McEachern will open the season as the No. 1 team of Class AAAAAA in the Georgia Sports Writers Association poll.
For the Indians, it is a continuation of the preseason praise it has received from other outlets from around the state, as well as various national publications that have them ranked in the top 25.
“It’s nice to have the respect, but we’re going to have to have a lot of role players and new guys come through for us,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “We’ll find out Saturday night if (the ranking) is true or not.”
The Indians open the season Saturday in the final game of the Corky Kell Classic, against No. 4 North Gwinnett, the same team that knocked McEachern out of the state semifinals last season.
In fact, of the seven games in this year’s Classic — which is being held at McEachern’s Walter Cantrell Stadium instead of the Georgia Dome, due to a scheduling conflict with the Atlanta Falcons’ preseason game against the Tennessee Titans — five will match ranked teams.
Friday night, Class AAAAAA No. 2 Archer will face Class AAAA No. 3 Sandy Creek. On Saturday, Class AAAAA No. 6 Kell will face Class AAAA No. 4 Carrollton, Class AAAAAA’s No. 5 Mill Creek will face off with No. 2 Colquitt County and No. 7 Tucker will take on No. 9 Norcross.
“If you are a high school football fan, Walter Cantrell Stadium will be the place to be this weekend,” Hockman said.
While McEachern’s No. 1 ranking is a Cobb County first, other teams have been close to opening the season on top since preseason polls began in 1968. Walton began the 2012 season at No. 2, matching the previous best shared by Wheeler in 1975 and Marietta in 1968.
A number of county teams have been ranked No. 1 when the first regular-season polls were released. Marietta has done that three times — 1958, ’59 and ’66. North Cobb also did it in 1959, as did the original Campbell High School in 1968.
Kell’s No. 6 preseason ranking equals its second-best rank to start the season. The Longhorns were sixth to begin the 2013 season, a year after earning a No. 3 preseason ranking.
Allatoona will open the year No. 9 in Class AAAAA.
It’s the third time in the last four years the Buccaneers have opened in the top 10. Their best previous preseason rank was No. 7 in 2011.
For the first time in its history, Mount Paran Christian will open the season ranked in the top 10, debuting in the Class A poll at No. 6. The Eagles, however, will face a big test right off the bat, opening the season with No. 4 Eagle’s Landing Christian for a Saturday morning game in Columbus.