No. 1 GAC faces out-of-state rematch; No. 2 Cedar Grove prepared for familiar foe

GAC running back Kyler McMichael rushes against Peach County in the 2016 semifinal game in Fort Valley (Photo: Karl L. Moore)

The best games in Class AAA this weekend feature a rematch of a nationally televised game from last season, two local programs who have traded losses in the past four games and two Savannah teams squeezing in a Thursday game before bracing for Hurricane Irma’s impact. Yes, strange, two hurricanes this year, and we haven’t even reached region play.

— Defending champion and Region 5 powerhouse No. 2 Cedar Grove (2-0) will face Columbia for the 17th time Friday at Godfrey Stadium in Decatur. The Saints have a commanding 10-6 lead in the series, but Columbia has won two of the last four, in 2012 and 2014. The teams did not play in 2015.

“It is going to be real,” Cedar Grove coach Jimmy Smith said. “They are a competitive group. On defense, they are very aggressive. On offense, they have a good quarterback and they’re very athletic. We just have to run around and compete and keep pressure on them.”

The Saints rested last week after a 37-7 victory against Southwest DeKalb. Senior Xavier Dennis has rushed for 93 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 225 yards and three touchdowns to junior receiver Jadon Haselwood. Junior running back Darrell Neal has 187 yards rushing with four touchdowns.

— Valor Christian (Colo.) at No. 1 Greater Atlanta Christian (2-0): Last season, the Spartans traveled to Colorado and suffered their only regular-season loss , 21-17, then lost again to Cedar Grove in the state championship game. Quarterback Davis Mills, who had been injured before the start of the 2016 season, made his comeback in the game.

“We did not feel like we played great last year,” GAC coach Tim Hardy said. “We felt like we left a lot of things on the table. So this year we are eager to get after it and to play well. It should be a lot of fun.”

GAC has defeated No. 10 Lovett and Westminster in convincing fashion this season. Josh Rose has completed 21 of 27 passes for 340 yards and eight touchdowns. Kyler McMichael, a Clemson commitment, has rushed for 176 on 27 carries with one touchdown.

Valor features two of Colorado’s top players — Luke McCaffrey and Blake Stenstrom. McCaffrey has a strong football lineage. His father, Ed, won Super Bowls with the 49ers in 1995 and the Broncos in 1998 and 1999. Stenstrom, a Colorado commitment, has passed for 128 yards and rushed for 53.

“They are an outstanding football program,” Hardy said. “They are a state-championship caliber team and they have won — I don’t even know — five of the last six state championships in Colorado. They do it with good players, great coaching, discipline, toughness.”

— Liberty County at No. 6 Jenkins (2-0)

Last season, Jenkins lost 32-21 at the hands of the Richard LeCounte (UGA) led Panthers. The game marked the only regular-season loss for the Warriors. Liberty, which started the season ranked, has slipped out of the top-10 after a 22-7 loss to Bradwell Institute in the opener. Jenkins is 2-0 after moving past New Hampstead and South Effingham.

Here are some of the other top-10 games to monitor:

No. 3 Peach County (1-1) plays host to Perry.

No. 9 Sonoraville (2-0) plays at Dalton.

No. 7 Jenkins (2-0) plays host to Liberty County.

No. 8 Bremen is at Trion.

Four of the top 10 teams have byes this weekend:

No. 4 Crisp County (3-0). The Cougars face Rutland on Sept. 15.

No. 5 Dawson County (2-0). The Tigers play host to West Hall on Sept. 15.

No. 6 Calhoun (2-1). The Yellow Jackets travel to Coahulla Creek on Sept. 15.

No. 10 Lovett (1-2). The Lions travel to Cedar Grove to begin region play on Sept. 15.


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