Things to watch in opening week in the high class

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

McEachern and QB Bailey Hockman open against retooled Archer at the Georgia Dome on Saturday.

It’s opening week for the highest classification (and everybody else, too).

Note that three of the top games involving Class 7A schools – Colquitt County-Mill Creek, Lowndes-Valdosta and Roswell-Buford – are previewed in the Top 10 Games of Week 1. We’ll refer you there for those.

Otherwise, here are some things to look for …

-Is Archer finished? It’s assumed by many that Archer is toast with only one returning starter on offense and the transfers of major college prospects Isaiah Prior (to IMG Academy) and Jamyest Williams (to Grayson). Clues will be found Saturday, when Archer plays fourth-ranked McEachern in the Georgia Dome. Archer has been a top-10 staple and won 11 games each of the past three seasons. Also curious to watch Bailey Hockman, the McEachern QB committed to Florida State. He was better as a sophomore than as a junior, but expect him to have a big year.

-Norcross vs. Walton: Got to think that at least one of these teams is going to be very good again. Norcross is probably the better bet. About 15 of 22 starters return from a team that started 7-0 last season, but finished 7-4. Too bad that DE Robert Beal, a Georgia commit, transferred to IMG Academy. Walton went 9-2 under second-year coach Mo Dixon last season. Watch for sophomore WR/DB Dominick Blaylock to emerge as a star this season.

-Here’s some scoop on some out-of-state opponents. Christ Presbyterian Academy, which plays at Parkview on Saturday, was the Tennessee Class 3A runner-up to Alcoa last season. Christ Presbyterian defeated Peachtree Ridge last year, so that could be a tough one for the Panthers. McCallie, which plays Peachtree Ridge at Parkview in the other game of the double-header, was 6-6 last season but is always pretty solid. Tossup. On Friday, sixth-ranked Camden County plays at Oakleaf, a Class 7A Florida school that went 8-2 last season. Camden should win.

-Central Gwinnett is intriguing. The Knights should beat South Gwinnett. Will be curious to see how RB Josh Samuel does in his Georgia debut. He rushed for 1,796 yards to lead South Carolina (the state, not the Gamecocks) in rushing last year. Could be Central’s best team since the quarterfinal run of 2005.

-South Forsyth is ranked No. 9 in preseason after a 11-2 finish in 2015. That included playoff victories over Tucker and Norcross and a valiant effort vs. Colquitt County (losing 49-31 after having the lead in the fourth quarter). Returning is star QB Davis Shanley. But some are disbelieves in this rising program that hadn’t previously been a factor in the highest class. The Georgia Sportswriters and Score Atlanta polls don’t rank SF. Hillgrove isn’t as good as it used to be, but good enough to smoke out pretenders. Should be a telling game.

Thursday’s games

Newnan at Carrollton (WG)

Newton at Drew (SC)

Friday’s games

Camden Co. at Oakleaf, Fla.

Campbell at Etowah

Cherokee at North Cobb

Harrison at East Paulding

Hillgrove at South Forsyth (ME)

Hiram at Kennesaw Mountain

Johns Creek at Lassiter

Lovejoy at East Coweta

Lowndes at Valdosta

Milton at Alpharetta

Mountain View at Osborne

Roswell at Buford (ME)

Sequoyah at North Forsyth

Shiloh at Collins Hill

South Cobb at Pebblebrook

South Gwinnett at Central Gwinnett

Tift Co. at South Effingham (GS)

West Forsyth at Woodstock

Wheeler at Marietta

Saturday’s games

Christ Presb., Tenn. at Parkview

Colquitt Co. at Mill Creek (GD)

McCallie, Tenn. at Peach. Ridge (PK)

McEachern at Archer (GD)

Norcross at Walton (GD)

North Gwinnett at Brookwood (GD)

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