Is Region 6-AA getting the short end of the stick?

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.

9 comments Add your comment

Mark

October 11th, 2012
7:35 am

You might also consider Jefferson (4-1), coming off a big win over Washington-Wilkes, @ Rabun County (4-1) as worthy of interest

John

October 11th, 2012
9:44 am

Region 6-AA is laughing all the way to the bank. With only five schools–and Hapeville Charter being one of those–the other foiur schools are all but guaranteed playoff spots and, with the exception of the team paired against Calhoun, three of the four will have mercy rule first round games. That means those teams have a virtual guarantee of 12 games. A small region is unfair top a region like 5-AA that has nine teams competing for four slots. Many of the AAAAA regions have as many as 10 or 12 teams in their region.

Dekalb County Guy

October 11th, 2012
9:58 am

@ John

You are so right. Region 6 getting the short end of the stick? coaches will always find a way to complain. Like you said, wth only 5 teams, 4 will make it. And we all know which 4 are going to make it. So Lovett and the others knew before the season even started they were guaranteed a playoff spot. So they went out and were able to schedule a variety of games. They scheduled gate receipt games like Marist, out of state games becuase in the end, they know this will benefit their team greatfully when playoffs start.

Todd Holcomb

October 11th, 2012
10:20 am

”A small region is unfair top a region like 5-AA that has nine teams competing for four slots.”

If you asked any of those nine teams in 5-AA to trade places with Hapeville Charter and join Region 6-AA, every one of them would decline. It’s much easier to make the playoffs in 5-AA than in 6-AA. The difference between the top four in 5-AA vs. 6-AA is not even close, IMO.

John

October 11th, 2012
10:53 am

You are right, Todd. I doubt that Bremen and Temple, the two schools who are closer geographically to the Region 6-AA schools than to most of those in 5-AA, want any part of 6-AA.

kramers2009

October 11th, 2012
11:25 am

Todd is right in that although 4 of the 5 6-AA teams are garaunteed a playoff spot, 4 of those 5 teams are tough teams that could all be in the top 5 by the end of the year. Getting that #1 or even #2 seed will not be easy and we all know how tough it will be for the teams with the #3 or #4 seed to make an extended playoff run. Also, back to Todd’s point, I think a team like GAC, Westminster or Lovett would have a better chance of getting the #1 or #2 seed in 5AA than they do in the smaller 6-AA.

Also – as for the post earlier this week about ranking a 2-4 team at #10 in the state polls (Lovett), Lovett should absolutely be ranked in this poll. Not only b/c of the extremely tough schedule and how well they have competed vs those teams but also based on the credibility they have earned as a program. Mike Muschamp has taken his team to the playoffs every year he has been there (7 years in a row). In the 5 seasons prior to last year, Lovett had been to the State Finals (2007), the semi-finals three times (’06, ‘09, ‘10) and the quarterfinals in 2008. This team knows how to win in the playoffs, and becuase the Univ of Buford was in Lovett’s region all those years, they had to go on the road and win all those playoff games.
Lovett has great chance of going 4-0 in region play, winning their region and making a deep playoff run this year. No reason to bet against them (let alone leave them unranked).

Wrecker

October 12th, 2012
7:42 am

@John — Bremen’s out-of region games were against AAAA Alexander and AAA Central-Carroll (a rivalry game), which had both been scheduled for a while. This is the first year for Bremen in AA. Get over yourself about people not wanting to schedule your team. I guarantee you that at least two teams in 5AA would trade places with any of the top four in 6AA. That virtually-guaranteed playoff spot every year would be wonderful.

Dekalb County Guy

October 12th, 2012
12:25 pm

I dont have a problem with the 5 team region considering that 4 of the teams are pretty strong, sort of like how the Lowndes/Valdsota region have been for years, small, but very good teams.

But going back to the question asked in the article…..are they getting the short end of the stick by having only a 5 team region? NO!!!

They are swapping a couple of region games for a virtually guaranteed playoff spot. Thats a pretty good deal to me.

kramers2009

October 12th, 2012
1:34 pm

If you asked all 5 of these coaches for their honest opinion on the 5 team region they wuold probably tell you they like it b/c of the g’teed playoff spot but their first reaction and primary feeling was probably “Wait, so you’re telling me Buford is no longer in our region anymore? You mean we actually have a chance to win the region?”? Sounds great!
Granted – people forget that Lovett beat Buford in 2009 in the regular season and actually did win the region. Buford later crushed them in the playoffs.