In the end, what do polls really mean? Not much when you consider that state championships are dished out on the field, not at some sports writer’s computer desk.
However, polls do make for great conversation pieces and for giving credit and recognition to players and programs that are putting something together.
In the first half of the 2020 football season, the northeast Georgia area already has had its share of programs achieve the ultimate status of being ranked No. 1 in their respective classifications.
Buford in Class 6A and Rabun County in Class 2A were preseason No. 1s in MaxPreps, the Wildcats also were the No. 1 team in the AJC poll. The Wildcats stayed there until a loss to then-Class 4A No. 2 Jefferson in Week 3. Buford dropped its opener to North Cobb and now sits second in the AJC and fourth in MaxPreps.
But now the Dragons have joined the Wolves and Wildcats as the latest area program to climb to the top of the mountain. The latest MaxPreps and Maxwell polls both have Jefferson at the top of the Class 4A heap (they are second in the AJC behind Marist).
It’s no wonder, based on the first half of the season. The 5-0 Dragons have taken down a Class 7A team (Mountain View), Class 6A Central Gwinnett, as well as two ranked teams in Rabun County and Flowery Branch (6th in AJC, 8th in MaxPreps in Class 4A).
“It is something to be proud of and gives folks something to talk about, but again it just makes sure the target on our back every week is even larger,” Jefferson coach Gene Cathcart said. “It is good for morale and reaffirms that in today’s modern ‘me-first’ football climate that a ‘we-first’ program and value system can still be successful and appreciated.”
That makes three northeast Georgia area teams that at one point so far in the season have been ranked No. 1 in their respective classification. But the area also has other teams getting some love.
Commerce is currently sitting fourth in Class A Public; Flowery Branch is sixth in Class 4A; White County was as high as seventh in Class 3A; and Dawson County, now unranked, was a preseason No. 8 in 3A and knocked off the Warriors last week.
“To have three No. 1 teams at some point from our area seems impressive to me,” Rabun County coach Jaybo Shaw said. “I think it’s a real credit to the coaching in this area. We have some tremendous coaches at every program. But it’s also a credit to the kids for buying into what the coaches are doing and working hard to be the best they can be.”
Of course, Shaw, like Cathcart, said the only poll that REALLY matters is the one at the end.
“It’s a great honor to be ranked No. 1 and have that recognition,” Shaw said. “But the only one we care about is at the end. Polls don’t mean anything if you don’t win the title.”
“Rankings are the wrapping paper and not the present,” Cathcart said. ”At a program with such a high profile, we are all aware and would be naive or like an ostrich with our head in the sand to ignore what our kids and fans read and know.
“The beauty of high school football is the thing plays out on the field. The key to make sure our Dragons understand is that nobody will remember who was ranked No. 1 at the midway point. But the legacy of who is No. 1 at the finish line will be etched in stone.”