Getting off to a slow start doesn’t have to mean a season is ruined. Gainesville lost its opener last year and went on to win the state championship. Harris County was 0-4 in 2012 but recovered to win eight consecutive games, capture the Region 1-AAAAA title and advance to the state quarterfinals. But losing early can be a bad omen of things to come. Here are five teams that may have cause for alarm after losing their openers:
*Harris County: Can the Tigers recapture the magic of 2012? They had a lot go their way during their winning streak, beating the top four challengers in the region (Thomas County Central, Bainbridge, Lee County and Hardaway) by a total of 21 points. Don’t be surprised if Harris County limps into region play again this year. Upcoming non-region games against LaGrange, Veterans and Callaway will be challenging. But winning the region again is going to be difficult. Thomas County Central is ready to challenge, as usual, and Bainbridge, Lee County and Hardaway appear to be even better than they were in 2012.
*East Paulding: Despite losing two 1,000-yard rushers – Kamani Thomas and Kyler Neal – the Raiders had high hopes this season based on the return of quarterback Mitchell Webb and an experienced line. Some of those hopes were dashed by a 27-13 loss to North Paulding in the opener, East’s first loss to a team from Paulding County since 2005. Webb also suffered a shoulder injury in the game, and his status is uncertain. Allatoona, North Paulding, South Paulding and Rome appear legitimate playoff challengers, so the Raiders may find themselves in the unusual position of having to battle for their playoff lives this year after winning the region in 2012.
*Creekview: The Grizzlies’ situation is not dire, despite a 53-34 loss in the opener to a Cherokee team that was 1-9 and lost to Creekview 21-13 last season. Creekview could repeat as the Region 7-AAAAA Division A champ in coach Terry Crowder’s first season. The subregion title likely will be determined when the Grizzlies play at Sequoyah on Oct. 4. The other four teams in the subregion – Northview, Forsyth Central, Cambridge and North Springs – were 0-28 last year against teams other than those four.
*Southwest DeKalb: In 30 seasons as the Panthers’ head coach, Buck Godfrey missed the playoffs just three times. But Godfrey has retired, and the tenure of new coach Michael Tanks began with a stunning 17-10 loss to a Pebblebrook team that was 0-10 last season. The remaining schedule includes games against M.L. King, Mays, Stephenson, Tucker, Arabia Mountain and Miller Grove, so reaching .500 is going to take a lot of work. Making the playoffs will be out of the question unless the Panthers turn it around in a hurry.
*Starr’s Mill: The Panthers lost to North Cobb 42-3 in the 2012 opener and went on to match the worst record in school history at 3-7. This year it was worse, with the Class AAAAAA Warriors winning 48-7. Still, Starr’s Mill should be in the hunt to at least claim a spot in the region play-in games that will determine the state qualifiers. But it can’t afford another loss to county rival McIntosh, which beat the Panthers for the first time in school history last year. Starr’s Mill played for the Class AAAA title in 2010.