By John McClellan
For Hometown Headlines
The Rome Wolves, who are ranked No. 7 in the Class AAAAA preseason predictions by Georgia High School Football Daily and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, are in the Top 10 for the first time since Sept. 2, 2009. Cartersville, the defending state champion in Class AAAA, finds itself at the top in the preseason in 2016, while Calhoun is ranked no. 2 behind defending state champion Westminster in Class AAA and Darlington is No. 4 among Class A private schools.
A titan match up between defending state champions Cartersville and Allatoona highlights the opening week of the 2016 season for many schools in northwest Georgia and across the state. Darlington, Cedartown and Rockmart travel across the state line to face off against playoff teams from Alabama.
Class A Private No. 4 Darlington (10-1) at Gaston (Ala.) (7-4)
- Series History: First Meeting
- The Darlington Tigers were unbeaten in the regular season in 2015 before a loss to eventual state champion Pace Academy in the first round of the Class AA state playoffs. The Gaston Bulldogs are coming off a 7-4 season that ended in a loss to Ranburne 35-7 in the first round of the Alabama Class 2A playoffs. This is the fifth straight year Darlington has opened the season against an out-of-state opponent. Darlington wins by 14.
LaFayette (1-9) at Armuchee (2-8)
- Series History: Armuchee leads 3-1
- Last Meeting: Armuchee defeated LaFayette 21-14 on September 14, 2007
- The LaFayette Ramblers struggled to a 1-9 record in 2015 that included six shutout losses and a lone win in their season opener over Gordon Central. The Armuchee Indians improved from their previous three straight 1-9 seasons as they defeated both Coahulla Creek and Coosa on their way to a 2-8 mark. An Armuchee win would give the Indians a shot at their first 2-0 start since 2009. LaFayette wins by 11.
Class AAAAAA No. 1 Allatoona (14-1) at Class AAAA No. 1 Cartersville (15-0)
- Series History: Allatoona leads 2-0
- Last Meeting: Allatoona defeated Cartersville 10-0 on September 30, 2011
- The Allatoona Buccaneers, who opened the 2015 season with a loss to East Paulding, won 14 straight games on the way to the Class AAAAA state championship that ended with a 10-6 state title game victory over Glynn Academy. The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes enter 2016 after an unbeaten 2015 season highlighted by a 10-0 upset of Buford in the Class AAAA state championship game. Allatoona wins by 1.
Douglass (6-4) at Class AAA No. 2 Calhoun (13-1)
- Series History: First Meeting
- The Douglass Astros narrowly missed the state playoffs in a 6-4 2015 season that ended with a Region 4-AAA play-in loss to Maynard Jackson. The Calhoun Yellow Jackets saw their bid for a second straight Class AAA state championship come up short in a 12-7 state semifinal loss to Blessed Trinity. The Yellow Jackets have tough contests against Dalton and Cartersville after this week’s season opener. Calhoun wins by more than 30.
Adairsville (11-2) at Ridgeland (4-7)
- Series History: Adairsville leads 4-1
- Last Meeting: Adairsville defeated Ridgeland 20-13 on August 21, 2015
- The Adairsville Tigers, who have reached the playoffs five straight seasons, lost only to Calhoun in the regular season a year ago before Class AAA state champion Westminster eliminated the Tigers in the state quarterfinals. The Ridgeland Panthers, whose season ended with a first round playoff loss to St. Pius X, have had three straight losing seasons since finishing as the 2012 Class AAAA runner-up to Sandy Creek. Adairsville wins by 5.
Woodland (1-9) at River Ridge (1-9)
- Series History: Tied 1-1
- Last Meeting: Woodland defeated River Ridge 42-24 on September 25, 2015
- The Woodland Wildcats, whose last winning record came in 1999, broke their 13 game losing streak in the fourth game of the 2015 season with a 42-24 victory over River Ridge. The River Ridge Knights, who have moved up to Class AAAAAA in 2016, started the 2015 season with nine losses before defeating North Springs 21-6 in the season finale. Woodland wins by 1.
Rockmart (2-8) at Cherokee County (Ala.) (7-5)
- Series History: First Meeting
- The Rockmart Yellow Jackets, who have a new head coach in former Banks County mentor Biff Parson, recorded wins over North Murray and Haralson County en route to a 2-8 record in 2015. The Cherokee County Warriors reached the second round of the Alabama Class 4A playoffs before losing 21-14 to Hamilton. Cherokee County wins by 21.
Cedartown (2-9) at Alabama Class 3A No. 1 Piedmont (Ala.) (14-1)
- Series History: Cedartown leads 1-0
- Last Meeting: Cedartown defeated Piedmont 33-7 on November 20, 1940
- The Cedartown Bulldogs took regular season wins over Haralson County and Rockmart before their season ended in a first round Class AAA state playoff loss to Oconee County. The 2015 Alabama Class 3A state champion Piedmont Bulldogs overcame an early season loss to win 10 straight games, including a 44-7 victory over Bayside Academy in the state title contest. These schools last played each other more than 75 years ago. Piedmont wins by 14.
Gordon Central (1-9) at Murray County (4-6)
- Series History: Murray County leads 10-4
- Last Meeting: Murray County defeated Gordon Central 40-7 on October 16, 2015
- The Gordon Central Warriors continued their struggles on the field with their lone win coming in a 42-38 defeat of Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. The Murray County Indians upset Southeast Whitfield on their way to a 4-6 record, the best showing on the field for a Murray County team since they reached the state playoffs in 2005. Murray County wins by 19.
OFF THIS WEEK—Cass (6-4), Chattooga (7-4), Coosa (1-9), Georgia School for the Deaf (3-3), Model (9-2), Pepperell (7-4), Class AAAAA No. 7 Rome (8-4), Sonoraville (8-4), Trion (8-4), Unity Christian School (3-7)
In other games involving schools in regions in Northwest Georgia:
- Newnan (10-3) over Class AAAAA Number 8 Carrollton (6-6) by 1 (Thursday)
- Dade County (6-5) over Gordon Lee (4-6) by 9 (Thursday)
- North Paulding (3-8) over Paulding County (8-3) by 8
- Class AAAAA Number 9 East Paulding (8-4) over Harrison (5-5) by 4
- Kennesaw Mountain (2-8) over Hiram (3-7) by 5
- Central of Carrollton (9-2) over Villa Rica (2-8) by 7
- Callaway (11-2) over LaGrange (5-5) by 4
- Troup (1-9) over Hardaway (1-9) by 30
- Heritage (4-6) over Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (0-9) by more than 30
- Northwest Whitfield (7-5) over Ringgold (6-5) by 16
- Gilmer (4-6) over Fannin County (4-6) by 4
- Pickens (8-3) over Chattahoochee (1-9) by 7
- Christian Heritage (6-6) over North Murray (4-6) by 13
- Fellowship Christian (5-5) over Atkinson County (3-7) by 5
- Kings Ridge Christian (1-9) over Glascock County (0-10) by 15
- Class A Private Number 7 Mt. Paran Christian (10-2) over Our Lady of Mercy (4-6) by 23
- Athens Academy (9-2) over Walker (4-6) by 18
- Class AAAAAA Number 5 Tucker (8-4) over Class AAAAA Number 5 Kell (9-4) by 7 (Saturday)
- Class AAAA Number 3 Sandy Creek (9-3) over South Carolina Class AAAAA Number 3 Fort Dorchester (S.C.) (15-0) by 7 (Saturday)
- Southeast Whitfield (5-5) over Coahulla Creek (2-8) by 30 (Saturday)
The historical data included in these predictions is compiled by the Georgia High School Football Historians Association and may be found online at ghsfha.org. The Georgia rankings used in this column are prepared weekly by Georgia High School Football Daily for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.