After great anticipation, brace for anti-climax in Region 6-AA football.
Alas, this is the week Greater Atlanta Christian, Hapeville Charter, Lovett, Wesleyan and Westminster, combatants in the class’ disproportionally smallest region, begin long-awaited region play.
Fifty-seven teams in the class’ other seven regions are long into their region schedules. But finally, now starts action in tiniest Region 6-AA, where 2-2 makes the playoffs and — get this — 1-3 might also.
“It’s the hand we’ve been dealt,” Wesleyan coach Franklin Pridgen said, “Now we just have to go play cards.”
Typically, regions are created every two years, when the Georgia High School Association clusters schools in each class geographically. Regions sometimes are diminished when teams here and there are allowed to play up a class or switch to another region for necessity. Uniquely this season, when the GHSA expanded to six classifications, regions obviously became smaller.
Regardless of size, each region’s coaches are free to decide how to advance four teams to the state playoffs. Big regions might play an entirely region schedule. Others might subdivide, playing crossover games, considering common opponents — whatever.
Small regions, though, have few options.
Happenstance made Region 6-AA so little this season, smaller than seven-team regions 1-AA and 3-AA. That left Pridgen and Westminster coach Gerry Romberg among those bummed by having so few region games, and thus, disproportionate meaning on each. Further, both coaches said they struggled to fill out their schedule with non-region opponents in weeks 5 and 6, as everyone else was becoming involved in their own region games.
Lovett, GAC and Wesleyan wound up going out of state for games. Hapeville Charter booked AAA Cross Keys, a team playing a non-region schedule.
“I must have called every AA team in the state,” Romberg said. “There just weren’t many people we could play.”
Ideally, Pridgen and Romberg said they’d like about seven region games. Both considered three non-region dates sufficient to sustain a couple local, non-region rivalries, take a long trip, or whatever. Seven region games, they said, wouldn’t make each so do or die.
“I’d rather have more region games and have a greater margin for error,” Pridgen explained.
Is it absurd, like in the NFL, to consider having teams in such small regions play each other twice, home and away? Might that make playoff qualifiers even more worthy? Might it also heighten the fan experience?
Doing so would give 6-AA teams eight region games, with still two against whomever.
We’ve all read how Lovett (2-4) remains ranked No. 10 despite four consecutive losses, largely because of its strength of schedule. But four of a region’s five teams qualifying for the playoffs?
With Lovett off this week, here’s a glance at this week’s 6-AA openers:
– Westminster (2-4) at Greater Atlanta Christian (4-2): The winner here takes the upper hand in a series tied 4-4. Westminster has won three of the last four, but lost 49-10 a year ago. Both teams have struggled a little lately, with the Wildcats having lost their last two games and the Spartans two of their last three.
– Wesleyan (3-3) at Hapeville Charter (2-3): Hapeville’s new, but no pushover. The Hornets would have a winning record had they not barely lost to Clarkston last time out, 16-14. The 2008 state champion Wolves are looking to atone for missing last year’s playoffs at 7-3.
Here are key matchups elsewhere:
– Fitzgerald (5-1, 2-0) at Brooks County (6-0, 2-0): The No. 2 Trojans will test their best start since 1995, the year they began 8-0 and finished 9-2. The No. 4 Purple Hurricanes enter this Region 1-AA showdown at Brooks led by quarterback Romarius Gaulden, who has rushed for 490 yards and nine touchdowns. The Trojans counter with their quarterback, Malcolm Parrish, who has passed for 1,430 yards and 16 TDs. Fitzgerald has won six of the teams’ last seven meetings.
– Pepperell (2-3, 2-0) at Calhoun (5-0, 2-0): The Dragons are seeking just their third win in 17 tries against the No. 1-ranked defending state champions. The Yellow Jackets are averaging 46 points a game and show no signs of letting up. They’ve outscored their last two opponents by 35 points.