6. REGION 5-AAAAAA
Northgate, Mays, Creekside, South Paulding, Tri-Cites, New Manchester, Langston Hughes, Alexander, Douglas County
The teams that make up Region 5-AAAAAA are located in southwest Metro Atlanta in the “Fairburn-Atlanta-Douglasville Triangle,” all within Douglas and Fulton Counties. Region 5-AAAAAA will feature prolific teams with many college prospects. While these schools are close geographically, they are still spread out enough to make for some truly brutal road trips. Every school in this region has tremendous hype surrounding the upcoming football season. No other region in the state can claim that eight of its nine teams all won at least five games last year. Four schools from Region 5 AAAAAA represent the Douglasville area: New Manchester, Alexander, South Paulding and Douglas County.
New Manchester opened in 2011 and has a new head coach in Myron Terry, recently promoted from defensive coordinator. Under the leadership of his successor Rob Cleveland, New Manchester became a tough team to be beat. Improving on last season’s 5-5 record will be tough, but the fledgling high school seems up for the challenge. Alexander plans to compete for the Region 5-AAAAAA title after having three straight eight-win seasons. Daetrich Harrington is a running back to watch from last year’s team. South Paulding still doesn’t have the respect statewide despite not having a losing season since 2009. If South Paulding can win the Region 5-AAAAAA title, they will change opinions about their program quickly. Despite having a 2-8 record last year, Douglas County has garnered some excitement by hiring head coach Johnny White, who has previously coached at Creekside (head coach from 2009-11) and Langston Hughes.
Three schools from this region are located near the Fairburn area: Northgate, Creekside and Langston Hughes. Northgate finished 12-1 last year, losing in the state semifinals. Back in 2011 the Vikings finished 11-2 but posted mediocre records until last year’s surprising season. Head coach Tommy Walburn wants to cement that the Vikings are a consistent power, and winning a Region 5-AAAAAA championship and making another deep run in the state playoffs will do it. Will Rogers is in his second season as the head coach at Creekside. Rogers plans to return his Seminoles back to the status that the program had in 2012, when they won a state title that season. Langston Hughes plans to improve on last year’s 5-6 season and contend for the Region 5-AAAAAA title. They have a slew of wide receivers for quarterback Isaiah Green to throw to, including Maryland commit Sean Nelson. Mays and Tri-Cites both represent the Atlanta area and possess the necessary talent to compete in Region 5-AAAAAA.
3 GAMES TO WATCH:
9/30 Langston Hughes @ Creekside
10/15 Creekside @ Mays
9/9 South Paulding @ Alexander
5. REGION 8-AAAAAAA
Archer, Grayson, Newton, Rockdale County, Shiloh, South Gwinnett
Region 8 is located in the sprawling “Crown Jewel” of Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta. If you follow high school football in Georgia, then you know that the state championship in Georgia’s highest class is going through either two places: South Georgia or Gwinnett County. Gwinnett features an abundance of talent and parity. The county’s schools have top-notch facilities and rely on youth feeder systems. This lays the groundwork for competing for state titles for coaches in the region. Region 8 should be considered the firecracker region since programs like Archer and Newton have exploded onto the state scene. Also, programs like Rockdale County, Shiloh and South Gwinnett have the right ingredients to make moves.
Grayson has the media in a frenzy with its recent No. 2 national ranking by MaxPreps. The Rams were already loaded with high-level blue chip prospects, and during the spring four more blue chips moved into their district (Jamyest Williams, Tony “Duke” Gray, Breon Dixon, and DeAngelo Gibbs). Also, Grayson has hired Jeff Herron to replace Mickey Conn, who led the rams to a 13-1 semifinals appearance last year, eventually losing to Roswell on a 50-yard Hail Mary with only seconds left to play. Herron led state powerhouse Camden County to three state titles (2003, 2008, 2009) and Oconee County to one (1999). He spent the last three seasons at Class A Prince Avenue Christian before taking the Grayson job. Conn led Grayson to the 2011 Class AAAAA state title.
Archer has to be stewing about the lack of respect it’s getting in the preseason. The Tigers enter the season as one of the most under-the-radar 11-2 teams in recent history. Newton has garnered some respect under head coach Terrance Banks’ leadership. Newton, like Grayson and Archer, is also loaded with blue-chip Division I talent.
Snellville rivals Shiloh and South Gwinnett both have the potential to burst back onto the state scene. Both the Generals and Comets have nice feeder programs that are sending these schools a boatload of talent. One should expect South Gwinnett or Shiloh to battle for a final playoff spot in the region. Rockdale County hired away Greg Manior, who built a consistent program at Mundy’s Mill and has sparked interest in a talent-rich county that is hungry for a flagship program and a consistent winner. Rockdale has won before, making it to the semifinals in 2009, and it also had three straight playoff appearances from 2012 to 2014.
3 GAMES TO WATCH:
10/14 Archer @ Grayson
10/21 Newton @ Grayson
10/21 South Gwinnett @ Shiloh
4. REGION 4-AAAAAA
Drew, Forest Park, Jonesboro, Lovejoy, M.L. King, Mt. Zion-Jonesboro, Mundy’s Mill, Stephenson, Tucker
Region 4-AAAAAA is split between Clayton County and DeKalb County, both right outside of Atlanta. This area is known for producing athletes at a high rate. Region 4-AAAAAA should be very exciting this year. There is no clear-cut favorite to win Region 4-AAAAAA, and at least six teams could possibly win this region. Whoever makes the playoffs will make some noise. Region 4-AAAAAA is a college recruiter’s dream because this region is loaded with Division I talent. Most teams are out to prove they can compete for state titles as well as produce college players.
In DeKalb County, Tucker is loaded again with D-I talent. The traditionally dominant Tigers had a down year last season, despite finishing with an 8-4 record. Head coach Brian Lamar has aspirations of winning another region title, but the goals do not stop there. Tucker should compete for the program’s third state title in the last 10 years. Also in DeKalb are the Stephenson Jaguars, who are back and loaded once again, but that’s nothing new. Historically the Jaguars have lost close games in the state playoffs. Stephenson is loaded with hard-hitting talent across its defense. On offense, the Jags keep a stout running game led by Jaylin Marson-Knight. If Stephenson can develop a consistent passing game to complement the running attack, as well as make improvements on special teams (field position and last-second field goal misses have hurt), then the Jaguars can win their first state title.
MLK, another DeKalb program, made the playoffs 10 years straight from 2003 to 2013. Nick Kashama became the MLK head coach in 2014, and this year will be Year 3 of his rebuilding project. MLK still has talent and should be a hard team to beat in Region 4-AAAAAA. Over in Clayton County Lovejoy is a year older after enduring a 5-6 season. Last year, Lovejoy had to play a lot of young players while facing one of the state’s toughest schedules. They have endured transfers but still hope to have a strong showing in 2016. Jonesboro finished 11-2 last season and Drew finished 9-4; both will have to rebuild/reload after losing a lot of seniors from last year’s quarterfinals team. Mundy’s Mill will be breaking in a new coach this year. They hired their former defensive coordinator Dwayne Davis, and he looks to build on last year’s 5-5 season.
3 GAMES TO WATCH:
11/4 Tucker @ Stephenson
10/28 Jonesboro @ Lovejoy
10/14 Lovejoy @ Tucker