Centennial, Alpharetta (despite loss) the top playoff contenders in Region 7

Article and photos courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution –> Original Article Here

(Daniel Varnado/Special to AJC)

(Daniel Varnado/Special to AJC)

Centennial picked up the biggest victory in the opening weekend of region play in 7-AAAAAA with a 31-30 overtime win against an Alpharetta team that was projected in the preseason by the computer Maxwell Ratings as the favorite to win the region title.

The Knights are joined in first place by Cambridge, Dunwoody and Johns Creek after one week of region play.

On Tuesdays over the next few weeks, we’re taking a look at the playoff outlooks for every Class AAAAAA team as region play kicks off (or shortly after it starts). We continue today with Region 7. Two other regions – 4-AAAAAA and 6-AAAAAA – also begin region play in earnest this weekend, and we’ll examine them in the next two weeks.

Here’s a closer look at each of the Region 7 teams, broken down by playoff likelihood, in alphabetical order within each group:

Safest bets

*Alpharetta: Despite their loss to Centennial, the Raiders remain a strong candidate for one of the top spots in the region. Alpharetta won region championships in 2011, 2013 and 2014 in the highest classification and reached the playoffs five consecutive seasons before dropping to 5-5 last year. The Raiders need to bounce back this weekend against Northview before taking a week off.

*Centennial: The Knights’ win over Alpharetta was a great start to region play, but they play two of the other top contenders in their next two games when Johns Creek and Cambridge visit. Centennial hasn’t had a winning season since 2007, although it was 5-5 the past two years, and hasn’t won a region title since 2002, but victories in its next two games would put Centennial in the driver’s seat.

In the hunt

*Cambridge: The Bears began their football program in 2012 and are still seeking their first trip to the playoffs, but they were so close each of the past two seasons. Cambridge was 7-2 both years heading into the Region 7-AAAAA play-in game but was denied a trip to the playoffs by Creekview (45-28 in 2014 and 14-0 in 2015). Expect the Bears to be close again, and maybe get over the hump.

*Dunwoody: The Wildcats of DeKalb County appear to be the wildcard in this Fulton-dominated region. They lost their opener to Class AAAAAAA Lakeside-DeKalb before bouncing back with wins over Chamblee and North Atlanta. If they can beat Chattahoochee and Northview the next two weeks, they’ll be in position to at least challenge against a tough second-half schedule.

*Johns Creek: The Gladiators opened the season with a 27-13 loss to Class AAAAAAA No. 6 Lassiter but rebounded with a 28-21 win over North Forsyth, another highest-classification team. Johns Creek cruised past Pope in the region-opener last week. Now it faces a tough three-game stretch of Centennial, Northview and Cambridge that will tell us a lot more about its playoff chances.

*Northview: The Titans began playing football in 2002 and didn’t reach the playoffs until 2014, but now they’ve been two years in a row and probably have a hunger for more. Northview opened the season with non-region losses to Lanier and Winder-Barrow, and its home game against Alpharetta this week will be its first region contest. Northview beat Alpharetta 41-14 last season.

Not this year

*Chattahoochee: The Cougars won a state title in 2010 but have struggled since, reaching the playoffs just twice, with one postseason victory. They bottomed out last year at 1-9. Chattahoochee picked up a good win when it beat Class AAAAAAA Rockdale County 21-0 on Aug. 26, but the Cougars gave up 102 points in losses to Pickens and Cambridge.

*North Atlanta: The Warriors have been playing football since 1991 and reached the playoffs just twice, in 1992 and 1996. Their 4-6 record in 2015, their first season under head coach Jeremy Gainer, was their best since 2010. North Atlanta played it close in a 14-10 loss to Dunwoody last week, but it’s unlikely the Warriors have made enough progress yet to reach the playoffs.

*Pope: The Greyhounds are in the midst of a 15-game losing streak and are 5-28 since the start of the 2013 season. Pope gave up an average of 47 points per game in season-opening losses to Lassiter (42-21), Walton (59-33) and Johns Creek (39-13), and a visit from Cambridge this week won’t make things any easier. Pope just needs to get a win, any win, and go from there.

***

Next week: Region 4-AAAAAA

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