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Friday, 18 August 2017 10:18

GHSA Football: Best Matchups of Week 1

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The 2017 Georgia High School Association (GHSA) football season opens this week, and Gwinnett County teams will be a big part of Week 1 action with Greater Atlanta Christian (AAA), Buford (AAAAA), Mill Creek (AAAAAAA), and Norcross (AAAAAAA), playing in games chosen by Georgia High School Football Daily as Best of the Week.

Game previews provided courtesy GHSFD


Greater Atlanta Christian at Lovett

Rankings: Greater Atlanta Christian (13-2 in 2016) is No. 2 in Class AAA; Lovett (8-4 in 2016) is No. 7 in AAA.

 Last meeting: Greater Atlanta Christian won 31-6 in 2016.

Things to know: Greater Atlanta Christian returns 15 starters from a team that reached the Class AAA final in 2016 and put five players on the preseason all-state team. RB/DB Kyler McMichael is the highest-profile player in the group. The Clemson commit rushed for 1,493 yards and 16 touchdowns last season and is the No. 14 cornerback prospect in the 247Sports Composite ratings. GAC must replace Davis Mills, the nation's No. 1 pro-style QB last season who signed with Stanford. His replacement is expected to be junior Joshua Rose or sophomore Jackson Hardy. Lovett is replacing QB Brady Tindall, who passed for 1,996 yards and ran for a team-high 695 yards in 2016. He's playing for Mercer now. Senior Crawford Schwieger passed for just 144 yards and rushed for 181 last year but saw action in nine games. The top three receivers are back, including K.J. Wallace (51 catches, 612 yards) and preseason all-state TE Nick Jackson (26-406). GAC's victory in last year's game was its third consecutive in a series it leads 7-6. McMichael ran for a season-high 196 yards in that game, which the Spartans led 10-6 midway through the third quarter but pulled away down the stretch.

Hillgrove vs. Buford

Rankings: Hillgrove (5-6 in 2016) is unranked in Class AAAAAAA; Buford (13-2 in 2016) is No. 2 in AAAAA.

Last meeting: This is the teams' first meeting.

Things to know: Hillgrove had its first losing record in a full varsity season last year but still earned a playoff berth. The Hawks return most of their key players, and the Marietta Daily Journal has projected them as the favorites to win Region 3-AAAAAAA. Players to watch include TE/WR Chigoziem Okonkwo (expected to sign with Maryland or Georgia Tech), DB Jaylen McCollough (nation's No. 3 safety in the Class of 2019) and QB Hunter Arters (2,100 yards passing in 2016). Buford has made 10 consecutive appearances in the state finals, winning seven in that stretch. The Wolves' top player is Anthony Grant, a Tennessee commitment who rushed for 1,484 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. As a linebacker, Grant had 47 tackles, three sacks and eight QB pressures. WR Tyler Gillis, a transfer from Lambert, was a preseason all-state pick, and RB Christian Turner has committed to Michigan. Hillgrove coach Phillip Ironside needs one victory to reach 100 wins in Georgia. He is 99-61 in 16 seasons (2006-2017 at Hillgrove, 2002-2005 at Campbell) Buford coach John Ford is in his first game with the Wolves after going 40-12 in four seasons at Roswell, including 28-2 the past two years. Ford replaces Jess Simpson, who is with the Atlanta Falcons after going 164-12 in 12 seasons leading Buford.

McEachern vs. Mill Creek

Rankings: McEachern (11-2 in 2016) is No. 5 in Class AAAAAAA; Mill Creek (13-1 in 2016) is No. 7 in AAAAAAA.

Last meeting: Mill Creek won 31-28 in the 2016 Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals. 


Things to know: Mill Creek returns just four starters from a team that finished 13-1 and reached the state semifinals for the second consecutive season. QB Cameron Turley (2,351 passing yards in 2016) is now playing baseball at Georgia Tech. Also gone are the top three rushers and top three receivers from last season. One key returnee is John Harris, a 6-foot-5, 275 guard who was a preseason all-state selection and has committed to Virginia Tech. McEachern must replace QB Bailey Hockman, who passed for 2,604 yards last season and signed with Florida State, as well as 15 other starters. Malik Evans is expected to take over for Hockman. Leading rusher Paris Brown (1,148 yards) returns for his junior season, and senior WR Genuine Potts (28 catches, 250 yards) is expected to have a big season. In last year's playoff game at McEachern, Turley's 64-yard touchdown pass to Ace Williams with 3:09 remaining provided the winning points and accounted for more than one-third of his 170 passing yards. Hockman passed for a season-high 374 yards as Mill Creek limited the Indians to 14 yards rushing.

Norcross vs. Colquitt County

Rankings: Norcross (11-1 in 2016) is No. 9 in Class AAAAAAA; Colquitt County (8-5 in 2016) is No. 2 in AAAAAAA.

Last meeting: Norcross won 14-9 in the 2013 Class AAAAAA semifinals.

Things to know: Norcross defeated Colquitt County in the 2012 and 2013 semifinals en route to state titles. Colquitt then won the titles in 2014 and 2015. The schools have not met otherwise. Norcross graduated QB Baron Radcliff (Georgia Tech baseball) and almost every substantial yard-gainer on offense. RB Omar Sinclair (342 yards rushing, 170 receiving, 141 returning, nine touchdowns) is a returner to watch. Norcross has a strong front seven led by DE Dareus Barnhill (18 tackles for losses), DT Nazir Sy (16 TFL, eight sacks, committed to Western Kentucky) and OLB Terrion Dangerfield (10 TFL). Norcross has the most accomplished kicking game in the state with Cole Hanna and Jake Carmada sharing duties. Colquitt County's new quarterback, replacing graduated Jay Saunders (2,915 yards passing), will be Steven Krajewski, who moved in from Michigan a year ago. He has several mid-major offers, including one from Georgia State. Daijun Edwards rushed for 887 yards as a freshman last season. Colquitt returns four starters on defense. One is J.J. Peterson, the No. 1 OLB prospect nationally.

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