Posted: 2:38 pm Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Class AA blog: After two-week break, Benedictine eager to get back on track 

By Brent Holloway

By the time No. 5 Benedictine kicks off with Liberty County on Friday night, three weeks will have past since their last game — the much-hyped season opener with No. 1 Greater Atlanta Christian that lived up to its billing.

Benedictine coach Danny Britt says the intervening period has been “miserable,” and not because his team was sulking over the 24-21, last-minute loss to the Spartans.

“You get so hyped up for everything,” Britt said, “and then you just kind of go into neutral for two weeks.”

The fourth-year Cadets coach said he’s dealt with the rare back-to-back bye weeks by getting back to basics and varying the daily routines.

“In some ways it’s been good for us,” Britt said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys and guys in new positions, and we’ve been able to work with them a lot. The first week (off) it wasn’t so bad, but last week, like I said, it was pretty miserable. We just tried to do a lot of different things; shorten practice, involve the JV a lot, but we’re differently ready to get out there and play some football.”

The Cadets will be taking on a Liberty County team (2-1) that’s already approaching the midpoint of its season and appears to be getting healthier, with senior quarterback Walker Franklin making his first appearance of the season  in last week’s  45-14 win over McIntosh County Academy. The Class AAAA Panthers are coming off a playoff appearance last season, and hold a 3-1 series edge over Benedictine, though the teams haven’t met since 2007.

“It’s gonna be a good test,” Britt said. “In a lot of ways, it’s kind of back to the first-game jitters, and wondering what you’ve got.”

In the Week 1 loss, Britt said he saw some things to be encouraged by. He singled out the offensive line, where all five starters are either new to the starting 11 or playing in new positions. Their progress will be measured this week against a Liberty County front that has already tallied 16 sacks on the season, led by Jacari Roberts’ six.

Given time to pass, the Cadets have the proven ability to be dangerous. Receiver Brad Stewart is a D-I recruit and a preseason All-State pick after racking up 11 touchdowns and nearly 700 receiving yards last year. He and quarterback Stevie Powers connected six times for 126 yards and a score against GAC, as Benedictine finished with 448 yards of total offense (274 passing, 174 rushing).


Slow start, fast finish?

Benedictine’s 0-1 start, given the way it happened, shouldn’t be cause for alarm. But taken in combination with the records elsewhere among the AA’s top teams, there is reason for raised eyebrows.

Half of the teams in the AA top 10 rankings are at or below .500. In the Maxwell Ratings, six of the top 15 teams have losing records, including four winless teams, and four more are at sitting at .500.

Granted, most of these losses have come against teams from higher classifications, but out-of-classification games are the norm for the first couple of weeks on an annual basis.

So what does history tell us about teams that start slow? The answer isn’t exactly promising, but there are recent examples of teams who stumbled out of the gate before finishing strong.

- In 2012, Jefferson lost its season opener against rival Commerce before winning 14 straight en route to its first state championship.

- Calhoun is the last team to advance to the Class AA state championship game after starting the season 1-2. In 2008,  the Yellow Jackets dropped their opener, 30-7, to Dalton and fell two weeks later, 17-7, to Cartersville. They didn’t lose again until the state finals against Buford.

- In what might be one of the most improbable runs in Georgia High School football history, the 1989 Greene County Tigers started the season 0-2 and finished the regular season at 4-6 before winning four straight playoff games and advancing to the Class AA state title game. They lost there, 15-14 to Mitchell-Baker, wrapping up as state runners-up with a final record of 8-7.


Class AA Top 10 schedule

1. GAC (2-0), Off
2. Washington-Wilkes (2-0) at Jefferson County (0-2)
3. Fitzgerald (3-0), Off
4. Vidalia (3-0), Off
5. Benedictine (0-1) at Liberty County(2-1)
6. Lovett (1-2) vs. Woodward Academy (2-0)
7. Brooks County (1-2), Off
8. B.E.S.T. Academy (1-1) vs. Therrell (1-1)
9. Lamar County (1-0-1) at Mary Persons (1-1)
10. Dublin (1-1) vs. Twiggs County (0-1)

 This week’s schedule by region

Region 1

Clinch County at Berrien
Miller County at Pelham
Seminole County at Mitchell County
Thomasville at Valdosta

Region 2

Benedictine at Liberty County
Charlton County at Bacon County
Jeff Davis at Montgomery
Metter at Long County
Southeast Bulloch at Bryan County
Windsor Forest at Groves

Region 3

East Laurens at Jenkins County
Metter at Long County
Screven County at Wade Hampton (SC)
Twiggs County at Dublin
Warren County at Harlem
Washington-Wilkes at Jefferson County

Region 4

Lamar County at Mary Persons
Macon County at Perry (Thursday)
Monticello at First Presbyterian
Northeast at Upson-Lee
Putnam County at Oconee County

Region 5

Cedartown at Bowdon
Columbus at Manchester
Model at Bremen
South Atlanta at Heard County
Temple at Social Circle

Region 6

K.I.P.P. Atlanta Collegiate at North Cobb Christian
Pace Academy at White County
Riverside Military Academy at Hapeville Charter
Therrell at B.E.S.T. Academy
Woodward Academy at Lovett

Region 7

Armuchee at Fannin County
Chattooga at Fellowship Christian
Coosa at Rockmart
Dade County at Ridgeland
Gordon Lee at Christian Heritage
King’s Ridge Christian at Darlington
Model at Bremen

Region 8

Andrews (NC) at Union County
Greene County at Morgan County
Jackson County at Rabun County
Oglethorpe County at Athens Academy
Riverside Military at Hapeville Charter
Temple at Social Circle
Washington-Wilkes at Jefferson County