Region play begins this week in 8-AAAAA, and we continue our look at the playoff chances for every team in the region as they begin the games that count.
Keep in mind that no team is given a 100 percent chance of making the playoffs, because there are too many unknowns, and the 95 percent grade has been reserved for Tucker and Northside-Warner Robins, the two elites in the classification. Remember also that the top four teams in each region advance to the playoffs.
As always, tell us which teams on the lists below are getting too much credit, and which ones are being underestimated.
I’ll have more regions in the coming weeks as they begin league play.
*Gainesville (90%) – The Red Elephants reached the semifinals in Class AAA and are the early favorites to win the region title in their first year in AAAAA. Gainesville lost to AAAAAA No. 8 West Forsyth before knocking off AAA No. 3 Buford last week. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is one of the most talented players in the classification.
*Heritage-Conyers (75%) – The Patriots, who shared the region title with Flowery Branch and Clarke Central last year, are off to a good start at 2-0 with victories over Northgate and rival Rockdale County. Heritage is ranked No. 10 in Class AAAAA.
*Flowery Branch (75%) – The Falcons, under first-year coach Chris Griffin, are 0-2 but have lost to top-ranked Northside-Warner Robins and West Forsyth. Flowery Branch was tied with Northside 7-7 at halftime before watching it slip away in the second half.
*Clarke Central (65%) – The Gladiators also are 0-2, with losses to AAAA No. 2 Marist and a good Central Gwinnett team. Clarke Central reached the state championship game in 2009 and has made six consecutive playoff appearances.
*Cedar Shoals (40%) – The Jaguars haven’t been to the playoffs since 2007, but they have emerged as the top challenger to the top four teams after a 2-0 start that includes victories over Hart County and Elbert County. A playoff berth could be at stake when Cedar Shoals meets Athens rival Clarke Central on the final weekend of the regular season.
*Apalachee (24%) – The Wildcats won the region title in 2009 but have an 11-11 record since. A .500 mark probably won’t be enough to get them back to the playoffs, so they’ll need an upset or two to get there.
*Salem (20%) – The Seminoles started strong with a victory against Rockdale County, but a 38-19 loss to Class AA Wesleyan last week was not a good sign. A win against Heritage on Friday would be a big boost to their chances.
*Loganville (10%) – The Red Devils bounced back from a 50-7 loss to Monroe Area in the opener with a 32-13 victory over Walnut Grove last week. But a region schedule that starts with consecutive games against Clarke Central, Flowery Branch and Cedar Shoals could put them too far behind to recover.
*Winder-Barrow (1%) – The Bulldoggs have to figure out a way to win a game before they can think about going to the playoffs. Winder-Barrow has lost 26 consecutive games since beating Monroe Area 48-41 on Oct. 9, 2009, and has not reached the postseason since 2003.