The playoffs start in three regions this week and all leagues will determine their representatives for the state tournament on Friday night.
Regions 6, 7 and 8, three leagues that are subdivided, all opted for a play-in system. This has become a popular way to determine state playoff participants, since it makes it more equitable in the instance that one subregion is stronger than the other.
Under play-in rules, the subregion champions are both guaranteed spots in the playoffs and a first-round playoff game at home; the No. 1 teams meet to determine first place. The No. 2 teams then crossover and play the No. 3 team from the other side, with the winners moving onto the state playoffs. The other teams in the subregions then match up according to their regular-season finish, but without any playoff implications.
Here’s a look at the way the playoffs shape up going into the final week of the regular season.
Region 1-AA: No. 3-ranked Fitzgerald is the champion and No. 10-ranked Brooks County is No. 2; each gets a first-round playoff game at home. Thomasville will finish third if it beats Berrien on Friday and Cook will finish fourth.
Region 2-AA: No. 6 Appling County and Pierce County meet Friday in Blackshear for the regular-season championship. McIntosh County Academy and Tattnall County meet in Reidsville on Friday, with the winner taking third and the loser finishing fourth.
Region 3-AA: Despite losing its first game a week ago, Dublin will win the region with a victory over winless Southeast Bulloch. Bleckley County needs to beat Jefferson County to retain the No. 2 seed. Laney and Jefferson County are currently tied for third, but Dodge County is still in the picture depending on how everything shakes out.
Region 4-AA: No. 9 Lamar County has nailed down the region championship and could post the school’s first unbeaten season with a win over Monticello. Lamar won its first nine games in 2002, but lost to Albany in the season finale. Putnam County is the No. 2 team after last week’s win over Northeast Macon. Morgan County and Northeast are tied for third; if both win their final game, Morgan would finish third based on its 21-0 win over Northeast on Sept. 23.
Region 5-AA: No. 5 Carver Columbus can clinch first place with a win at Temple on Friday. If favored Carver wins, Callaway would be the No. 2 team and Temple would drop all the way to fourth, if Heard County beats Manchester. Heard beat Temple 33-21 on Oct. 7, giving the Braves the head-to-head advantage.
Region 6-AA: Division A champion Buford, the No. 1-ranked team in the state, plays at Division B champion Blessed Trinity to determine the No. 1 spot in the playoffs; the loser will be the runner-up and both get first-round home games. The other play-in games feature No. 4-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian at Lovett and Decatur at Westminster. The play-in winners advance to the state playoffs, while the loser is eliminated.
Region 7-AA: Division A champion Pepperell plays at Division B champion No. 2-ranked Calhoun to determine the region champion at the No. 1 seed; the loser will be the runner-up and both get first-round home games. The other play-in games include Armuchee at Gordon Central and Adairsville at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. The play-in winners advance to the state playoffs, while the loser is eliminated.
Region 8-AA: North Division winner Banks County plays South Division winner and No. 7-ranked North Oconee, with the winner entering the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. The other play-in games feature Jefferson at Dawson County and No. 8-ranked Elbert County at East Hall. The play-in winners advance to the playoffs, while the loser is eliminated.
Assistant coach killed in accident: Joel Conway, an assistant football coach at East Jackson was killed in a one-car accident when his vehicle swerved to avoid hitting three deer in the road. Conway was traveling south on Hwy. 124 and died on the scene after his vehicle struck two trees and flipped several times. Conway, who had coached four seasons at Jackson County, was in his first year as defensive line coach at East Jackson.
A big finish for Stegall: Jeff Davis played a non-region schedule and didn’t get much attention this season, but tailback L.J. Stegall turned in a big finish on Friday night. The senior rushed 24 times for 370 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-21 win over Berrien. Stegall finished the season with 1,474 yards and 16 touchdowns.