With Friday’s Cobb County Football Kickoff Luncheon in the books, attention can start turning towards the field and the 2014 season. And, with that, all the preseason publications will start bringing more information about high school football than any fan could possibly consume.
“Kickoff 2014,” our annual high school football preview issue, is not far from going to print and will be available Sunday, Aug. 17 — the weekend before the first week of the regular season. However, there are some publications already online or on newsstands that may give a national impression of what high school football aficionados think of our teams and players in Cobb County.
Based on what I’ve read so far, they think it’s all going to start — and end — with McEachern.
NationalHSFootball.com released its top 15, regardless of classification, for the state of Georgia this week, and the Indians will enter the season as its No. 1 team in the state.
It makes perfect sense. McEachern will start three five-star prospects in running back Taj Griffin (committed to Oregon), offensive lineman Chuma Edoga (Southern Cal) and junior defensive lineman Julian Rochester, and that only begins to tell the story of how much talent the team has. The question will be, can all that talent coincide with one another once the ball is kicked off?
I believe the short answer to be yes. The Indians proved that last year by coming together late in the season and advancing to the Class AAAAAA state semifinals. But there’s one big thing to remember — McEachern finished third in Region 4AAAAAA last season.
And while the Indians may be an early favorite, Hillgrove (a state quarterfinalist last season), North Cobb, Marietta and region newcomer North Paulding will not be an easy road to go through for playoff positioning, and a non-region schedule that includes North Gwinnett, Buford, Peachtree Ridge and Lovejoy is more than capable of finding any holes McEachern might have.
To top it off, Harrison, one of only two teams on McEachern’s schedule that did not make the playoffs in 2013, is led by South Carolina commitment Lorenzo Nunez, who is considered one of the top quarterback talents in the Southeast.
While looking at NationalHSFootball.com’s top 15, there are a couple of things that standout. The most glaring is that two-time defending state champion Norcross is not ranked. Neither are Valdosta, Lowndes, Stephenson, Sandy Creek or Carrollton.
Another thing —McEachern is the only team from Cobb County to crack the list.
The Indians are No. 1, followed by Class AAA state champion Buford (which made the move to Class AAAA), Archer, Class AAAAA champ Creekside and Mill Creek in the top five. Camden County, North Gwinnett, Colquitt County, Langston Hughes and Lovejoy round out the top 10, followed by Class AAAA champion Griffin, Grayson, Ware County, Mays and Tucker.
Yes, Hillgrove and North Cobb each graduated a lot of talent, but there’s no reason to believe either program will go from the penthouse to the outhouse in one season. The same can be said for Kell, which like McEachern, advanced to the state semis, but in Class AAAAA.
And before it’s over, something tells me Walton, Lassiter, Allatoona and Marietta will be able to draw on tradition and recent success to be a player as we near the postseason.
John Bednarowski is sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jbednarowski.