who also have a slew of wins to be proud of. Their only losses on the season came from Walton, North Gwinnett and Harrison who all sit in the top five of their respective classes. Defending champions Marist have struggled to replicate their 2017 championship season. Their recent victory over Etowah is a step in the right direction, but the duo of Blessed Trinity and Newnan may serve them two more losses in their near future.
Coming into the 2018 season as the defending champs of class AAA, Pace Academy has shown they can repeat their 2017 season. Meanwhile, Fannin County has come out of nowhere to shake things up in class AAA. Their first defining game came against Calhoun, who had been red hot all season. The Rebels came up big with the upset and served Calhoun its first loss of the season. Calhoun later in the season got its revenge on the Rebels by sweeping them 2-0, but Fannin County can expect to bounce back during its upcoming games against Lumpkin County and Pickens. Starting off the year at the three spot, Greater Atlanta Christian has fallen to the seventh-ranked team in class AAA. However, three of their five losses have come from top-twenty teams in the state. They'll need to step up to the plate as they approach tough matchups against Westminster and Alpharetta that could make or break their season.
Coosa suffered a 2-0 loss to East Hamilton yesterday, but the 2017 defending champs still have carved a path to the number one spot in class AA/A-Public. Their matchup against LaFayette will hopefully get the Eagles back on the winning side of the court. Armuchee's start to the season quickly got the team placed out of the top three spots in class AA/A-Public. While the easier matchups have resulted with an Indian victory, their tougher matchup games haven fallen the other way this season. Their upcoming matchups against Rome and Coosa will give them a chance to claim a much-needed big win.
Mt. Paran Christian wasted no time at all to advance as the top-ranked team in class A-Private after starting out the season at the number two spot. Yesterday's matchup against North Cobb Christian could have gone either way, but the Eagles stood strong and kept their undefeated season alive winning with a score of 3-2. Previously outside of the top ten, North Cobb Christian has shown they deserve a spot in the top five after a series of big wins against Northside-Columbus, Columbus and Sequoyah. While the loss against Mt. Paran Christian is a missed opportunity to overthrow the top dogs, tomorrow the Eagles will get another chance to take down another powerhouse in Pace Academy.
5. North Gwinnett
6. South Forsyth
7. East Coweta
8. Kennesaw Mountain
10. Mill Creek
9. Glynn Academy
10. Habersham Central
7. Union Grove
8. Locust Grove
9. Eagle's Landing
10. Starr's Mill
1. Blessed Trinity
2. St. Pius
7. Northwest Whitfield
10. Southeast Whitfield
1. Pace Academy
4. Fannin County
7. Greater Atlanta Christian
9. East Hall
10. Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe
3. St. Vincent's
9. Rabun County
10. Gordon Lee
1. Mt. Paran
2. Hebron Christian
3. Calvary Day
4. North Cobb Christian
6. Savannah Christian
7. Fellowship Christian
8. St. Vincent's
9. Lakeview Academy
10. Eagle's Landing Christian
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