After six seasons of success in Class AAA competition, the Golden Lions will be moving up a classification and joining Region 6-AAAA.
“We’re very blessed to be in a great county with great coaches and great players,” St. Pius coach Paul Standard said. “We’re moving up to what I think is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, 4A region in the state. There are great teams and coaches so we’re honored to be in that region and certainly hoping to get in there and compete.”
“I think we can handle 4A because we used to be there,” St. Pius senior quarterback Joey Connors said.
With the move, the Golden Lions will go from battling Towers, McNair, Cedar Grove and Decatur to facing Lithonia, Chamblee, Arabia Mountain, Stone Mountain, Redan, Columbia and Marist.
“I’m looking forward to the Marist game in the fish bowl,” Connors said. “We are the two Catholic schools in our region and it’s just always a battle whenever we play.”
On Oct. 10, the Golden Lions will meet Marist for the first time since 2009. Despite trailing the overall series 15-30, St. Pius convincingly won the last two matchups.
Last season, the Golden Lions earned a 9-4 record en route to advancing to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Along with Connors, senior fullback Dalton Wilson is back to try to lead St. Pius to its eighth consecutive winning season. Connors rushed for 779 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, while Wilson collected 984 rushing yards and 15 TDs.
“We had a great run up to this point and want to continue to do that,” said Standard, who has a 117-41 record heading into his 14th season as head coach.
Leading tacklers, Brian O’Reilly, Garrett Gooden and Forest Whitlark are back for a defense, which was led by Daniel Crochet, Kevin O’Toole and Nick Ruffin, who signed with Auburn, in 2013.