Albany Herald's First Fab 5 Poll of 2012
1. Monroe (0-0)
The Tornadoes are loaded this year with key returners on both sides of the ball and will be tough to beat in or out of their region.
2. Bainbridge (0-1)
Don’t hold last week’s season-opening loss against the Bearcats to Florida state power East Gadsden. We didn’t. This team is good.
3. Lee County (0-0)
The Trojans’ fast-paced offense is a highlight factory and their defense should be much better this season, making Lee a formidable force to challenge Bainbridge for the 1-AAAAA title.
4. Americus-Sumter (0-0)
With the return of D-I prospect Bryce Benton at quarterback and the always-dangerous Jonathan Thomas leaving defenses dizzy, watch out for the Panthers as a sleeper pick to take the Region 1-AAAA crown away from early favorites Monroe and Cairo.
5. Early County ..(0-0)
With the two-headed monster of Jacori Taylor and Ladonis Bryant on offense and an always-stout defense, the Bobcats are easily one of the most dangerous teams in this area.
NOTE: Poll voted on weekly by Herald sports department. New poll will be released every Tuesday.
ALBANY — Hakeem Porter says this is going to be the best team to ever play at Monroe.
Time will tell if he’s right.
Monroe has had a couple of 10-2 teams in its history — Charles Truitt’s 2006 team, and in 1996 when Westover principal William Chunn was the head coach. But Monroe has never made it past the second round of the playoffs.
This could be the year.
The Nadas lost on the road to state-ranked Gainesville by three points in the second round last year and return 14 starters from that team, including junior Charles Stafford, one of the best quarterbacks in Georgia and a shoe-in for The Herald’s annual Dynamite Dozen squad.
Porter, a two-time Herald All-Area offensive lineman and returning Dynamite Dozen player, is one reason Monroe begins the season as the No. 1 team in The Herald’s first Fab Five Poll.
Right behind Monroe will be always-tough Bainbridge at No. 2, followed by Lee County and its high-powered offense at No. 3.
In the No. 4 slot to begin the season, The Herald ranks Americus-Sumter No. 4 as the Panthers return D-I QB recruit Bryce Benton and several playmakers on offense. And rounding out the first Fab Five Poll is Early County, which could be on the verge of one of its best seasons in years.
But there are plenty of other reasons Monroe begins No. 1, including linebacker and fellow Dynamite Dozen selection Anthony Smith and six other starters on defense — really seven if you count DB Earnest Davis, who had eight interceptions as a sophomore and then sat out last season with an injury.
Stafford has his favorite target back in Kevin Williams, who led Monroe in receptions as a junior, and an offensive line that may be the best in this part of the state.
The Nadas are loaded, and they could be tough to knock off that No. 1 perch all season.
No. 2: Bainbridge
Ed Pilcher has the most seniors (33) he’s ever had since taking over at Bainbridge five years ago, and 14 of those kids start, including both running backs, Dynamite Dozen selection Terry Lewis and Damian Bouie, who combined for almost 1,800 yards last year. The Bearcats are loaded on defense with linebacker B.J. Cheatem and defensive end Darryl McGee as the leaders of a group of players who fly to the ball and hit as hard as anyone. All those seniors are part of a group that people in Bainbridge started talking about when they were in eighth grade.
Now the wait is over.
Bainbridge lost last week to Florida powerhouse East Gadsden, which went to the state semifinals in last year, but won’t be penalized for the loss in the poll as it begins its Georgia season next week after a bye.
No. 3: Lee County
Go ahead and circle Nov. 9, the night Bainbridge and Lee County meet in the final game of the Region 1-AAAAA race and last game of the regular season. The Trojans start the season ranked No. 3 with hopes of getting back to the playoffs with a large group of seniors who played two years ago when Lee turned the program around.
No. 4: Americus-Sumter
The Panthers have been a steady playoff team after dropping down from Class AAAA to Class AAA a couple of years ago and look like a contender in the new six-class format that has all the teams from Region 1-AAA moving to Class 1-AAAA this year.
They also return Benton, the Region 1-AAA First-Team QB from a season ago who is getting looks from a host of Division I schools.
No. 5: Early County
Nobody played the run as tough as the Bobcats did last year, and most of that defensive unit is back along with quarterback and Dynamite Dozen pick Jacori Taylor and running back Ladonis Bryant. The duo is as exciting as any two Class AA players in Southwest Georgia, which is one of the main reasons Early starts in the Top 5.
Monroe, Seminole, Early all recognized in latest AP Top 10 prep poll
ATLANTA — The latest AP Top 10 prep football poll was released Tuesday, and several Southwest Georgia teams got some love.
While no team earned a Top 10 ranking at this point, Monroe got 11 votes in Class AAAA, Seminole County garnered eight votes in Class A and Early County got two votes in Class AA.