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Chip SayeChip Saye

Tucker’s gone, but strong teams are moving in

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The Georgia High School Association’s biennial reclassification is almost certain to have a big impact on Class AAAAA this season.

Tucker is gone, having moved up to AAAAAA, which should come as a relief to the remaining members of the classification. Over the past seven seasons, the Tigers posted a record of 88-10 with two state championships, one runner-up finish and three other trips to at least the quarterfinals.

But Tucker’s absence will be offset by the addition of a number of strong teams, some which dropped from AAAAAA and others that moved up from lower classifications. Here’s a look at five new Class AAAAA teams that could make the most noise this season:

*Alexander: The Cougars are joining Region 5-AAAAA after an 8-5 season in AAAA that produced the first quarterfinal appearance in school history. They finished No. 10 in the final rankings. Alexander is led by RB Mikell Lands-Davis, who has committed to Georgia Tech. Lands-Davis rushed for 2,374 yards and 28 touchdowns last season and had three games with more than 300 yards. Expect the Cougars to be in the playoff race from a region that includes East Paulding, Allatoona, South Paulding and Villa Rica.

*Carver-Columbus: The Tigers are jumping up two classes from AAA and into Region 1-AAAAA, where they will enter the season as the favorites. Carver went 96-14 the past eight years, winning at least 11 games every season and capturing a state championship in 2007. The Tigers were 11-2 and lost to Buford in the quarterfinals last year. DE Mekhi Brown (Alabama) and DB Khane Pass (Louisville) are committed to Division I schools, and QB Jawon Pass is the No. 5 junior prospect in Georgia.

*Coffee: The Trojans will be one of the favorites in Region 3 this year after dropping from powerful 1-AAAAAA. Coffee finished just 5-5 in 2013, but all five of the victories came against teams that reached the playoffs, including a 38-13 rout of Class AAAAA quarterfinalist Ware County early in the year. Ware County will get a chance to avenge that loss on Sept 12 in the teams’ region opener in a game that could determine the 3-AAAAA champion.

*Statesboro: If Ware County or Coffee doesn’t win the 3-AAAAA title, look for Statesboro to make a run at the championship after moving into the region from Class AAAA. The Blue Devils went 10-2 and reached the second round of the playoffs last season, and they have won fewer than six games in a season only once since 1992. And Statesboro is 17-13-1 all-time against top region contenders Ware, Coffee and Brunswick, which dropped into the region from 1-AAAAAA.

*Stockbridge: The Tigers have made steady improvement in five seasons under Kevin Whitley, going from 2-8 in 2009 to back-to-back 11-2 seasons that ended in the Class AAAA quarterfinals in 2012 and 2013. Now they move up to Region 4-AAAAA Division B, which they will be favored to win. Stockbridge is No. 11 in Class AAAAA in the computer Maxwell Ratings, far ahead of the second-highest-ranked team from the region, No. 29 Northgate.

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