Best player in school history: Region 8-AAAAA teams

Flowery Branch quarterback Connor Shaw (in white) tries to outmaneuver two Gainesville defenders during the first half of play between the Falcons and Red Elephants in the Class AAA semifinal at Gainesville High Dec. 4, 2009. (Collin C. Chappelle / AJC Special)

The Clarke Central-Cedar Shoals rivalry in Athens was one of the state’s best in the mid- to late-1970s, when the schools were still young, full of stars and simultaneously good.

In 1976, Cedar Shoals’ quarterback was Amp Arnold. He would start on Georgia’s 1980 national-championship team as a wide receiver.

In 1977, Clarke Central’s quarterback was Jim Bob Harris. He would start on Alabama’s 1979 national-championship team as a safety.

In 1978, Cedar Shoals’ quarterback was Homer Jordan. He would start on Clemson’s 1981 national-championship team as a quarterback.

There were many other great players at Clarke and Cedar in those days. Jimmy Payne, a starting defensive end on Georgia’s 1980 team, is GHSF Daily’s choice as Cedar Shoals’ best-ever player, just a hair ahead of Jordan. Both were first-team all-state players.

Harris is the choice for the Gladiators. Payne and Harris were seniors in 1977, the year that Harris led Clarke to its first state title. Clarke beat Cedar 7-0 that regular season. Cedar would end Clarke’s 17-game winning streak the next season with Jordan at the controls.

Clarke’s Charley Dean and Karey Johnson and Cedar’s Danny Rogers and Jeff Pyburn were other Athens stars among many in that era.

Here are GHSF Daily’s picks as the best players in history from the current Region 8-AAAAA schools.

*Buford: Darius Walker (2003)

*Cedar Shoals: Jimmy Payne (1977)

*Clarke Central: Jim Bob Harris (1977)

*Flowery Branch: Connor Shaw (2009)

*Johnson (Gainesville): Mike “Moonpie” Wilson (1972)

*Loganville: Storm Johnson (2009)

*Walnut Grove: D.J. Rivers (2016)

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