Heard County exits rankings despite win

Article and photos courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution –> Original Article Here

The first week of the AA season has already passed, with little change to the preseason top 10. One team, Dodge County, lost but remains at No. 9. Another team, Elbert County, tied and stays at No. 7. The only team to leave the rankings, the No. 10 Heard County Braves, actually won but barely edged unranked South Atlanta. The Braves were replaced by Washington County, which had a Week 1 bye.

That Heard County won and that the Golden Hawks were off begs the question – why were the Braves booted from the top 10? The answer is simple: based on South Atlanta’s history, the Hornets had no business being anywhere near a victory. They haven’t had a winning season since 1995 and are 4-26 since 2013.

However, the Hornets do have a new coach in Brad Stephens. An insightful nugget: AJC colleague Todd Holcomb was profiling AA’s newly-hired coaches this preseason and reached out to Stephens, asking him for his background. Stephens said he came from Stockbridge, where he was the running backs coach. Stephens also conceded he helped to run Stockbridge’s feeder program, but asked Holcomb not publish that part because that could make it obvious that Stephens’ offense with the Hornets would likely be running the wishbone, which Stockbridge’s feeder program ran. Holcomb obliged.

It’s possible Heard County didn’t know the Hornets, now under a new regime, would run the wishbone, and spent their season opener making defensive adjustments to counter the South Atlanta offense. That’s certainly an explanation for why the Braves entered the fourth quarter trailing South Atlanta 19-7 and had to mount a comeback.

The Braves did come back and it was good enough for a win, but it wasn’t good enough to keep them inside the top 10. Perhaps this isn’t the last the rankings have seen of Heard County. If the Braves are still undefeated heading into their Oct. 13 game at Callaway, then win that game, they’ll likely return.

As for South Atlanta, the cat is now out of the bag – the Hornets run a wishbone offense.

Top-ranked Fitzgerald was also off in Week 1 and holds on to the top spot despite an impressive showing by the No. 2 Benedictine Cadets, who convincingly beat AAAAAA’s No. 2 Glynn Academy 24-7.

No. 3 Vidalia held on to beat Dodge County 24-20. No. 4 Brooks County survived in overtime to beat unranked Cook of AAA by a score of 21-14 and No. 5 Jefferson County cruised to a 40-7 victory over A-private’s No. 9 Savannah Christian.

No. 6 Callaway beat AAAA’s LaGrange 37-6. No. 7 Elbert County tied Hart County 13-13, avoiding being penalized in the rankings despite Hart County being unranked. Hart County’s recent season records: 7-4 (2015), 11-2 (2014) and 9-2 (2013).

No. 8 Rabun County was off this week.

Here’s the top 10 heading into Week 2, with the previous week’s rankings in parenthesis:

1. (1) Fitzgerald (0-0)

2. (2) Benedictine (1-0)

3. (3) Vidalia (1-0)

4. (4) Brooks County (1-0)

5. (5) Jefferson County (1-0)6. (6) Callaway (1-0)

7. (7) Elbert County (0-0-1)

8. (8) Rabun County (0-0)

9. (9) Dodge County (0-1)

10. (NR) Washington County (0-0)

Out: No. 10 Heard County (1-0)

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