No. 1 North Augusta (67)

The Yellow Jackets (2-0) have been a staple at the top of this poll in recent years, but with a new head coach and the loss of several key contributors from last season, there were very real questions about how they would fare this season. So far, the answers have been extremely positive.

The Yellow Jackets haven’t just won both of their games to start the season, they’ve improved throughout and shown mettle in the face of significant challenges. Should they continue in this direction it should be another successful season in North Augusta.

Up Next: Bye

No. 2 Strom Thurmond (65)

Like the Yellow Jackets, the Rebels (1-0) had the daunting task of trying to replace star players in addition to the winningest coach in program history. But Antwuan Hillary, a former Strom Thurmond player and longtime assistant, has gotten off to a good start. The Rebels won in Week Zero and had their bye last week as they look to maintain the high standard they’ve set in the past decade.

Up Next: at Silver Bluff

No. 3 Midland Valley (49)

Coming into this season, there was more enthusiasm around the Mustangs (0-1) than any other area program. Last Friday, they led the Yellow Jackets at the half before struggling down the stretch. In spite of the loss, Midland Valley still has the promise of being one of the area’s best teams if it can fix some of the mistakes it made but it won’t be easy against another Class AAAA team this Friday.

Up Next: vs. South Aiken

No. 4 Williston-Elko (48)

The Blue Devils (1-1) also have a new head coach who was an assistant for several winning seasons, and Derek Youngblood’s experience has helped make his transition successful. The Blue Devils lost a close game against a highly-ranked Bamberg-Ehrhardt team before pulling out a narrow win over Silver Bluff, playing tremendous defense in both contests – something that could lead to another big season in Williston.

Up Next: at Barnwell

No. 4 Aiken (48)

The Hornets (1-1) have shown tremendous improvement this season, overcoming a tough loss to Strom Thurmond in Week Zero – where their mistakes doomed them – to last week’s win over crosstown rival South Aiken, where they rose above their errors for a win that snapped an eight-game losing skid and was their first win over the Thoroughbreds since 2011. If the Hornets can continue to make winning plays, this could be the programs best season in a number of years.

Up Next: Bye

No. 6 South Aiken (26)

While the outcome of last week’s loss to Aiken wasn’t what the T-Breds (0-1) were looking for in their season opener, there were a lot of positives to take from the overall performance. The defense seems very sound and has a superlative playmaker in Rasool Clemons while the offense has explosive potential – the challenge will be turning flashes into steady production.

Up Next: at Midland Valley

No. 7 Wagener-Salley (24)

The War Eagles (1-0) lost a lot of players who were major contributors last season and have to replace them with several inexperienced newcomers to the varsity squad. This rebuilding season got off to a good start last week when the War Eagles beat Bethune-Bowman and have something positive to build on and rally around as they continue to grow.

Up Next: at Ridge Spring-Monetta

No. 8 Silver Bluff (22)

Perhaps no team lost more contributors than the Bulldogs (0-2), who are trying to rebuild after a run to the Class AA, Division II Lower State championship last season. It has been a slow start for the Bulldogs, as they’re trying to make the Wing-T offense click. If anybody can get a team to grow it’s longtime head coach Al Lown and his coaching staff, but there might be more losses – more than the folks at The Bluff are used to – before Silver Bluff turns the corner and figures things out.

Up Next: vs. Strom Thurmond

No. 9 Ridge Spring-Monetta (19)

The Trojans (0-1) had a mixed bag in their season-opening loss to Saluda. In spite of any mistakes, they show potential and should be a tough team to face in Class A.

Up Next: vs. Wagener-Salley

No. 10 Fox Creek (17)

The Predators (0-1) suffered a loss in Week Zero but had a bye last week as they prepare to face a very good Augusta Christian team as they try to retain their trophy in “The Battle for the Paddle.” It won’t be easy, but if they can get enough contributions from a mix of established players and newcomers the Predators could be a factor this season.

Up Next: at Augusta Christian

What do the rankings mean?

The Aiken Standard power rankings is a system designed by our sports staff to rank the strength of the 10 area high school football teams. Seven voters – Noah Feit (sports editor), Jeremy Timmerman (sports writer), Eric Russell (sports writer), Scott Rodgers (North Augusta Star news editor), T.J. Lundeen (North Augusta Star staff writer), Ed Girardeau (Game of the week play-by-play voice) and Ken Brace (Game of the week analyst) – ranked each team 1-10, based on the teams’ strength within their class. Ranking Williston-Elko ahead of Aiken, for example, isn’t a prediction that the Blue Devils would win the head-to-head battle between those two clubs, but instead an indication of the voters’ belief that Williston-Elko is a bigger force within Class A than Aiken is within Class AAA. A team received 10 points for a first-place vote, nine for a second-place vote, eight for a third place vote, etc. The votes were then tallied, and the teams were put in order based on their point totals. A new poll will be released every Monday throughout the season.

Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 15 years after graduating from Syracuse University.