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August 19, 2008
AA Preview: Can Buford continue its dominance?
Class AA has been dominated the past several years by two teams: Buford and Charlton County. Buford has won 110 of its past 116 games and won the state title last year as well as in '02 and '03. (Also won in '01 in Class A). Charlton County had been a huge thorn in the side of Buford, having defeated the Wolves in the postseason in each of the last three years,all of which culminated in state title victories. Buford finally broke through last year, knocking Charlton out in the quarterfinals. Both teams lost a lot from last year, but if the past few years are any indication, they both should fine as they produce some of Class AA's best talent. The Wolves and Indians, however, are not all Class AA has to offer as teams like Fitzgerald and Dublin are mainstays in the state playoffs, while teams such as Lovett and Greater Atlanta Christian are emerging programs capable of making noise as Lovett did last year. Henry County's move down to Class AA from Class AAA adds yet another formidable team to the Class AA.
Buford will have to replace key starters at just about every position, but they are well-equipped to do so with the talented underclassmen they have in the fold, namely running back Storm Johnson, who's poised for a breakout year after waiting his turn behind Demetrius Murray, and talented athlete Daunte Carr, who'll take over for Twoey Hosch at quarterback. Georgia committ Dallas Lee is a load on the offensive and defensive lines but could be needed more on the DL where Parade All-American Omar Hunter leaves a void. Head Coach Jess Simpson is 39-2 in three years in charge and it's unlikley that the Wolves will fall off any time soon.
Charlton County won 11 games last year, but most of the key contributors from last year's team are gone, including standout running back/defensive back Ralph Bolden, who is now a Purdue Boilermaker. The Indians will return two important pieces of the defense in linebacker Ryder Sloan and defensive tackle Ricky Hart, both Division-I prospects. Hart has already committed to Maryland. Charlton and Buford won't meet in the regular season, but another postseason showdown is likely.
The Purple Hurricanes of Fitzgerald have made winning double-digit ballgames the norm as of late. Fitzgerald is working on their fifth season in a row of at least 10 wins and with 16 starters back from last year's 10-2 squad, the streak stands a good chance of continuing.
Thomasville could repeat as Region 1 champs with most of its key players back. Tyrone Williams is back to lead on both sides of the ball from his running back and linebacker positions. The defense, which shut out four opponents last year, should be stout again with Williams and the return of defensive ends Jermaine Edwards and Rafael Sanders, who combined for 27 tackles for a loss. Like last year, Thomasville will be tested early against city rival Thomas County Central in week one.
Henry County could have one of the most prolific passing offenses in the state, regardless of classification. Drew Little is a big pro-style quarterback with two of the best targets in the state to throw to. Jamal Patterson is one of the best in Georgia for 2009, while Markeith Ambles figures to be one of the most sought after wide receivers in the Class of 2010. Ambles, who transferred from Griffin, and seven offensive starters back should make for a very potent Warhawk attack. The defense returns nine starters.
Region 1. The region features two of the top five teams in the state in Fitzgerald and Thomasville, a Cook Hornets team that came within one game of making the state championship game last year and an Early County team who's made the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons.
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