082119_MNS_GOTW_Paul_Weathington Paul Weathington

Westminster running back Paul Weathington (4) tries to elude two St. Pius X players in a road game in 2018.

Westminster’s road trip to Woodward highlights the first week of prep football action for local programs starting Aug. 23.

The game is even being featured in iHigh Inc.’s Great American Rivalry Series, which after the game awards a trophy to the winning team, names a Most Valuable Player and gives a Rivalry Scholar Student-Athlete Scholarship Award to the top senior student-athlete on each team.

The Wildcats earned eight wins in 2018 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class 3A state playoffs. Westminster has made the postseason every season since 2007 and are one of only 10 programs in Georgia to make the quarterfinals of the state playoffs within the past five years.

“I thought we had a good summer,” Westminster coach Gerry Romberg said. “The main thing we do is strength training and conditioning because that’s the most important aspect of our football responsibilities. Our goal every year is to make the playoffs. We don’t put state championship as our ultimate goal at first because our focus is to make the postseason and once you do that you can than look to a state title. We play a difficult non-region schedule and those are our preseason games to get ready for the region schedule.”

The Wildcats return senior running back Paul Weathington, who had a team-high 1,069 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns in 2018. Senior Will Hallmark had a team-high nine rushing TDs last year.

Woodward was also a postseason squad in 2018, extending its state playoff appearance streak started in 2008. The War Eagles made the second round of the Class 4A postseason led by senior quarterback Michael Wright, who had 2,054 total yards and 27 total touchdowns.

Lovett hosts Greater Atlanta Christian (GAC) to kick off its 2019 season. The Lions won six games in 2018 and extended its postseason streak that dates back to 2002. Lovett reached the second round of the GHSA Class 3A playoffs led by senior quarterback Blaine McAllister, who had 2,232 total yards and 24 touchdowns in 2018 for the Lions.

“We had a really good summer and participation when the kids were here,” Lions coach Mike Muschamp said. “We’re going to have a lot of guys playing both ways this year so avoiding injuries will be key for us. Taking what we’ve done to this point of the year and maximizing it when the season starts. Our preparation has to be outstanding because the schedule we play is daunting. We embrace that because you for what you can see down the line in region play.”

Lovett faces a Spartans squad that won nine games and reached the second round of the Class 4A playoffs in 2018. GAC leads the lifetime series over Lovett 10-6, including earning a 24-21 victory in last year’s contest.

Pace visits Class 6A program New Manchester in its season opener. The Knights won the lone previous meeting of the two programs, 31-0, in 2018. Pace has made the GHSA state playoffs each of the past five years including earning a state title in 2015.

“Summer workouts were good,” Pace coach Chris Slade said. “We’re going to try to get better everyday. I know it’s the company line but we’re trying to improve. We want to find our weaknesses so we can coach better and our players can play better. We have to figure out a way to win close games down the stretch and improve.”

The Knights return junior Jayden Thomas who had a team-high 696 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2018. Sophomore Lawrence Jordan, who rushed for 619 yards and six touchdowns last season at running back, will see increased production as well as junior Justin Johnson, who also had six rushing TDs. Senior Mbiti Williams had 22 tackles and a team-high four interceptions last year at defensive back.

Mount Vernon hosts Prince Avenue Christian to open its year. The Mustangs have been in the GHSA Class A Private state playoffs the past three seasons. The Mustangs won eight contests in 2018 and advanced to the second round of the postseason led by junior quarterback Blake Kytle, who threw for 2,664 yards and 25 touchdowns.

“We’ve had a good summer,” Mount Vernon coach Wayne Dabbs said. “We have a great group of seniors and the leadership has been good. Everyone has worked hard and know what the expectations are. They know what the schedule looks like and how hard it will be. Guys have been consistent this summer in preparations for the upcoming season.”

The Mustangs dropped last season’s contest to Prince Avenue 55-27 in the lone lifetime meeting of the two teams.

North Atlanta faces Grady to open its 2019 campaign. The Warriors had a breakthrough season in 2018 with a five-win campaign that saw the program produce its most victories in a year since 2010. The Warriors are ready to build on this success and earn a spot in the GHSA state playoffs for the first time since 1996.

“There are kids back from last season’s team that played a bunch,” North Atlanta coach Sean O’Sullivan said. “They have been working hard this summer. The key for us is staying healthy.”

The Warriors return senior quarterback Wiley Hartley, who amassed 2,070 total yards and 23 touchdowns last season. Senior running back T.K. Mack had eight rushing touchdowns in 2018 as well. Grady leads the lifetime series 12-5, but North Atlanta won last year’s contest 20-7.

North Springs opens its year at Fellowship Christian. The Spartans look to bounce back from a three-win campaign in 2018.

“We’ve had a tremendous summer in the weight room and on the field,” North Springs coach Scotty Parker said.

The defense returns four starters, led by senior cornerback Neriyan Brown, who had 34 tackles and a team-high four interceptions in 2018. The Spartans dropped last season’s contest to the Paladins 49-39 in the lone lifetime meeting of the two programs.

Riverwood hosts Chattahoochee to start its 2019 campaign. The Raiders produced its most successful season in more than a decade with an eight-win campaign in 2018. The win total was the most since earning nine victories in 2001. The Raiders also finished second in Region 6AAAAA and hosted its first postseason contest since 2001 as well.

“We are looking to continue the momentum created last year,” Riverwood coach Robert Edwards said. “We lost a lot of seniors, so we are looking to develop the next group of athletes to compete at a high level.”

The Raiders do return senior lineman Kyle Kennard, who had 56 tackles and eight sacks. The Raiders also retain the services of last season’s leading tackler in senior Elijah Kirby, who had 74 stops in 2018. Riverwood won last year’s contest against Chattahoochee 48-14.

St. Pius X earned 10 wins last season which included a Region 8AAAA title and advancing to the second round of the state playoffs. The Golden Lions have been in the postseason every year since 2006. St. Pius X visits Class 4A defending state champion Blessed Trinity to open its 2019 campaign. The Golden Lions dropped last season’s contest to the Titans 35-13 and trail the lifetime series 6-5.

Wesleyan earned seven wins last season and reached the second round of the GHSA Class A Private state playoffs for the second consecutive year. The Wolves have made the playoffs seven straight years

“It was a great summer,” Wesleyan head coach Franklin Pridgen said.

Last season the Wolves handed the reigns of the offense to freshman quarterback J.C. French, who proceeded to have 2,205 total yards and 18 touchdowns. Senior defensive back Trent Bartlett had a school-record nine interceptions in addition to 72 tackles last season, while Cardo Gottlich had a team-high 81 tackles in 2018 for the Wolves at linebacker.

Wesleyan hosts Meadowcreek in its 2019 season opener. The Wolves dropped last season’s contest 21-3 in the first lifetime meeting of the two programs.

Holy Innocents’ hosts Mount Pisgah Christian Aug. 24.

Last season Holy Innocents’ earned six wins which were the most since 2013. The Golden Bears also reached the second round of the GHSA Class A Private playoffs for the first time since that same season.

“We return a good amount of players from last season including 10 starters on offense and eight on defense,” Holy Innocents’ coach Todd Winter said. “We have a lot of experience and senior leadership.”

Top returners for the Golden Bears include senior running back Michael Cox, who rushed for a team-high 1,625 yards and 25 touchdowns on 240 carries without a fumble. Senior quarterback Matthew Davis had 986 total yards and 11 total touchdowns piloting the triple option offense. Senior linebacker Hunter Hawk had a team-high 121 tackles and three sacks on defense in addition to six rushing TDs on offense.

Holy Innocents’ leads the lifetime series over Mount Pisgah 8-5, including last season’s 42-21 victory.

Holy Spirit Prep will not field a football team for the 2019 season.

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