Virtually no team at any level in any sport, is where it wishes it was.
They all want to get to the top, but by definition, there’s precious little room there. Only a few teams can be elite, while most are forever fighting to better themselves.
In northeast Georgia, the top of the high school football heap has been occupied by the same handful of teams for the better part of the last 10 years. Gainesville and North Hall have taken turns as the kings of the hill in 7-AAA (now 8-AAA), Jefferson seized command of 8-AA with back-to-back titles, and Buford has reigned over all of Class AA as the undisputed team of the decade.
Each year a new crop of challengers arises, eager to earn their spot at the top — or at least closer to it.
Here’s a look a few of this year’s teams with a chance to stride upward in 2010.
WHITE COUNTY: The Warriors edged closer to the top of Region 7-AAA each of the last two seasons, finishing 6-4 in 2008 and 7-3 and 2009. But their only playoff game since 2001 remains the first-round, overtime loss to Carver-Atlanta in 2007.
Coach Gregg Segraves’ bunch is a popular pick in to earn a postseason berth this year in the newly remade Region 8-AAA.
Do-it-all athlete Ashely Lowery is a big reason why. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound running back/safety committed to Kentucky this summer after accounting for more than 1,100 yards of offense and 13 touchdowns last season.
He’ll be complemented by big, physical fronts on the offensive and defensive lines and a 6-4 sophomore quarterback in Cole Segraves who made a splash late in his freshman season.
Until somebody proves otherwise, North Hall remains the team to beat in Region 8-AAA North. If any team in 2010 is going to dethrone the Trojans, the Warriors might have the best chance.
LUMPKIN COUNTY: With in-house competition including North Hall, White County, Stephens County, Franklin County and Chestatee, Rising to the top of the 8-AAA North won’t be easy. But the Indians don’t need a huge leap forward. After three straight seasons hovering around the .500 mark, a small step forward could land Lumpkin in the mix for a playoff berth.
They may have the talent to do it. Taylor Guthrie is back at quarterback after passing for 734 yards and rushing for 465 last season, and 230-pound Michael Flanagan found a home at fullback last season where he rushed for 446 yards (9.5 yards per carry).
Flanagan is also a starter on the defensive line after he combined with Jonathan Whitehead and B.J. Dorsey last season for 17 1/2 sacks.
DAWSON COUNTY: 2005 probably feels like a lot longer than five years ago to coach Jeff Lee and the Tigers.
Since their last winning season that year, they’ve compiled just nine wins, including a 1-9 mark in 2009.
But when Lee says he “forsees us being successful,” he may not be overly optimistic.
Dawson County returns nine starters on both offense and defense, including a pair of experienced quarterbacks, their top two rushers from last year and one of the area’s top offensive linemen.
With four of its six teams coming off losing seasons, the north half of Region 8-AA is expected to be wide open and few, if any, teams return as much experience as the Tigers.
EAST HALL: When you’ve only won three games in three years, up is just about the only direction you can go.
But that’s not the only reason the Vikings could be a team on the rise in 2010.
For starters, they’ll boast a pair of Division-I recruits (Sterling Bailey and Chaz Cheeks) on defense. They’ll also have the benefit of dropping down to Class AA where they’ll play in the same subregion as Dawson County, avoiding the half of 8-AA that houses 2009 playoff teams Jefferson, Hart County, Elbert County, North Oconee and East Jackson. For the last two years, the Vikings have struggled against 7-AAA, which sent four teams to the state semifinals in the last three seasons.
With 10 starters back on offense and nine on defense, the Vikings could fight for a playoff berth.