Creekside wide receiver Jayson Stanley, an AJC Super 11 pick, honored former teammate DeAntre Turman on Saturday when he committed to Georgia on the one-year anniversary of Turman’s death. Turman, a college prospect at cornerback, died from injuries suffered in a preseason scrimmage. Creekside dedicated its season to Turman and won its first state championship. Creekside coach Olten Downs rarely has spoken publicly about Turman’s death but was asked about Turman’s impact on the 2013 team and any advice that he might have for players and coaches at Douglas County, which suffered a tragedy this preseason when Zyrees Oliver died, apparently from over-hydration after a practice. “The hardest thing is that empty feeling when you look on the field and know who should be out there,” Downs said. “There are constant reminders all the time. We try to remember the good things that Tre Tre would do. We’d always say, ‘Do it for Deuce.’ We make sure we’re playing at a high level that resembles and respects him.”
Preseason No. 1 teams are good hitters
Preseason rankings have a pretty good batting average – .311 to be exact – of predicting state champions. That is, 67 of 215 teams that were ranked No. 1 in preseason by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 1971 have won state titles. Buford and Valdosta have been ranked No. 1 in preseason the most, each with 11. Buford has gone on to win the title eight of those times. Valdosta is 5-for-11. Washington-Wilkes is 0-for-5 and without a plate appearance since 2001. Ranked No. 1 in preseason for the first time are McEachern, Creekside, Greater Atlanta Christian and Aquinas. Washington County is 2-for-3 — winning the title after starting No. 1 in 1994 and 1997 and failing in 2005. Only twice in history has there been more than two preseason No. 1 teams to win state titles. Those were 2001 (Parkview, Statesboro, Buford) and 2006 (Peach County, Charlton County, Lincoln County). Remember that from 1972 to 1999, there were only four classifications.
Some nerve picking McEachern, GAC
McEachern and Greater Atlanta Christian are facing perhaps longer odds of winning a state title from the No. 1 preseason position than most. They have never been ranked No. 1 in preseason, and they have no state championships in their past. The only school with that history (or lack thereof) to win a state title in the past 18 years was Shaw in 2000. Here is a list of teams that were ranked No. 1 in preseason for the first time and won state titles for the first time – Bainbridge (1982), Buford (1978), Elbert County (1995), Greenville (1980), Johnson County (1979), Lowndes (1980), Mitchell-Baker (1983), Palmetto (1982), Shaw (2000), Southeast Bulloch (1972), Trion (1975) and Washington County (1994). Whoever was doing the rankings from 1972 to 1983 had a better crystal ball that the one in use today. Johnson County in 1979 had Herschel Walker, so that didn’t take a genius, but the Bainbridge pick was the work of a time traveler. The Bearcats were 5-5 the season before and hadn’t made the playoffs in 16 years.
Adoptive family opens doors for North Oconee star
Kawon Bryant, the Super 11 running back from North Oconee, was adopted at age 10 by a former youth-league coach, Frank Gray, while Bryant lived in Morgan County. Some have wondered if Bryant was rescued from an abusive situation. The answer is no, according to North Oconee head coach Terry Tuley. Bryant’s mother has several children. “It was not a mother giving up on a child, but a mother who was overwhelmed and saw she could give her child a better future by letting him live with someone else,” Tuley said. “They’re still in touch, and his mother comes to the games. The family that adopted him opened doors that may have never opened and a chance at a college education. That goes deeper than talent. He’s now in a situation where he’s in a family that can target improving his educational skills. He started way behind.” Gray’s family moved to Oconee County before middle school. Bryant is the leading returning rusher in Georgia this season. He ran for 2,555 yards as a junior.
Tift County punter is more than meets the eye
Tift County has an all-state candidate at punter, Mason Gann, who kicks with a physical disability that few noticed while he averaged 39.2 yards per kick in 2013 and was first-team All-Tiftarea and second-team all-Region 1-AAAAAA. Gann’s right foot is about 1.5 inches smaller than his left, and he can’t point his toes like most punters. His right leg also is a little shorter than his left. Gann has worked hard to craft his own punting technique that works for him. Gann was born with a right clubfoot. He had surgery when he was 7 months old to help correct it and was in a cast for almost the first year of his life. According to Gann’s father, Todd, there has been only one coach, Grant Cain at Mercer, who has actually picked up on Gann’s disability. Cain was impressed when he saw Gann have several punts of more than 60 yards at his camp. Gann is also a good student. He’s in the top five percent of his class was recognized as a Georgia Certificate of Merit Scholar.
Most common destinations for Super 11 players
Jayson Stanley was the fourth member of the 2014 Super 11 to commit to Georgia. The others are Terry Godwin of Callaway, Chauncey Rivers of Stephenson and Trent Thompson of Westover. Georgia has signed more Super 11 players than any other school, or about 35 percent of them. Here are the schools with the most Super 11 signees since 1985, when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution first began recognizing the preseason team.
119 – Georgia
28 – Georgia Tech
26 – Auburn
19 – Tennessee
16 – Clemson
16 – Florida State
12 – Alabama
8 – Florida
8 – South Carolina
6 – Stanford
5 – Michigan
5 – Notre Dame
5 – Ole Miss
Chestatee at center of church-state debate
The Washington-based American Humanist Association is threatening to sue Hall County schools over allegations that football coaches at Chestatee are promoting Christianity by leading team prayers and integrating Bible verses in team literature and banners. “When a teacher or coach leads or participates in prayer with students, the prayers become sponsored by the school,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “The cases make clear that public schools must not even give the appearance of taking a position on religious belief, yet in this program we see ongoing Biblical verses and references to religion. This evidences a complete disregard for the First Amendment rights of all students.” Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who represents Gainesville and most of northeast Georgia, defended the school. “The liberal atheist interest groups trying to bully Chestatee High School kids say they have a reason to believe that expressions of religious freedom are ‘not an isolated event’ in northeast Georgia,” Collins, a former Baptist preacher, said in a statement. “They’re right. In Hall County and throughout Georgia’s 9th district, we understand and respect the Constitution and cherish our right to worship in our own way.” Gordon Higgins, spokesperson for the school system, said the matter would be investigated and that a response would be forthcoming.
Report: Georgia relatively restrictive on transfers
Georgia has one of the more restrictive policies on transfer student-athletes, according to the Indianapolis Star, which researched the rules from the 51 high school associations around the country. That would come as a surprise to Georgians who have seen about a dozen major college recruits change schools in each of the past several seasons. Da’Rick Rogers of Darlington/Calhoun and Caleb King of Parkview/Greater Atlanta Christian are among the more prominent in recent seasons. In 2013, running back C.J. Leggett of North Gwinnett and quarterback A.J. Bush were critical pieces in their teams run to the Class AAAAAA final. This season, Hapeville Charter’s Arden Key, Tucker’s Delvin Weems and most recently Savannah Christian’s Demetris Robertson are blue-chip recruits who have changed schools. The GHSA requires that a high school student who transfers into a new school without a change of address may not compete at the varsity level for one calendar year. GHSF Daily reported in 2012 that there were more than 6,000 eligible transfer students for the 2011-12 academic season. Not all of those were football players, of course. The Indianapolis newspaper considers Florida and Arkansas the most lenient states for transfers in the South. In Florida, all players are eligible if individual school districts approve and deem the move to have been for educational and not athletic purposes.
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