AFTER GWINNET T COUNT Y SPENT FOUR STRAIGHT
years atop the Class 6A mountain, Colquitt County stepped
up and took the title back to South Georgia in 2014.
While the Packers, Valdosta and Lee County give the
South a good chance of retaining the belt this season, the
safe bet is to take Gwinnett County for another win.
Look at the odds — two regions are slammed full of teams
from the North Atlanta suburbs.
And the top of these teams are powerhouses.
Archer fell short to Colquitt by four points in 2014, but returns
a roster full of future college prospects. The Tigers enter 2015
as the favorite, the banner program that gives Gwinnett County
the best shot of winning the championship in the state’s highest
classification for the eighth time since 2000.
They’re not alone though.
Dacula and Grayson each won 10 games last season. And
North Gwinnett, Mill Creek and Norcross should remain in
the discussion for the next couple years.
That’s the thing about Gwinnett County — as fast as one team
can rise to the top of the heap, another falls back to the pack.
There are no longer traditional powers in Gwinnett. Where
is Brookwood? And Parkview?
Peachtree Ridge won it all in 2006. Since 2010 though,
the Lions are a pedestrian 33-21.
Maybe that’s why Bill Ballard, who guided the program
from birth, to the state title and a 36-14 record, bolted for
White County before mediocrity set in.
He may have understood and decided to leave the
transient nature of the talented players in Gwinnett County.
It appears, though, the Ridge is ready for a resurgence. Mark
Fleetwood enters 2015 with his most talented team since
taking over in 2011, including a loaded defensive backfield that
includes at least three high-level college prospects.
Positioning for the playoffs is everything. If Peachtree
Ridge is going to advance past the second round of the
playoffs (for the first time since 2009), getting to the top of
Region Seven is a must.
Because of a fourth place region finish last season the
Lions had to face Dacula in the first round. That makes a
deep playoff run a lot to ask for.
On the other end of the spectrum, Brookwood, the state
champions in 2010, finds itself in rebuilding mode after a 2-8
finish last season. It was the first losing season the Broncos
suffered in nearly two decades (having gone 1-9 in 1986).
Coach Philip Jones takes over the program for the
legend Mark Crews, who led the Broncos to a 112-48
record in 13 seasons.
How did Brookwood fall so fast?
That’s the way it goes in Gwinnett.
But if Peachtree Ridge is any indicator, there’s hope for all
schools. Talent comes and goes, nobody stays on top or on
the mat forever.
POWERHOUSES OF GWINNETT COUNTY
Above: Junior linebacker
Leonard Warner is one reason Brookwood, 2-8 in 2014,
won’t stay at near the bottom
of Region Eight for long.
Left: Coach Mark Fleetwood
has Peachtree Ridge loaded
and ready for a resurgence
QB Josh White, Walton
RB Brittain Brown, Cherokee
RB D.J. Owens, North Paulding
WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, North Gwinnett
WR Kyle Davis, Archer
WR Tray Eafford, Lee County
WR Jair Anderson, Northview
OL E. J. Price, Archer
OL Tremayne Anchrum, McEachern
OL Chris Barnes, Lee County
OL Sean Bailey, Lambert
ATH Marquez Callaway, Warner Robins
DL Julian Rochester, McEachern
DL Tomon Fox, Collins Hill
DL Mykelle McDaniel, Grayson
LB Donta Evans, Archer
LB Tre Lamar, Roswell
LB Emanuel Bridges, Newnan
LB Ja’Quain Blakely, Colquitt County
DB Nigel Warrior, Peachtree Ridge
DB Chad Clay, Peachtree Ridge
DB Dylan Singleton, Archer
DB Baylen Buchanan, Peachtree Ridge
ATH Ronnie Blackmon, Westlake
2. Colquitt County
4. Peachtree Ridge