Preseason rankings: Who is No. 1?

by: Todd Holcomb\/AJC.com Updated:

ATLANTA - Reigning state champions Grayson, Calhoun and Savannah Christian start the 2012 ranked No. 1 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s preseason high school football rankings.

Perennial contenders Northside-Warner Robins, Sandy Creek and Peach County also will start No. 1 for a football season that begins this week with 50 games. Most Georgia teams will open Aug. 31.

Grayson returns nine starters on defense from a 15-0 team led by AJC Super 11 defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s consensus No. 1 college prospect. The Rams are ranked in the top 10 of several national polls and are No. 1 in Georgia’s new Class AAAAAA, as the state has added a sixth classification.

In AAAAA, Northside will start No. 1 as the Warner Robins school bids for a 15th straight season of at least 10 victories. Tucker, the AAAA champion in 2011, is No. 2 under new coach Bryan Lamar, followed by Tucker’s new Region 6 rival M.L. King, a 2011 region champion that dropped into the second-highest class this year.

The top team in AAAA is Sandy Creek, which won state titles in 2009 and 2010. No. 2 is Burke County, the 2011 state champion in AAA.

The AAA No. 1 is Peach County, a state runner-up to Burke last season. Buford, moving up from AA, is No. 2. This is the first season that the Wolves have not started No. 1 since 2006.

Calhoun, which beat nemesis Buford last year to win its first state title in 59 years last season, is No. 1 in AA. Calhoun has won 53 straight games when not playing Buford, which has moved out of Calhoun’s classification.

In Class A, there will be separate state championships played for public and private schools, but they will play in one class during the regular season and be ranked together in one class.

Savannah Christian, a private school that won its first-ever state title in the GHSA last year, is No. 1. The top-rated public school is Lincoln County, at No. 3. Lincoln has been eliminated in the state playoffs each of the past three seasons by Savannah Christian.

CLASS AAAAAA

1. Grayson
2. Colquitt County
3. Camden County
4. Walton
5. Lassiter
6. Lowndes
7. Lovejoy
8. Alpharetta
9. North Gwinnett
10. Valdosta

CLASS AAAAA

1. Northside-Warner Robins
2. Tucker
3. M.L. King
4. Kell
5. Stephenson
6. Warner Robins
7. East Paulding
8. Gainesville
9. Thomas County Central
10. Flowery Branch

CLASS AAAA

1. Sandy Creek
2. Burke County
3. Carrollton
4. Marist
5. Cairo
6. Statesboro
7. Griffin
8. Stephens County
9. Jonesboro
10. Dalton

CLASS AAA

1. Peach County
2. Buford
3. Carver-Columbus
4. St. Pius
5. North Oconee
6. Thomson
7. Cedar Grove
8. Elbert County
9. Washington County
10. Blessed Trinity

CLASS AA

1. Calhoun
2. Fitzgerald
3. Brooks County
4. Cook
5. Lamar County
6. Dublin
7. Lovett
8. Greater Atlanta Christian
9. Westminster
10. Vidalia

CLASS A

1. Savannah Christian
2. Eagle’s Landing Christian
3. Lincoln County
4. Landmark Christian
5. Wilcox County
6. Wilkinson County
7. Charlton County
8. Aquinas
9. Emanuel County Institute
10. Darlington