Poll talk: Five defending champs start No. 1; all remain top contenders

Rome won its first-ever state title in 2016. The Wolves are the preseason No. 1-ranked team in Class AAAAA. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

The high school football season begins this week, picking up about where it left off.

Five defending state champions are ranked No. 1 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s preseason poll. The other three are ranked in the top four.

Those starting No. 1 are Grayson (Class AAAAAAA), Rome (AAAAA), Cartersville (AAAA), Benedictine (AA) and Eagle’s Landing Christian (A private).

Grayson, which garnered several top-five final rankings nationally in 2016, lost the majority of its starters from a 14-1 team. But the Rams’ 2017 roster features nine of the highest-rated junior college prospects in Georgia. That includes Owen Pappoe, the No. 1 2019 outside linebacker prospect in the country.

The most clear-cut No. 1 is Cartersville, the two-time defending champion in AAAA. Cartersville can become the third Georgia team in history to put together three straight 15-0 seasons, the first since Buford in 2001-03.

Class AAAAAA defending champion Valdosta is No. 2 behind 2016 runner-up Tucker. Cedar Grove is No. 4 in AAA, where 2016 semifinalist Peach County is No. 1. Macon County is No. 2 in A public behind Clinch County, the 2015 champion.

The season begins Thursday with five games, the first of 119 for the week. The season will go 12 weeks of regular season, five of playoffs, culminating Dec. 8-9 with state championships at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Class AAAAAAA
1. Grayson (14-1)
2. Colquitt County (8-5)
3. Roswell (14-1)
4. Lowndes (10-3)
5. McEachern (11-2)
6. Brookwood (8-4)
7. Mill Creek (13-1)
8. Parkview (8-4)
9. Norcross (11-1)
10. Westlake (10-4)

Class AAAAAA
1. Tucker (13-2)
2. Valdosta (14-1)
3. Harrison (10-2)
4. Northside-Warner Robins (11-3)
5. Lee County (8-3)
6. Dalton (13-1)
7. Mays (11-2)
8. Coffee (7-6)
9. Glynn Academy (11-2)
10 Alpharetta (7-4)

Class AAAAA
1. Rome (13-2)
2. Buford (13-2)
3. Stockbridge (13-1)
4. Carrollton (11-2)
5. Ware County (8-4)
6. Kell (11-3)
7. Thomas County Central (8-4)
8. Bainbridge (5-6)
9. Griffin (11-2)
10. Loganville (9-3)

Class AAAA
1. Cartersville (15-0)
2. Blessed Trinity (10-3)
3. Thomson (14-1)
4. Sandy Creek (8-4)
5. Woodward Academy (11-2)
6. Jefferson (12-2)
7. Marist (7-4)
8. Mary Persons (11-3)
9. Cairo (11-2)
10. Ridgeland (9-2)

Class AAA
1. Peach County (12-2)
2. Greater Atlanta Christian (13-2)
3. Calhoun (10-3)
4. Cedar Grove (13-2)
5. Westminster (10-3)
6. Crisp County (13-1)
7. Lovett (8-4)
8. Liberty County (11-2)
9. Pace Academy (6-5)
10. Dawson County (7-3)

Class AA
1. Benedictine (15-0)
2. Hapeville Charter (10-4)
3. Fitzgerald (13-2)
4. Screven County (11-2)
5. Rabun County (11-1)
6. Callaway (13-1)
7. Pepperell (10-2)
8. Brooks County (8-4)
9. Jefferson County (10-2)
10. Rockmart (9-3)

Class A (private)
1. Eagle’s Landing Christian (14-0)
2. Prince Avenue Christian (12-1)
3. Wesleyan (9-3)
4. Landmark Christian (10-2)
5. Fellowship Christian (13-1)
6. Mount Paran Christian (10-2)
7. Darlington (8-4)
8. Tattnall Square (12-1)
9. Aquinas (6-5)
10. Calvary Day (10-1)

Class A (public)
1. Clinch County (11-2)
2. Macon County (12-2)
3. Manchester (10-2)
4. Emanuel County Institute (11-1)
5. Taylor County (10-2)
6. Irwin County (8-5)
7. Commerce (9-3)
8. McIntosh County Academy (10-3)
9. Turner County (8-4)
10. Lincoln County (7-4-1)


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