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High School Football: The 2014 Season Is Just Around The Corner: A few burning questions

Original Publish Date: 
August 16, 2014

By Walter Johnson II

Metro Contributing Sports Writer

 

It only seems like yesterday that both the Westover Patriots and Lee County Trojans were celebrating region championships and advancing to the state playoffs.

The 2013 season saw the Patriots win the GHSA Region 1-AAAA championship—their first-ever region title, while the Trojans from Leesburg claimed the Region 1-AAAAA title—only their second region crown in the 43-year history of their program.  But now, the focus has turned to 2014. Both schools not only will find themselves in much-tougher regions, but also finding the challenge to just get back to postseason plays that much harder, never mind trying to make a deep playoff run.

That’s something neither program has been accustomed to over the years, actually. Prior to their region championship run last season, the Patriots deepest postseason run came in 2007, when they lost to Chamblee in the GHSA Class AAA state quarterfinals to finish 8-5 overall.

Having said that, let’s quickly focus on five questions heading into this high school football season.

1. How will the Lee County Trojans adjust to playing in GHSA Region 1-AAAAAA?

The Lee County Trojans are coming off one of their best seasons in nearly a decade, winning the GHSA Region 1-AAAAA title in stunning fashion in the final week of the regular season. The clinched the No. 1 seed for the state playoffs only when Thomas County Central lost to Harris County on that same November 8 Friday night last season.

But now, the Trojans find themselves competing in what many observers call the “SEC of Georgia high school football”, in GHSA Region 1-AAAAAA, with perennial powers such as Colquitt County, Lowndes, Valdosta, and Camden County playing them on a regular basis this year and next.

The last time that Lee County competed in the state’s largest classification (AAAAA was the largest group back then) was from 2000-2003.  During that four-year span, sadly, the Trojans compiled a dismal 7-33 mark.  Perhaps the Trojans fortunes in AAAAAA will be much better this time around.

2. What impact will a recently realigned GHSA Region 1-AAAA have on Dougherty County’s four public high school teams?

Thanks to a surprise last-minute move in the GHSA reclassification process earlier this year, both Bainbridge and Thomas County Central were allowed to move down from Class AAAAA, over the objections of officials from both the Dougherty and Worth County school systems, respectively.

As far as the impact this move will have on Albany area teams—namely the four high schools that make up the Dougherty County School System—it will be much tougher for them to advance to the state playoffs than in year’s past. If that wasn’t enough, the four public high school squads from Dougherty County won’t play against each other unlike in years past, thanks to the new alignment.

If there’s one positive to the new-look Region 1-AAAA, it’s that the DCSS quartet, as well as the neighboring Worth County Rams, will have the chance to at least play their way into the state playoffs. That’s thanks to the new “play-in” round on November 7, where the No. 1 seeds from both subregions will play each other for the overall region title, while the No. 2 seed from one division will face the No. 3 seed from the other.

And just in case you’re not familiar as to which teams are in which subregion, here’s a quick primer. Albany, Cairo, Crisp County, Monroe, and Thomas County Central will play in Subregion A, while Americus-Sumter, Bainbridge, Dougherty, Westover, and Worth County will make up Subregion B.

3. What about teams in the smaller classifications?

Let’s not forget the ripple effect that the recent GHSA reclassification has had on teams in Classes AAA, AA, and A, OK.

Case in point, the Cook Hornets out of Adel. After spending many years in Class AA, the Hornets were sent up to Class AAA for football, while competing at the Class AAAA for other sports. But here, it’s all about all the football, as Cook will compete in Subregion A of Region 1-AAA, where teams like Appling County, Pierce County, and Dodge County will await the Hornets this fall. Needless to say, they’ll have to tough row to hoe in trying to advance to the state playoffs for the 15th straight year.

Because of Cook’s departure to Class AAA, Region 1-AA saw a slight change in its make-up, with Seminole County moving up from Class A to replace the Hornets.  The Indians from Donalsonville—who have advanced to postseason for five straight years—will play in one of the toughest regions anywhere in the state, joining perennial powers such as Brooks County and Fitzgerald, among other teams.

 

Finally, the departure of Seminole County leaves Region 1-A with seven schools: Baconton Charter, Calhoun County, Miller County, Mitchell County, Randolph-Clay, Stewart County, and Terrell County. Of those teams, only Mitchell County finished the 2013 season with a winning record, as the Eagles finished 6-5 overall, losing a 17-12 heartbreaker to Hawkinsville in the first round of the Class A public school playoffs.

4. How will the Terrell Academy’s and Westwood’s of the world measure up of the Deerfield-Windsor’s of the world? Or the Valwood’s for that matter?

Over the last six years, three Southwest Georgia schools: Deerfield-Windsor of Albany, Terrell Academy of Dawson, and Westwood of Camilla have combined to win seven GISA state championships.

The Knights won the GISA Class AAA state title in 2008, 2010, and 2012, to go with their 2002 crown, while both Terrell Academy and Westwood have combined for four straight championships between them—in Class A.  The Eagles won their back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009, while the Wildcats followed suit in 2010 and 2011.

But now, thanks to the departure of Macon’s “Big Four” private schools—FPD, Mount De Sales, Stratford, and Tattnall Square to the GHSA—Deerfield, Terrell Academy, and Westwood were all forced into a new-look Region 3-AAA—which includes a Valwood program that has compiled a combined 26-1 overall record over the last two years, including an undefeated 2012 season that ended with the Valiants capturing the Class AA state crown.

Having said that, it appears that Deerfield, Terrell, and Westwood will all face some serious challenges this year and next—at least.

5. How will Sherwood Christian adjust to playing in the new GICAA?

After 20-plus years of playing in the GISA—mostly years of struggle—the Sherwood Christian Academy Eagles will join the fledgling Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association (GICAA) this season.

Since their first full varsity season in 1994, wins have been very hard to come by for SCA, with winless seasons that are likely too many to count. Their lone region title came in 2009, with the Eagles taking home the GISA Region 3-AA title en route to a 7-3 overall record. Perhaps joining a new organization like the GICAA will give the Eagles a much-needed jumpstart.

But as the old saying goes: “Only time will tell.”

For the most up-to-date high school football coverage, please visit the High School Football Roundup Blog athttp://hsfbroundup.tumblr.com/. You can also follow HSFR on Twitter @swganetwork.