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We hope you had a very festive Fourth of July weekend and
are ready for more high school football previews! This week,
we'll be bringing you stories on some of the top programs in
Class 5A. We lead off today with defending champ
Gainesville and perennial-power Ware County.
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In This Issue
Class AAAAA Football Rankings
Football Schedules
Ware County Preview
Gainesville Preview
Score Poll
Best Stories From Around the State
What Ware County star was the AJC's Class AAAAA defensive player of the year in 2012?     

Today's answer can  
be found in the newsletter!

Tuesday's Answer:
Cartersville QB Brooks Barden threw just five interceptions last year against 39 TDs. 



1.    Gainesville 
2.    Northside-WR
3.    Thomas County Central
4.    Stephenson
5.    Flowery Branch
6.    Tucker
7.    Kell
8.    M.L. King
9.    Whitewater
10.  Ware County





Ware County Gators


8/30        At Coffee

9/06        Charlton County

9/13        Brunswick

9/28        At Windsor Forest

10/04      Glynn Academy

10/11      At Jenkins

10/18      Richmond Hill

10/25      Groves

11/01      Bradwell Institute

11/08      At Effingham Co.



Gainesville Red Elephants


8/30        At West Forsyth

9/06        Buford

9/13        Winder-Barrow

9/20        At Apalachee

9/27        At Heritage,  


10/04      Cedar Shoals

10/11      Salem

10/18      At Clarke Central

11/01      At Loganville

11/08      Flowery Branch


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Wednesday, July 8, 2013

By Craig Sager II
Gators motivated after disappointment in final



Ware County has made the playoffs 11 consecutive seasons, but still manages to sneak up on opponents each year. Nestled in the southeast corner of the state, the Gators battled all the way to Atlanta in 2012 to face Gainesville for the Class AAAAA championship. During their playoff run, they beat Lakeside-Evans, Union Grove, Stephenson and then Northside-Warner Robins in overtime. Gainesville was the hotter team, however, and a couple early turnovers and mistakes allowed the Red Elephants to run away with the state championship 49-13.


"I think that it [the loss] serves as a motivator for all of the returning players," said Ware County head coach Ed Dudley. "It was hard to get to that final game and get embarrassed. We used it as a positive thing in the offseason to try and get guys to crank up their workouts and go 'hey man let's get back to that so we can show people we can perform better than we did in 2012.'"


The extra motivation seen this offseason has Dudley pleased with some key guys he has returning. At quarterback is Jamar Johnson, who has the athleticism and experience to star in a dangerous Gators offense.


"We are going to green-light Jamar to run the ball a little bit more this year and that's really one of his strengths," said Dudley. "Because we were so thin early in the backup quarterback position last year we were conservative with him. We can turn him loose a little bit more [this season] to run."


Johnson will have to help fill the shoes left by Xavier Tobler (Georgia Southern), who was considered the Gators' best player last season. Tobler started at linebacker and running back and was all-state on both sides. On offense, Tobler rushed for over 1,700 yards.


"That's going to be the toughest player to replace," said Dudley about Tobler.


"If we can get a guy, or a committee of guys to do what he did then I think we have a chance to be really competitive."


Jimal McBride (Middle Tennessee commitment) will be the other big vacancy to account for. McBride had 127 tackles, six sacks and 27 tackles-for-loss from the defensive tackle position. McBride was the AJC Class AAAAA defensive player of the year in 2012. Six starters return on defense including Dedrick Mills, Wayne Coleman and Cat Jenkins. Quay Taylor will play both sides of the ball again at running back and defensive back. Dudley believes that this unit will be the key to getting his team on track in 2013.            


"I think just because of who we are at Ware County our defense is going to have to rise to the occasion early," said Dudley. "When we play guys two ways or when we do personnel, we give the nod to our defense. In the playoffs [last year] they really did carry the day for us, so early on we will be looking to rebuild that defense."


Ware County went 7-0 in Region 3-AAAAA last season and will likely be battling with 2012 runner-up Richmond Hill for this year's region crown. In 2012, Ware County escaped with a 27-24 win against Richmond Hill. The Wildcats return a defense that allowed just 9.0 points-per game last season. Ware County will scrimmage Valdosta on Aug. 16 and open up against Class-AAAAAA Coffee. In the 2012 season-opener, Coffee beat Ware County 21-14 before the Gators tallied 13 straight wins.


By Craig Sager II

Watson back to lead Red Elephants 



Clemson commit Deshaun Watson gained national attention by quarterbacking the explosive Red Elephant offense to a Class AAAAA title in 2012. Gainesville jumped up two classifications from Class AAA in 2011 and spent much of the year exposing the new slate of opponents. During the championship run, Gainesville averaged 48.6 points per game in the postseason.


On the defensive side of the football, linebacker Devan Stringer returns after recording 135 tackles in 2012. At wideout is Rodney Lackey who posted 69 catches for 963 yards as a sophomore last season. Junior running back Michael Byrd is a duel threat and out of the backfield had 37 catches.


Watson masters the spread offense and he is heading into the season already holding Georgia's career records for passing yardage (9,360), all-purpose touchdowns (155) and touchdown passes (108). In 2012 he passed for 4,021 yards and rushed for 1,441. Watson become the third quarterback in state history to pass for 4,000 yards in a season and was just the second to throw 50 TD passes.


When it comes to defense however, that is the potential weakness of this team. In Gainesville's three losses last season, they gave up a combined 113 points. Flowery Branch went 8-0 in region 8-AAAAA, and Gainesville ended up second in the region. Gainesville lost its season opener to West Forsyth in 2012, and entered the playoffs at 7-3. It was then that they exploded and hit their stride. Heading into the playoffs under the radar helped them, but now the defending Class AAAAA champs will wear the target on their backs in 2013.


"It has been an exciting offseason," said head coach Bruce Miller. "We know with this schedule that the season is going to be a challenge and our focus has been there so far."


Gainesville opens up with non-region games against West Forsyth and Buford. The Red Elephants fell 32-30 to West Forsyth last season, and then had a huge 19-15 win over Buford in week 2.


West Forsyth broke the 60-point mark three times and scored 56 on another occasion. In the playoffs they beat Collins Hill 66-41 in the opening round. If you like shootouts then this is your game when Gainesville visits the Wolverines in Week 1.


Slowing down Gainesville will be the challenge in Class AAAAA this season. With Watson under center, the Elephants have the most explosive offense in the classification. Watson spreads the ball throughout the boundaries and has a complete skill set. He can make any throw and can also make plays on the ground. With a state title, almost every state record imaginable and a 2012 Class AAAAA player of the year award, it will be exciting to see what Watson can do this season. 




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