Despite the new milestone — the Longhorns had never been ranked higher than third before — coach Derek Cook can’t help but wonder if it puts a target on the team’s back.
Kell (9-0) has a winnable matchup for Friday’s region play-in game at Cambridge, but if the Longhorns should get upset by the second-year program, the No. 2 ranking would have no significance. Cambridge would advance to the Class AAAAA state playoffs, and Kell would no longer be playing.
“I don’t know if (being No. 2) would motivate us,” Cook said. “I think it motivates the other team, to be honest with you. From our perspective, we’re honored to be considered high up, but in terms of helping us, I don’t think it does. It only gives our opponent an opportunity to knock us off.”
Kell’s promotion in the rankings stemmed from last week, when top-ranked Northside-Warner Robins fell 28-18 to cross-town rival Warner Robins. Northside Warner-Robins dropped to No. 6 as a result, allowing Tucker and Kell to take the top two spots after being ranked second and third, respectively, last week.
Allatoona (7-2), which was ranked No. 10 in AAAAA last week, dropped out of the rankings after losing 62-46 to North Paulding last week. The Buccaneers’ Region 5AAAAA rivals, North Paulding and South Paulding — the only teams Allatoona has lost to this season — sit at Nos. 9 and No. 10.
Unlike Kell, Allatoona’s state playoff spot is secure. The Buccaneers are playing East Paulding on Friday for a shot at clinching the region’s third seed.
Region 4AAAAAA rivals McEachern (8-1), Hillgrove (8-1) and North Cobb (7-2) are the bottom three in the Class AAAAAA top 10 this week.
North Cobb lost ground when it was unable to hold on to a two-touchdown lead before falling to Marietta 24-21 on Ian Shannon’s last-second 49-yard field goal. Hillgrove jumped from No. 10 to No. 9 after beating South Cobb 54-19, and McEachern moved from No. 9 to No. 8 with its 42-13 win over Harrison.
All three teams have secured playoff positions. Despite losing last week, a win over Campbell on Friday would give North Cobb the region title. McEachern and Hillgrove will play for the region’s No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, unless North Cobb loses.
Colquitt County, Lovejoy and Camden County occupy the top three slots in Class AAAAAA, followed by four teams from Gwinnett County — Norcross, Collins Hill, North Gwinnett and Archer.
After beating Walker 52-7, Mount Paran Christian (7-2) moved up to No. 8 in Class A after being ranked No. 10 last week.
After losing 24-20 to Mount Pisgah Christian two weeks ago, the Eagles are more concerned about strengthening their placement in the Class A private school power ratings. The top eight teams after Friday’s games will secure a home game for the first round of the state playoffs.
The Eagles, fourth in the power ratings, will host Trion in a Region 6A crossover Friday, with hopes of securing that home playoff game.
Whitefield Academy (4-5), rated 18th with Savannah Christian, has ground to gain to make the field of 16. The Wolfpack’s only hope likely rests on an upset of Darlington, the top seed from Region 6A’s northern half, in Friday’s regular-season finale.