Just about everyone in Newton County seems to be making the same discovery: Football talent is on the rise here. More and more athletes each year are picking up dozens of college football offers to some of the top programs in the country, and our three Georgia High School Association schools are all showing signs of promising seasons this upcoming year, each boasting loads of talent.
The best way to catch these game defining athletes is to attend one of these 10 games will be the top matchups to watch out for this upcoming season.
10. Heritage at Alcovy – 10/27/17
The Heritage Patriots were the region 3-AAAAAA champs last season, and are led by an underrated star of a quarterback in Caleb Pruitt. Pruitt helped Heritage to a 6-4 record while going 4-1 in the region. Heritage also just happens to be one county over from Alcovy High School. Although they stumped Alcovy last season, the Tigers, loaded with talented skill positions players, are looking for payback against the team that could become a consistent rival in the future.
9. Eastside at Woodward Academy – 10/13/17
Woodward Academy proved itself as one of the best teams in the state, dominating region opponents in 2016 by an average score of 49-4 en route to a region crown. Eastside saw this dominance first hand while being handed a 44-6 defeat by the War Eagles. Both teams lose some talent to graduation, however, which may even the playing field a bit. Head Coach John Hunt is entering his seventh season with Woodward while Eastside coach Troy Hoff is entering his third, and is looking for a monumental win over what seems to be the region’s powerhouse.
8. Archer at Newton – 10/6/17
Archer is well known for its fast rise to being a great football program despite its relatively short history. Last season Archer shut out Newton 42-0, but are losing a lot of talent that could give a young Rams team, a shot at the upset win. This game will take Newton into their bye week before it gets set to face another huge opponent in a game that appears later in this list.
7. Grovetown at Alcovy – 9/29/17
This game could be a huge one for Alcovy. Last season, the Tigers were 4-1 before entering region play. From there, they went 0-5 in their region games, starting with a 34-0 shut out at the hands of Grovetown. In that losing skid, Alcovy was outscored 163-21 by their opponents. A win to open the region against the Warriors this season could be all the momentum Alcovy needs to push themselves into the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
6. Oconee at Eastside – 9/23/17
This game was an absolute classic last season. It came down to the final drive when an Eastside touchdown brought the Eagles within one of Oconee. This is when the guts of head coach Troy Hoff showed as he opted to go for a game winning two-point conversion instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game. The resulting play call was a beautiful wide receiver screen that won the game for Eastside. While this is not a region game, Oconee will surely be looking for revenge after suffering such a heartbreaking first blemish to its 2016 campaign.
5. Forest Park at Alcovy – 9/22/17
It wasn’t a region game, but much like the last game on this countdown, it was a dogfight in which Alcovy won by a single point in a low scoring affair 7-6. This would be the last win Alcovy would muster before going on that region skid. It’ll be a different Forest Park team, as the Panthers recently hired a new coach from Alabama, but a win here could still build momentum for Alcovy heading into region play.
4. Newton at South Gwinnett – 9/29/17
There are multiple interesting storylines for this game. First, this is Newton’s region opener in the gauntlet-like region 8-AAAAAAA. Second, Newton won this game, 13-12 last season on a last second field goal that edged out a South Gwinnett, that would go on to be the region runner up. Finally, South Gwinnett is entering the season with a new coach at the helm in Steve Davenport who recently built Henry County’s Woodland High up from also-ran to respectable playoff contender. It’ll be interesting to see how these stories play out this next go around, but a win for Newton would be big in getting them ready for a tough squad.
3. Grayson at Newton – 10/20/17
After facing Archer and having their bye, the Rams will return to action against the defending Class AAAAAAA state champions. Last season Grayson ran through every team that wasn’t named IMG Academy, including a 34-0 rout of Newton. They obliterated their region, winning every single game by a combined score of 247-23. What’s interesting here is Grayson’s powerhouse football team was notably combined of several ESPN Top 100 transfers, including former Newton and incoming Michigan freshman running back Kurt Taylor. The question looms, how will Grayson fare with a roster that looks more like a normal high school team, as well as being led by new head coach Christian Hunnicutt? If a loaded Newton squad were to pull off an upset against Grayson, the momentum could skyrocket the Rams to the next level.
2. Eastside at Newton – 8/25/17
Last year, a back and forth contest between these two teams ended in a tie. All time, these two are 6-6-1 against each other. This means last seasons game was the tie breaker game, and it ended in a tie. Something’s got to give here. The Eagles and Rams have been facing off against each other since 2002, minus a brief hiatus in 2014 and 2015. The average score margin between the teams is 12 points. Seven of the 13 games, not including the tie, have been decided between a touchdown or less. Moral of the story: When these two teams play, you are likely going to be watching a very good football game.
1. Alcovy at Eastside – 9/1/17
In the 11 games played between these two bitter in-county rivals, Eastside has only lost on three occasions, with the last time being in 2013. In their current three game winning streak against the Tigers, the Eagles have outscored them 98-15. Fans pack out Homer Sharp Stadium for this game every single year, and for the last few years, it has been the Eagles that have left with a win. However, Eastside lost 25 seniors this past spring and are looking to rebuild with a very young team full of talent. An early season win for Alcovy here could be something that gets them over the hump and propels their momentum all the way into region play – and it appears that this year the Tigers have that kind of talent.