Five teams that have been better than expected
*Grady:Grady was one of Atlanta Public Schools’ most consistent winners for years under Ronnie Millen, but the scandal-rocked 2013 team was forced to forfeit its eight victories when several players were found not to be living legally in the school district. In came Earthwind Moreland, a Grady alumnus and former NFL player, to clean up. After 5-5 and 7-5 finishes, Grady put itself back on the map with a 14-10 victory over Woodward Academy on Aug. 26. Moreland said his team was inspired by some social media chatter. “They [Woodward] had a few guys saying it would be a warm-up game, and our guys took that to heart,” he said. “We’re nobody’s pushover. I tell them all the time, ‘Regardless of how much talent we have or they have, the game has to be played between the white lines.’” Grady is ranked for the first time since 2012.
*Hardaway:Under first-year coach Michael Wooldridge, a Hardaway alumnus, the Hawks are 2-0 after suffering 0-10 and 1-9 seasons. Their opponents, Troup and Harris County, are 3-0 when not playing Hardaway. It’s early to measure, but Maxwell rates Hardaway as the most surprisingly good team this season (27.0 points better than projected) and the likely No. 3 finisher in Region 1-AAAA. If the Hawks live up to that and go 5-2 in region play, they would accomplish a winning season (7-2) and a playoff berth in the same year for the first time since 1998.
*Harrison:From 1995 through 2008, the Hoyas never failed to have a winning season. Bogged down by the openings of Allatoona and Hillgrove, they haven’t had one since. But a 3-0 start under fourth-year coach Matt Dickmann is promising. All three opponents (East Paulding, Rome, North Cobb) make for quality wins. Now, Harrison is ranked (No. 9 in Class AAAAAA) for the first time since 2008. Dropping out of the highest class has helped a school that now ranks fifth in enrollment in its division. Maxwell rates Harrison as the new team to beat in Region 6 ahead of Dalton and Allatoona. Dickmann was GHSF Daily’s choice as best offseason hire in AAAAAA in 2013.
*North Murray – Opened in 2009, North Murray is seeking its first winning season. The prospects are good after a 2-0 start under first-year coach Preston Poag, who came from Christian Heritage, where he led that new program to three consecutive Class A playoff berths.Three Christian Heritage players followed Hoag to North Murray, which beat Christian Heritage in the opener and then Coosa 56-27 last week. [Christian Heritage is coached by Poag’s brother, Jay.] Maxwell projects that North Murray will win five more games, finish second in its 6-AAA subregion and lose the play-in game for a 7-3 finish. Poag was GHSF Daily’s choice as best offseason hire in AAA in 2016.
*South Gwinnett:After a 2-8 finish in 2015, the Comets are 3-0 for the first time since 2009 and ranked (No. 5 in AAAAAAA) for the first time since 2012 (highest ranking since 2003). They’ve beaten 2015 playoff teams Central Gwinnett and Lanier, plus eighth-ranked Brookwood. Maxwell rates the Comets at 17 to 18 points better than expected. “This is a different bunch of kids,” coach John Small, in his 12th season at South, told the AJC’s Adam Krohn after a victory over Central Gwinnett. “It’s the same kids that have been with us that stuck with it, that didn’t run from a challenge. These kids deserve everything they’re getting right now.”
*Others: The Maxwell Ratings really likes Douglas County schools Douglas County (judged 14.2 points better than expected) and Alexander (11.0 points better). … The only South Georgia team among Maxwell’s 25 most better-than-expected list is Benedictine. The Cadets were already pretty good, according to Maxwell, but some 12.4 points better than projected. … Warren County is 2-0 for the first time since 2011, when the Screaming Devils were 7-3 under David Daniel. … Lassiter is 3-0 and ranked (No. 7 in AAAAAAA) for the first time since 2012. … Murray County is 2-0 for the first time since 2001 and trending after finishes of 0-10, 2-9, 2-8, 4-6. … Arabia Mountain is 3-0 for the first time.
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