2022 Region Picks
Annual Football Issue
The 2022 high school football season has arrived, and with it, plenty of shakeups when it comes to head coaches and classifications (for North Georgia, anyway). One thing’s for sure – region rivalries will be just as fierce as ever. Here, local sports gurus Quake and Cowboy Joe share their take on the upcoming season.
QUAKE: McCallie is your three-time defending state champs, but they’ve lost a lot. Head coach Ralph Potter has fantastic depth and a coaching staff that gets it done. Returning WR Andrei Delinois will be a huge target. The OL anchored by EJ Smith and Eliot Guay will be hard to handle. How will junior QB Jeremy St-Hilaire handle starting duties replacing William Riddle? Now we come to Baylor – changes and talent are two key words. New head coach Erik Kimrey comes with an ultra-impressive resume, and how that factors in from the jump will be key. The talent returns in bulk. Linemen Anthony Boggs, Marceo Collins, and Ole Miss commit Brycen Sanders have all the tools. Caleb Hampton (RB/LB), Joshua Hampton (WR/DB), Amari Jefferson (WR/DB), and sophomore Cameron Sparks (WR/DB) all are great targets. You mix in a little competition for QB, and we shall see. THE GAME will go down September 30, this year at Baylor, and the Red Raiders will look to break a six-year winning streak by McCallie. Prediction: McCallie has had a chokehold, but Baylor has improved … flip a coin!
COWBOY JOE: There is so much to talk about when it comes to Region II-AA. First, you have two big-time coaches moving in. Former Baylor coach Phil Massey takes over at CCS, and Boyd Buchanan hit the coaching gold mine with former Alcoa football coach Gary Rankin. Rankin’s resume includes multiple state titles, so you know the Boyd faithful have high expectations. Silverdale had a great year in 2021, falling short in the playoffs to eventual state champion Lipscomb. Will they continue to improve? Will Notre Dame get back to their winning ways? Can highly recruited CCS athlete Boo Carter (WR/DB) lead the Chargers to a deep playoff run? Will Boyd make some noise in 2022? This will be one of the most competitive regions in our area, but CAK might be too much for our local teams. Winner: CAK / Contender(s): CCS, Boyd Buchanan, Silverdale
QUAKE: The two teams in our area – Bradley Central and Cleveland – are fierce rivals. For the Bears, replacing Aiden McCleary (QB) will be first priority. The Bears will have the services of junior DBs Marcus Goree Jr., Tito Williams, and sophomore stud J’Alan Terry to anchor the defense with some serious speed and ability. Cleveland took some tough region losses last year to Bradley Central, Maryville, and Bearden. So, to right the ship in a tough region, they will rely on the skills of DJ Adams (WR/DB) and others. Prediction: So boring … but Maryville lost in the state title game to Oakland, so until a team dethrones the Rebels, they are still region kings.
COWBOY JOE: Rhea Co. led the way in this region in 2021. Kaleb Martin will return as QB in Evensville, along with Ethan Davis at the RB position. These two athletes will be must-see this year. If the defense holds up, it could be a deep playoff run for Rhea. McMinn Co. surprised me with an eight-win season. I admit that I doubted the Cherokees would be able to match their 2020 production. I expect McMinn Co. will continue to be a contender in this region. Walker Valley disappointed during the 2021 campaign. That being said, coach Drew Akins will have the Mustangs back in the mix this fall. Ooltewah and Howard are rebuilding, so it will be fun to see how those teams improve during the season. Winner: Rhea Co. / Contender: Walker Valley
QUAKE: Brand-new coaches at East Ridge, Soddy Daisy, and Red Bank is one of the stories at play here. How will Chad Barger, Carter Cardwell, and Ted Gatewood impact their teams? Red Bank returns AD Crutcher (WR/DB/DL), Kobe Smith (DL), and last year’s freshman sensation Daune Morris (WR/DB/S), so they have a really good core to build around. East Hamilton returns some studs in Juan Bullard (RB/DB) and monster Zachariah LaBoo (TE/DL) to try and avenge the region loss to Red Bank, but then there is Central. The Purple Pounders made some noise early last year with a surprising upset on Red Bank. Central returns some serious talent in Larry Henderson (WR/DB), Chris Nichols (OL/DL), and Donovan Smith (WR/DB) – all seniors. Prediction: This is a tough region to win, and whoever survives the East Hamilton, Central, and Red Bank round robin will win the region.
COWBOY JOE: Loudon claimed the 3-AAA throne in 2021. Kingston was right behind as one of the teams to beat in this region. Brainerd steps into 2022 hoping to improve on their 3-7 record. Can new coach Martels Carter Sr. turn it around for the Panthers? Signal Mountain coach Josh Roberts made some news during the off-season bringing in former Signal coach Bill Price. Coach Price will help with the OL/DL positions. It’s always a good thing when you have a state championship coach on your staff. Overall, you have some teams that need improvement. McMinn Central hopes to increase their win total in 2022, and Sweetwater took a step back last year. Chattanooga’s best hope in this region will be Signal Mountain. Winner: Loudon / Contender: Signal Mountain
COWBOY JOE: The surprise team in this region was Cannon Co. in 2021. They went from 0 wins in 2020 to seven wins in 2021. Despite the improvement, Cannon Co. still played second fiddle to Giles Co. Giles put together an impressive 12-1 year, losing in the semifinals to eventual champions Alcoa. What about the teams in our area? Sequatchie Co. coach Rusty McIntyre will be demanding more from his squad in the fall. Grundy Co. hopes to improve on their two-win campaign from last year. Unfortunately, the power in this region will continue to reside in Giles Co. Winner: Giles Co. / Contender: Sequatchie Co.
QUAKE: The three beasts of this region, Meigs Co., Marion Co., and Tyner Academy, have all had success, but this year the Tyner Ram Train seems poised to do some damage. Second-year head coach Scott Chandler returns Joshua Jackson (QB) and the anchor in OL, Journe Norwood, as well as a ton of speed and experience. Marion Co. returns after a very successful 2021, where the only regular season loss was to Meigs Co. The Warriors new coach Tim Starkey, who was promoted from within, will take the reins and try to mold a new brand of Marion Co. football with his leadership. Prediction: I like Tyner’s speed, and the fact that they play Marion and Meigs at home this season, to play for a region title.
COWBOY JOE: Region 3-A is chock-full of local teams. South Pittsburg leads the way as the defending state champion. They announced Wes Stone as their head coach in the off-season. Stone has been a part of the staff for several seasons and helped lead the Pirates to the championship at Finley Stadium. Mediocrity ruled for the rest of the participants. Lookout Valley hopes to get in the win column this fall. Sale Creek continues to improve, and coach Chad Grabowski leads Copper Basin into a much-anticipated 2022 season. Whitwell seems to be the only roadblock for another championship run by South Pittsburg. Winner: South Pittsburg / Contender: Whitwell
QUAKE: This new region has some familiar names with a ton of success. Cartersville, Calhoun, and Dalton all have had great teams in the past. Pair those three with Cass, Hiram, and Woodland, and winning this region will be a monster task. Closer to home, the Catamounts’ running game should be solid with the return of Tyson Greenwade (RB). The Cats lost 23 seniors from last year, so leadership will be key. Senior Luke Blanchard (WR) has a do-it-all mentality that can help head coach Kit Carpenter get Dalton back to the top. Prediction: The winner of Calhoun vs. Cartersville on September 30 will be region champs.
COWBOY JOE: Northwest Whitfield leads our local contingent in this region. Coach Josh Robinson led the Bruins to an eight-win season in 2021. Heritage was not far behind with a six-win campaign. Southeast Whitfield coach Todd Murray hopes the 2022 season will bring more wins and more confidence to his squad. The big question in this region is: Who will take down Cedartown? Cedartown had 11 wins and looks to win this region for the third consecutive year. Depending on depth, it’s possible for one of our local teams to compete for a region title. I did say “possible…” Winner: Cedartown / Contender: Heritage
QUAKE: This new region has some familiarity to it. Adairsville, Bremen, Coahulla Creek, Gordon Lee, LaFayette, LFO, Ridgeland, and Ringgold are all in the same region for the first time ever. This will be a super competitive region in all sports. Coahulla Creek had their best season in school history and returns Kace Kinnamon (QB) and OL support. The LaFayette Ramblers lost Jaylon Ramsey but return the likes of Zach Barrett (QB), Sam Hall (WR/DB), Austin Tucker (RB/LB), and Jaden Morris (WR/DB) to start with a great foundation. LFO has a new coach in Mac Bryan with a lot of question marks. They’ll look to Trevon Gott (WR/DB) if the Warriors want to get things done. Ridgeland’s brand-new coach Craig Pritchett has inherited a talented but very young squad. Chase Watkins could spend time at QB and has Darrian Burks as a top WR target and Demetree Bates as a young but talented RB. Gordon Lee has good numbers this year and a lot of two-way players, which they’ll need stepping up to 3-A. That brings us to Ringgold – losing 21 seniors from last year’s fantastic squad will be tough, but they still have eight returning starters on offense, and the defense is looking for players to step up. Prediction: This will be a dog fight … Or maybe a cat fight. I like the Tigers over the Panthers in this one.
QUAKE: This new region has Dade Co., Armuchee, Chattooga, Coosa, Darlington, Pepperell, and Trion all together. The Wolverines are the only team within our distribution area, so let’s look at Dade Co. A 7-4 season overall last year and 4-2 in region play, the Wolves graduated some pretty key players, but they will return some experienced talent including Brody Cooper (QB), who threw for 1,342 and ran for 324 yards last year with 16 total TDs, Kade Pardue (DB), and Zeke Wheeler (RB/LB). In the trenches, Zac Counts returns and is expected to play on both offense and defense this season. Prediction: The Dade Co. vs. Trion winner will win the region.
QUAKE: Again, all new regions and classifications in Georgia this year have Dalton’s Christian Heritage joining Bowdon and Mt. Zion. So, let’s look at the Lions of Christian Heritage: 4-7 last year and 2-2 in region play. Graduated and signed with the Mocs is Solomon Locke, but the Lions return some names to know. Sophomore Carter Triplett (QB) possesses a big body and big arm. Senior Wyatt Brumlow (WR/DB) returns along with sophomore two-way player Sam Wooten. The Lions will have an outstanding defensive end in Daniel Geil, who personally had 16 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, and three blocked kicks last year. Prediction: With the Lions’ size, look for them to make the most noise.