The 2016 high school football season in Georgia is right around the corner. This season will be special because of the unveiling of the brand new Class AAAAAAA (Super 48). New classifications mean new regions, new regions mean new rivals and, also, the separation of old rivals. The new region alignments have caused interesting groupings. Some groupings are ultra-competitive, and other scenarios have grouped schools together perfectly, so those schools can now build their programs and compete, on a statewide and respectable level. Below, we list PART 1 of our “Top 11 Regions” that headline this upcoming GHSA football season (Read PART 2 & PART 3).
11. REGION 3-AAA
Beach, Islands, Groves, Jenkins, Johnson-Savannah, Savannah, Southeast Bulloch, Windsor Forest
This region consists of teams that would traditionally be known as afterthoughts. Besides Southeast Bulloch, the remaining schools in this region are public schools from Savannah. Savannah Public Schools were previously known to play up in the state’s highest classification with schools twice their size. About four years ago, these schools finally decided to play in their rightful classifications, but they were spread throughout different regions in different classifications. Gone are the days of selling home games to Camden County and getting blown out 77-0 at halftime.
Also, say goodbye to the days of traveling to small Southeast Georgia towns that have different traditions. Those games had no appeal to local Savannah residents and made it hard to market local programs. Now most games will be played within the Savannah city limits, allowing schools to compete against similar schools, and thus creating rivals. This will allow coaches to build excitement and tradition within their programs, which hopefully manifest sustained success.
Southeast Bulloch has been competitive lately, becoming a playoff-caliber team. They have risen behind the shadows of Statesboro High School and are not just “the other team” in Bulloch County anymore. Last year Southeast Bulloch had a 7-4 record, and they are expected to improve their record this year (they contended for the region championship along with Jenkins last season).
Jenkins has emerged as the city of Savannah’s best program. Last year, Jenkins finished with a 6-4 record just barely missing the playoffs. This year Jenkins will be led by a stud junior quarterback named Javonte Middleton. The Class of ’18 athlete has started for three years now. This year Middleton’s plans are to lead Jenkins to a region title and a state playoff berth. Southeast Bulloch or Jenkins can make a decent run at the playoffs; if they do, then the whole state will start to gain respect for high school football in the “Coastal Empire” of Southeast Georgia. This new region alignment guarantees that a public school from the City of Savannah will host a first-round playoff game for the next two years.
The race for the remaining playoff spots will be wide open. Beach is coached by Ulysses Hawthorne, who has been the coach since 1999. Beach finished 5-5 last year and has improved their win totals by two wins the last two seasons, so if the Bulldogs stay on that pace, they should finish with seven this year, earning a playoff spot. Groves, Johnson, Islands, Windsor Forest and Savannah all have coaches who have been at the helm three years or fewer, and this new region alignment should help these coaches build morale, confidence and tradition, all while competing against local peers for a playoff berth.
3 GAMES TO WATCH:
9-23 Southeast Bulloch @ Jenkins
11-4 Beach @ Jenkins
9-22 Windsor Forest @ Groves
10. REGION 6-AA
B.E.S.T Academy, Douglass, Hapeville Charter, KIPP Atlanta, South Atlanta, Therrell, Washington
No school in Region 6-AA would be considered a state power based on recent history. Rivals Douglass and Washington both have a rich history playing against one another, and both schools have produced many NFL players. Region 6-AA made our list based on potential.
These schools were placed together based on their location and demographics perfectly. All of these schools are Atlanta Public Schools and are located within the city limits of Atlanta, outside of Hapeville Charter, which is located in south Fulton County—just a “touchdown pass” outside the city limits of Atlanta. Most of these schools, with the exception of South Atlanta and Hapeville Charter, are all on Atlanta’s west side. KIPP Atlanta and B.E.S.T. Academy are both off-springs of Douglass, both of which are located in the same Northwest Atlanta neighborhood.
Last year, Hapeville Charter finished with a 6-4 record and barely missed the playoffs while competing in Region 6-AA, which was Class AA’s toughest region last fall. This year, Hapeville has one of Georgia’s top recruiting prospects in William Poole III and should compete for the region title and a playoff berth.
B.E.S.T. Academy also played in Region 6-AA last year along with Hapeville, and a host of other private school powerhouses. B.E.S.T. posted just a 2-8 record last season. Even so, they have become a tough program under the leadership of head coach Joshua Moore, who has been their only coach since the program started five years ago. B.E.S.T. is hungry to regain success, which the program has experienced during prior years. Moore has his guys working hard to get rid of the taste of last year’s subpar season. Being in this realigned region with local rivals should help.
Douglass finished 6-4 while playing in the old Region 4-AAA—a region that was loaded with three talented teams. Each made the Class AAA semifinals, and two played in the Class AAA title game. Even so, Douglass barely missed out on the playoffs last year. The Astros are hungry and possess the talent to dominate not only Region 6-AA, but also Class AA. Atlanta Public Schools coaching legend Rodney Cofield will depend on first-team All-Region 4-AAA quarterback Jonathan Ford, who stands at 6’3″, 180 pounds. Also, defensive tackle Jamarico Gray is a massive 6’3″, 320 pounds and should help reassert the Astros among Atlanta’s elite programs. The good news about Douglass is that this could be the start of a new dynasty for the Astros. They only lost seven seniors from last year.
Both Therrell and Washington should benefit from the move from Class AAA to Class AA. Both finished 3-7 last year, but both have positives to build on. Washington’s young squad showed improvement toward the end of last year. Therrell pulled off the biggest upset in the state when the Panthers beat eventual state champion Westminster in a last-minute comeback victory. Veteran coach Dominic Callaway should be able to build off some momentum and have Therrell compete for a playoff spot in the new Region 6-AA.
3 GAMES TO WATCH:
10/21 Hapeville @ Douglass
10/1 Douglass @ Washington
9/9 Douglass @ B.E.S.T.
9. REGION 7-AAAAAAA
Berkmar, Brookwood, Central Gwinnett, Lakeside-DeKalb, Meadowcreek, Norcross, Parkview
Region 7-AAAAAAA is centered near the Spaghetti Junction area on Atlanta’s northeast corridor. Most schools in Region 7-AAAAAAA are Gwinnett County schools with the exception of Lakeside, which is located in north DeKalb County. This region represents schools from the original northeast Atlanta suburbs. Most of these schools have tremendous community and alumni support. Schools in this region have experienced a lot of success and are looking to rekindle their flame this season.
Norcross is led by veteran coach Keith Maloof, who won two straight state titles in 2012 and 2013 but has also had two 7-4 seasons since then. This year Maloof has two stud defensive ends in Robert Beal and Jalen Pinkney. On offense Norcross will be led by quarterback Baron Radcliff, who is a load to bring down. Parkview at one point in their history won 45 games straight and three straight state titles during 2000 to 2002. Head coach Eric Godfree has had the Panthers on an upward trend as of late. Parkview too is expected to contend for the region title and perhaps the state title.
Head coach Todd Wofford has led Central Gwinnett to back-to-back 7-5 seasons, and with the help of studs Emmanuel McNeil and Jarren Williams, it is very possible that Wofford’s team can claim the region title at season’s end.
Brookwood is one of Gwinnett’s most proud programs. The Broncos are looking to rebound from last year’s disappointing 4-6 record and hope to have their first above-.500 season in three years. This will be head coach Philip Jones’ second season at Brookwood. Meadowcreek head coach Jason Carrera led the Mustangs to their best season since 2001, and the team should be more competitive in this new region alignment.
3 GAMES TO WATCH:
10/21 Parkview @ Brookwood
9/23 Central @ Norcross
11/4 Parkview @ Central
8. REGION 4-AAAAA
Dutchtown, Eagle’s Landing, Hampton, Jones County, Locust Grove, Ola, Stockbridge, Union Grove, Woodland-Stockbridge
Besides Central Georgia power Jones County, most of the schools in Region 4-AAAAA are located in Henry County. Henry County is a growing affluent county in Metro Atlanta’s “Southern Crescent” region. This reclassification cycle allowed for Henry County to have its own region for the first time. Now Henry County schools will no longer be stuck playing in regions with surrounding counties like Clayton, Fayette, Spalding, Newton, Coweta, Rockdale and DeKalb. These Henry County schools can play one another and develop proper rivalries and traditions and build up community excitement within the county. Henry County has emerged from once being a rural outpost in southeast region of Atlanta to “soccer mom” suburbia. The county’s populations has continued to grow, and so has the pool of talent in the area.
Henry County schools have watched Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy and Stockbridge make runs at state titles the last couple of years and are hungry for their own success now. Region 4-AAAAA features nine teams and six of those teams had .500 or above records last year.
Jones County hired head coach Justin Rogers back in 2014. Rogers has brought in an exciting high-scoring offense that will feature quarterback Bradley Hunnicut and receiver Nick Singleton. Kevin Whitley has had Stockbridge on a roll as of late; the Tigers have had four straight quarterfinals appearances, but winning the Region 4-AAAAA title should be a difficult task for the Tigers. Stockbridge has become the envied program in Henry County. They are sure to garner everyone’s attention and best shot in the region.
Eagle’s Landing, Woodland and Locust Grove all had winning records last year and are all hungry to dethrone Stockbridge, the current Kings of Henry County Football. Both Dutchtown and Union Grove have seen success before and are working to mount their place among the region elite. Ola and Hampton are two young Henry County programs that have as many resources as the rest of the county teams; they will be looking to stamp their name on the new region.
3 GAMES TO WATCH:
10/28 Stockbridge @ Jones County
10/7 Woodland @ Stockbridge
10/21 Eagle’s Landing @ Locust Grove
7. REGION 7-AAAAA
Carrollton, Cass, East Paulding, Hiram, Kell, Paulding County, Rome, Villa Rica, Woodland-Cartersville
Most of these Northwest Georgia schools in Region 7-AAAAA have tremendous tradition and rabid fanbases. Road victories in this region are hard to come by. Region 7-AAAAA stretches from Cobb County and up through Rome. Kell represents Cobb County. Right over the border from Cobb is Paulding County, which is represented by East Paulding, Paulding County and Hiram. South of Paulding County lies Carroll County, which is represented by Carrollton and Villa Rica. To the north of Paulding County lies Bartow County, which is represented by Cass and Woodland-Cartersville. Rome High school is in Floyd County, which is just west of Bartow.
Rome High School has the richest tradition of any school in this region. Last year, Rome hired head coach John Reid, who led the Wolves to an 8-4 record. This year, Floyd County residents are looking forward to this season because the Wolves are loaded with talent, and they should challenge for the region title.
Kell is always loaded with talent and is looking to turn their regular-season success into postseason success. Last year Kell watched county rival Allatoona win the first state championship for the Cobb County school system. The Longhorns are hungry to duplicate Allatoona’s success this next season.
East Paulding and Paulding County were 8-3 and 7-3, respectively, last season and are expected to compete with Rome and Kell for the region title. Cass in Bartow County is lurking after posting 6-4 record and was sitting at home while local arch-rival Cartersville won the AAAA title, which has left a bad taste in the community’s mouth. State power Carrollton hired Sean Calhoun, who was the offensive coordinator at AAAAAA state champion Colquitt County. Carrollton finished 6-6 last year and is looking to get back to winning region titles and posting double-digit win tallies.
3 GAMES TO WATCH:
9/9 Rome @ Kell
10/28 East Paulding @ Rome
10/21 Paulding County @ East Paulding