The Georgia High School Association state football championship games will be played this weekend in the Georgia Dome. If you've never been to this event it's a lot of fun, even if you don't have a dog in the hunt. For those of us who follow college football recruiting, it's a great chance to see many of the best recruits for the classes of 2013, 2014 and beyond line up against solid competition. Let's look at the players to watch in each of these games.
This will be the first season in which the Georgia High School Association has awarded separate Class A championships for public and private schools, and both games will feature some great players. The private school game kicks off this afternoon at 2:30 and pairs Eagles Landing Christian against Athens' Prince Avenue Christian. Prince Avenue is in its sixth season of varsity football and is led by former Bulldog Mark Farriba. The only major college prospect on the Wolverine roster that I'm aware of is Alex Stier, a 6'5 280 pound offensive tackle who currently has an offer from Georgia State and is getting attention from some larger schools.
Eagles Landing features Purdue tailback commit Keyante Green (#1). The senior, who tried to commit to Georgia, then did commit to UCLA, then decommitted and pledged to the Boilermakers, is a shifty, compact back who is always a threat to break one. On the other side of the ball ELCA relies on Notre Dame commit Isaac Rochell (#78), who committed to the Irish over Georgia, Alabama, Florida and most every other big program you can name.
The AAA matchup kicks off at 5:30 this afternoon and will showcase Gwinnett power Buford versus St. Pius X. " Pi High" (sorry, old habits die hard) was to have been led by Bulldog commit Nick Glass, until he transferred to Peachtree Ridge High School on Tuesday.
Buford will, as usual, run behind a stout offensive line, which this season includes 2013 Bulldog commit Josh Cardiello (#56). On defense expect to see a lot of 2014 linebacker prospect Korie Rogers (#43). Rogers already has offers from Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, Florida and Penn State. I expect him to end up as one of the top ten prospects in Georgia for next season, and for Coaches Grantham and Olivadotti to make him a top priority. Junior athlete Thomas Wilson (#21) is a special teams threat who already has an offer from East Carolina and has been receiving interest from Georgia Tech.
At 8:30 this evening the Class AAAAA title tilt will feature a north vs. south showdown between Ware County and Gainesville. Gainesville will lean heavily on Clemson quarterback commit Deshaun Watson (#4). The 6'4 195 pound standout may be the most productive player in the state this year. For example, in the quarterfinals he slashed Harris County for 427 passing yards, 145 rushing yards, and 7 total touchdowns. His top target is South Alabama commit Caleb Hayman (#81). Ware features offensive lineman Jimal McBride, who has offers from schools like MTSU, Georgia State, and Colorado State, and junior tailback/linebacker Montre Merritt (#22), who should receive some interest from SEC and ACC schools.
Saturday's action kicks off at 11:30 with the Class A public school finale between Dooly County and Emanuel County Institute. Dooly of course features Bulldog target Montravius Adams (#52), but also behemoth DT Jasean Wiley (#64).
Jefferson and Calhoun will square off at 2:30 Saturday in the AA championship. Calhoun is led by quarterback Taylor Lamb (#11), the son of Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb and grandson of longtime Georgia coordinator of high school relations Ray Lamb. Jefferson will counter with QB Bryant Shirreffs (#15), who sports offers from Dartmouth and Yale.
The class AAAA game between Ridgeland and Sandy Creek starting at 5:30 Saturday will showcase some of the brightest future stars in the state. The Creek is led by 2014 quarterback Cole Garvin (#13), who hasn't received any FBS offers yet but will before all is said and done. One of Garvin's main targets is 2014 WR Demare Kitt (#8), who committed to Georgia before backing of to consider all his options. Offensive lineman Alan Knott (#70) is a South Carolina Gamecock pledge. 2013 Bulldog commit Shaq Wiggins (#1) anchors the cornerback spot for Sandy Creek, and his defensive backfield mate Corey Griffin (#15) has offers from Indiana and Ball State. Up front keep an eye on junior defensive lineman Chris Williams (#55), who already has offers from Ole Miss and Texas A&M and has gotten considerable interest from Georgia.
Ridgeland features safety Vonn Bell (#7), a Tennessee fan growing up who now appears to favor the Ohio State Buckeyes. They'll also rely on tailback/cornerback Shaqualm McCoy (#15), who has an offer from Northern Iowa and has garnered interest from Pittsburgh among others.
The only game of greater recruiting interest for Bulldog fans than that AAAA game will be the AAAAAA game that follows at 8:30 Saturday night, and which concludes the weekend's prep action. In that game Norcross and Lovejoy will square off in a battle of two traditionally strong teams in the state's largest classification.
Norcross will feature as many as a dozen players likely to sign FBS scholarships in the next couple of years. The one Bulldog fans will tune in to see is tailback Alvin Kamara (#6). Kamara appears to be deciding between Alabama and Georgia, likely some time soon after this game. His backfield mate, junior Myles Autry (#5) is also a lot of fun to watch, and will be one of the most heavily recruited players in the state over the next few months. Autry already claims offers from Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State and Tennessee among others. They'll run behind massive 2014 offensive line recruits Horatio Walker (#65) and Trenton Jenkins (#68).
Defensively the Blue Devils are no less loaded. Pay particular attention to junior defensive end/linebacker Lorenzo Carter (#25). Carter already has 25 plus scholarship offers, most recently from Notre Dame. Carter is fast, agile, and has a good bit of room to grow. I contend that he'd be a great addition to the Bulldog linebacking corps, and I'm hoping that our coaches go ahead and get in line to offer him. Also keep an eye on junior linebacker Kevin Mouhon (#48), who recently received his first offer (from Tennessee) and senior inside 'backer Jahmal Jones (#9), who claims offers from Marshall, Colorado State, and MTSU, and could get a late look from some bigger schools as well. Finally, senior cornerback Shon Akins (#3) is committed to Cal.
Lovejoy will counter with a ton of talented players. The biggest names are probably 6'6, 240 pound Auburn tight end commitment Arshad Jackson (#8) and Georgia Tech running back commit Travis Custis (#22). Custis may be one of the most underrated players in the state, a bruising 205 pounder who also had offers from Clemson, Vandy and Michigan State. Don't be surprised to see some big name schools continue to pursue him right up to signing day. Coach Hughes' offense also features Georgia Tech receiver commit Jumichael Ramos (#6). Defensively Lovejoy senior linebacker Zane Fields (#7) has offers from Mississippi State and Indiana.
Free Form Friday will be along shortly, and will serve as your open comment thread for all the football action going on in the Dome. If you can't be there, you can watch live on your local Georgia Public Broadcasting station. If you are outside the state, you can stream the games live at the GPB website here. Until later . . .