Region play begins this week in loaded 5-AAAAAA
Only two region games in Class AAAAAA have been played this season, but that’s about to change as 5-AAAAAA and 7-AAAAAA begin region play in earnest this weekend.
On Tuesdays over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at the playoff outlooks for every team as region play kicks off (or shortly after it starts). We begin today with Region 5, one of the strongest in the classification.
Six teams are off to great starts, and at least two of them won’t make the playoffs (only four teams per region qualify for the postseason). In fact, the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-place finishers probably will be a lot better than several teams that make the playoffs out of other regions.
Here’s a closer look at each of the teams in 5-AAAAAA, broken down by playoff likelihood, in alphabetical order within each group:
*Creekside: The Seminoles were ranked No. 6 this week in the AJC poll after routing previously unbeaten Southwest DeKalb to improve to 2-0. Creekside made the playoffs 11 times in the past 12 seasons and won a state championship in 2013 with a 15-0 record. A win over Northgate on Sept. 16 probably puts Creekside at 3-0 in the region and in contention for the title.
*Mays: The Raiders are the only one of the top six teams listed here that have lost a game, but that was a 35-34 contest against Class AAAAA No. 2 Stockbridge. Last week, they rallied for an impressive 36-32 win over AAAAAAA Peachtree Ridge. Mays was 10-2 last year and state runner-up in 2014. The Raiders’ game against Hughes this week will tell us a lot about both teams.
*Northgate: The Vikings have the highest ranking of any Region 5 team, coming in at No. 5 in this week’s AJC poll. They have two relatively close victories – 10-0 over Veterans and 34-17 over Starr’s Mill – but have been dealing with injury issues. Northgate returns a lot of offensive talent from a team that went 12-2 and lost to Allatoona in the state semifinals last year.
In the hunt
*Alexander: The Cougars won eight games each of the past three seasons but have come up short against the top teams in their region. Last year, they lost to champion Allatoona 35-14 and runner-up South Paulding 33-14, although they’ve already avenged the loss to Allatoona this season. They’ll have plenty of chances against good teams in this region and will need to win a couple of them.
*Douglas County: The Tigers are the biggest wildcard among the top six teams. There was no reason to think they would be contenders after going 2-8 in the highest classification last year, but they have turned some heads with a 2-0 start, particularly after a 39-13 win over Carver-Columbus last week. Still, they likely face the biggest uphill climb of any of the likely contenders.
*Hughes: The Panthers were playoff regulars in the highest classification the past four years, and there’s no reason to think they won’t make it again this year. It’s difficult to know what to make of their 2-0 start – a 44-6 victory over a Mundy’s Mill team that appears a bit down this year, and a 10-9 win over Westlake in a game that was called in the third quarter because of the weather.
Not this year
*New Manchester: New Manchester is in its fifth full season and has won at least five games each of the past three, even earning a playoff berth in 2014. But the Jaguars are 0-2, with losses to Paulding County and Heard County, and probably don’t have enough to be in contention in this loaded region.
*South Paulding: The Spartans won at least eight games each of the past three seasons but appear to have taken a big step back this year. South Paulding is 0-2, with surprisingly lopsided losses to county rivals North Paulding and Hiram. It won’t get any easier, as the Spartans’ first four opponents in region play are a combined 8-0.
*Tri-Cities: The best stretch the Bulldogs have had came from 2010 to 2012, when they reached the playoffs three consecutive seasons, although they were just 4-6 heading into the 2012 postseason. They were 6-4 in 2014 and 2015 but are off to an 0-2 start and unlikely to end their playoff drought this year.
Next week: Region 7-AAAAAA