Pollsters off the mark with Whitewater
The state playoffs have reached the semifinals. Is it what we thought?
Only 19 of the 28 semifinal were ranked in the final regular-season poll, but just one team - Whitewater - didn't spend at least one week in the Top 10 during the season.
To objectively measure our surprise, we came up with a "confidence rating" that expresses our expectation that a team might make the semifinals. The formula considers preseason ranking, final regular-season ranking and total weeks in the rankings. If you're mathematically inclined, the formula goes like this:
N = 3 x [(11 - preseason ranking) + (11 - final regular-season ranking) + total weeks in the rankings]
The most points a team can get (meaning no surprise) is 99. The least is 0.
To make for fair comparisons, we listed the Class A teams separately because they played only two rounds instead of three.
Note that preseason No. 1 teams Northside, Sandy Creek and Calhoun are still alive. Only twice in history has more than two AJC preseason No. 1 teams won state titles. Those were 2001 (Parkview, Statesboro, Buford) and 2006 (Peach County, Charlton County, Lincoln County). Preseason polls began around 1970.
1. Whitewater (confidence rating: 0)
Despite a 12-1 record and Region 4-AAAAA championship, Whitewater is the only semifinal team that has not been ranked this season. The Wildcats have been ranked only three weeks in school history, which began in 2004. The reason for this year's snub was Whitewater's schedule. Until the quarterfinals, Whitewater had not played a team that was ranked at any point this season. The Wildcats proved themselves with a 24-3 victory over No. 10 Allatoona.
2. North Cobb (6)
North Cobb was not ranked in the preseason or final regular-season AAAAAA rankings but did spend three weeks at No. 6 after a 49-17 victory over 2011 state runner-up Walton. The Warriors - who hadn't won a playoff game since 1979 - were written off after a 27-26 loss to South Cobb on Oct. 5, which was followed two weeks later by a 49-17 loss to McEachern.
3. North Hall (9)
The Trojans were ranked for two weeks this season but were jinxed by the honor, as they lost their next game both times - to Jefferson on Sept. 14 and Buford on Nov. 9. Last week, North Hall blew out the preseason No. 1 team in AAA, Peach County, 52-10.
4. Ridgeland (12)
Ridgeland lost its opener to No. 1 Calhoun of Class AA 42-35 but has won 12 consecutive games. The Panthers finally made the rankings on Nov. 5 with an 8-1 record and entered the playoffs ranked No. 9. They have scored at least 35 points in all 13 games.
5. Monroe Area (21)
Monroe Area broke into the rankings after a 4-0 start and got as high as No. 4 but lost 35-0 in the final game of the regular season to Eastside. Region 8-AAAA had been clinched, so there was no harm, except that the Purple Hurricanes fell out of the GHSF Daily/AJC rankings. The Associated Press kept them at No. 9.
6. Ware County (21)
Ware lost to Coffee 21-14 in its opener and didn't make the AAAAA rankings until Nov. 5 with an 8-1 record. The Gators stood No. 6 entering the playoffs. They beat No. 9 Stephenson 14-0 in the quarterfinals in their first game against a ranked opponent above Class A this season.
7. Jefferson (27)
Jefferson lost to a mediocre Class A team, Commerce, 22-7 in the opener. If not for that, Jefferson probably would've been ranked No. 3 entering the playoffs. As it stood, the Dragons got in the rankings Oct. 7 after beating previously unbeaten Washington-Wilkes and finished at No. 7. Jefferson beat No. 4 Fitzgerald 53-51 in the quarterfinals.
8. Gainesville (45)
Gainesville was ranked No. 8 in preseason, and it would've been higher except for concern that the Red Elephants were moving up two classifications to AAAAA. They remained ranked after losing their opener to AAAAAA West Forsyth but were dumped after losing their final two regular-season games, one to 2-8 Loganville.
9. Greater Atlanta Christian (48)
GAC was ranked No. 8 in preseason and No. 9 in the final regular-season AA rankings. The Spartans fell out briefly after losing to Chamblee in overtime on Sept. 13 but remained ranked after losing to No. 1 Thomson on Oct. 5 and No. 10 Lovett on Nov. 9.
10. Cartersville (48)
There were only 13 undefeated teams after the regular season, but Cartersville - coming off a 5-5 season - was ranked only No. 6 in AAA entering the playoffs. The Purple Hurricanes had not played a ranked team. They finally got to see one last week in No. 1 Thomson. Cartersville won 21-13.
11. Norcross (57)
The Associated Press saw something in Norcross in preseason that GHSF Daily did not and ranked the Blue Devils No. 6 in AAAAAA. Norcross remained unranked in the AJC poll until a 2-0 start. The Blue Devils were ranked No. 2 in both polls entering the playoffs. Norcross is in the semifinals for the first time.
12. Lovejoy (63)
Lovejoy moved from AAAA into the highest classification and was unranked in the AP's preseason poll but started and finished at No. 7 in the AJC poll and remained ranked all 13 weeks. The Wildcats fell back for a time after losing to Colquitt County on Sept. 8.
13. Colquitt County (66)
Coming off three consecutive semifinal appearances in the highest class, Colquitt was ranked No. 2 in preseason. The Packers lost their third game on Oct. 27 but controversially remained ranked by GHSF Daily/AJC when abandoned by the AP poll. The Packers entered the playoffs at No. 9. They've made their fourth straight semifinal, something no school has done in the highest class since Valdosta in 1971.
14. St. Pius (72)
St. Pius started No. 4 and finished No. 7 and remained ranked all 13 weeks in AAA despite close losses to Thomson on Sept. 14 and Woodward Academy on Oct. 26. The Lions beat No. 4 Washington County 40-35 in the quarterfinals.
15. Lamar County (75)
Lamar started No. 5 in AA (No. 2 by the AP), dropped to No. 9 after the opening-game tie with Spalding, and slowly crept back to No. 5 entering the playoffs. The Trojans beat No. 8 Lovett 35-28 in the quarterfinals.
16. Marist (87)
Marist started No. 4 but was promoted to No. 2 after the first game because of upsets to Burke County and Carrollton. Marist remained No. 2 the rest of the way despite a loss to AAAAA Thomas County Central. Marist beat No. 10 Carrollton (the preseason No. 3) in the second round and current No. 4 Stockbridge in the quarterfinals.
17. Buford (90)
Despite moving up in class and graduating 21 of 24 starters, Buford started No. 2 (breaking a five-year streak of starting No. 1) and finished No. 3 in the regular season. Buford lost early to Gainesville of AAAAA and had two victories overturned by forfeit for the inadvertent use of an ineligible player. Neither affected the rankings much. Buford has made six consecutive semifinals.
18. Northside-Warner Robins (99)
Northside was ranked No. 1 in AAAAA from start to finish in the regular season. The AP ranked 2011 AAAA champion Tucker No. 1 in preseason. Northside defeated Tucker 23-20 in the quarterfinals.
19. Sandy Creek (99)
Sandy Creek was ranked No. 1 in AAAA from start to finish in the regular season. Sandy Creek led from wire to wire in 2010 in winning a state championship.
20. Calhoun (99)
Calhoun has been ranked No. 1 in AA from start to finish. Calhoun, the 2011 AA champion, was ranked No. 1 in preseason for the first time.
1. Dooly County (3)
Dooly spent one week in the rankings after a 2-0 start but didn't return after a loss to Wilcox County. Dooly didn't win its region but did get a No. 5 seed.
2. George Walton Academy (12)
George Walton spent four weeks in the rankings but finished unranked after a 7-3 regular season. George Walton beat No. 10 and previously unbeaten Walker 37-7 in the quarterfinals.
3. Prince Avenue Christian (27)
Prince Avenue spent nine of 13 weeks in the rankings but finished unranked after an 8-2 finish. Prince Avenue avenged one of those losses last week with a 24-7 victory over No. 3 Athens Academy.
4. Landmark Christian (30)
Landmark, the 2011 runner-up, was No. 3 in preseason but dropped out after an opening loss to Calvary Day. Landmark beat No. 8 Calvary Day 38-24 in the first round.
5. Emanuel County Institute (69)
ECI was No. 9 in preseason (unranked by AP) and No. 2 (No. 4 AP) after a 9-1 finish, its only loss to Washington County of AAA.
6. Wilcox County (69)
Wilcox County was No. 5 in preseason and No. 5 at the end of the season bounced wildly, getting as high as No. 2 and dropping out altogether for two weeks during an 8-2 season.
7. Lincoln County (81)
Lincoln County started No. 3 and finished No. 4 and stayed in the rankings throughout despite a loss to AA Washington-Wilkes that dropped the Red Devils to No. 9 for a week.
8. Eagle's Landing Christian (96)
ELCA was ranked No. 2 in preseason (No. 1 in AP), dropped to No. 3 (No. 6 in AP) after a loss to AAA Washington County, but got the No. 1 ranking on Sept. 11 and held it until the end.