After concluding the regular season with a 6-2 record and securing playoff wins over Milton and Walton, the Carrollton Junior High School seventh-grade Trojan football team defeated Roswell 22-12 to take the championship title for the Division A Georgia Middle School Athletic Association team Nov. 12.
The seventh-grade team is led by Trojan Hall of Famer Carnell Key as head coach, and assistant coaches J.R. Freeland, Jamie Henderson (another Trojan Hall of Famer and former NFL player), Tot Hudson, Bruce Kirby, Bill Long, and Courtland Shackleford.
The eighth-grade team fought hard in the championship Nov. 12, and ended the season as runners-up. The sixth-grade team had a great season as well but fell to North Forsyth in the semi-finals.
To participate in the sixth, seventh, or eighth grade GMSAA leagues, athletes must be students at Carrollton City Schools; however, the league is run through a partnership between the district and the Carrollton Recreation Department. Additionally, Carrollton joined the fifth-grade league this season.
The idea to join GMSAA was one of CHS head football coach Joey King’s goals when he came to Carrollton two years ago as a way to develop young players with a more competitive competition schedule.
King says the league is helping prepare young Trojans for high school football.
“A-Division is the highest level that can be played in this league,” he said. “It's the toughest classification. Our kids are playing teams primarily from Cobb and Paulding County, but they also play a few other Atlanta-area teams. Being in that league has definitely been a benefit to us as we are seeing greater competition and coaching each week. It presents quite a challenge for us, but our coaches and players have done a tremendous job leveling up and we had a very successful second year in this league.”
While 95 percent of the fifth grade team members are Carrollton Trojans, John Layng, superintendent of athletics and aquatics for the Carrollton Recreation Department, says the other 5 percent are other kids in Carroll County.
“This league really affords coaches the capacity to focus on kids individually since the groups are smaller,” said Layng. “Typically, if you’ve got a middle school football team, the sixth-graders wouldn’t have the opportunity for much playing time. But this league provides kids the chance to play with others their own age and grow as athletes.”
Layng said each team consists of approximately 30-40 players with more than 100 young student-athletes participating in the league.
Carrollton’s region counterparts for the league are Campbell, McEachern, North Paulding, and Pebblebrook — teams the Trojans will meet again as they compete as high schoolers.
King also noted that fifth grade began playing in the league this year and has dominated all season with an undefeated record. The boys will play in the championship game against Harrison league Saturday, Nov. 19.
“It has definitely been a beneficial move for us and will help greatly when it comes to total program development,” he said.
CHS Athletic Director Paul Fitz-Simons said he is excited to see the program continue to grow.
“I am looking forward to watching our kids continue to develop as athletes and to see what the future holds for this league,” he said.