When the Class AA football playoffs begin this week — when everyone’s 0-0, as the saying goes — potentially forgotten is the rugged road it took to get there.
As we rush to analyze the 32-team playoff bracket, scattered are eight region champions, who with region runners-up, get home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Winning region is no easy feat, especially in one of the state’s most competitive classifications. So before beginning the playoff crescendo, let’s pause to acknowledge the region winners:
– Brooks County (10-0, 6-0) — The Region 1-AA Trojans’ first undefeated regular season marked the school’s first region title since 2008, when it went 9-1. Energized by a non-region upset of Valdosta in Game 3, the No. 2 Trojans allowed only second-seeded Fitzgerald and fourth-seeded Cook within two touchdowns, 27-24 and 35-21, respectively.
– Vidalia (10-0, 9-0) — This was the 2-AA Indians’ first unbeaten regular season since going 12-1 and reaching the quarterfinal in 2004, the last time Vidalia won region. The No. 3 Indians allowed only two region teams more than a touchdown, but still turned back McIntosh County Academy 27-18 and Bacon County 14-10.
– Screven County (9-1, 6-0) — Tenth-ranked Screven proved its mettle in 3-AA with two one-point wins, needing an 11th-hour interception to survive Laney 21-20 and Aikeem Mingle’s 70-yard touchdown pass to Donta Wilburn with 1:19 remaining to slip East Laurens 15-14 three weeks later, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
– Lamar County (9-0-1, 7-0) — A non-region tie is all that kept the No. 5 Trojans from a perfect season, but in 4-AA play the key was shutting out four of seven opponents, including third-seeded Northeast Macon (36-0).
– Heard County (10-0, 8-0) — Excitement must be at fever pitch after just the No. 6 Braves’ third region championship in 41 years. Consistency was key for the 5-AA Braves, who turned back second-seeded Manchester and fourth-seeded Kendrick, both for a third consecutive time.
– Lovett (6-4, 4-0) — Perhaps the most resilient region champion, the No. 8 Lions rebounded from four straight losses to run the 6-AA table with wins over Hapeville Charter, fourth-seeded Wesleyan, third-seeded Westminster and second-seeded Greater Atlanta Christian. The title wasn’t secured until last week’s 31-30 championship showdown with GAC, decided by a blocked extra-point late in the fourth quarter.
– Calhoun (10-0, 7-0) — The 12th consecutive region title for the 7-AA Yellow Jackets seemed almost predictable. No region opponent scored more than two touchdowns against the top ranked defending state champions, who shut out four of seven region foes by an average of 48-0.
– Jefferson (9-1, 7-0) — This was 8-AA Jefferson’s third region title in the last five seasons, and somewhat like Calhoun, in somewhat dominating fashion. Except for a 62-26 win over third-seeded Greene County in the region opener, no other region opponent scored more than 10 points against the seventh-ranked Dragons.