As we enter Week 9, the playoff race ripens with opportunity and significance. Some teams find their postseason aspirations on the brink, while others look to continue gaining steam with just four weeks of regular season action left. This time of year allows us to look at the classification more as a whole as the storylines become clearer with each passing week. All the action is finally starting to enter focus, and rather than the 40-plus matchups we were tracking during non-region play, there are only 21 games in all of Class AAAA this weekend. As you will see, however, quantity has yielded itself to quality.
Region 1 is back in action after observing and regrouping with a region-wide bye week last Friday. Cairo leads the eight-team field with a 3-0 region record and will host Carver-Columbus, which is in a three-way tie with Northside-Columbus and Westover at 2-1. Americus-Sumter and Columbus are each 1-2 in region play and winless Shaw sits in the basement at 0-3. Shaw was stunned in its region opener on Sept. 16, when Columbus defeated the Raiders for the first time in 22 years (46-26). After posting nine-straight double-digit winning seasons from 1999-2007, Shaw sits at 1-5 and will complete its nine-straight season without double-digit wins. Shaw (0-3) and Americus-Sumter (1-2) square off in a critical game to keep their respective playoff hopes alive. When Americus-Sumter hosted Shaw last season, they won 65-49 in one of the highest scoring games of the season. Americus-Sumter handed Westover (2-1) its only region loss of the season (21-6), but has fallen to Northside-Columbus (24-7) and Cairo (36-21) in its last two games. Westover has trended in the other direction since its loss to Americus-Sumter, scoring a 23-20 victory over Carver-Columbus and a comfortable 35-7 win over Hardaway in its last outing. The storylines and scenarios go on and on, and if this seems complicated, it kind of is. Class AAAA’s only eight-team region has already exceeded expectations and this is another week to keep a close eye on this crowded region race.
Shaw at Americus-Sumter
Carver-Columbus at Cairo
Columbus at Westover (M)
Northside-Columbus at Hardaway (K)
Region 2 will be the easiest region to keep track of this weekend as Howard (0-2), Mary Persons (2-0), West Laurens (2-0) and Spalding (0-2) are all off. Upson-Lee (0-1) and Perry (1-0) is the only game slated for Week 9. Upson-Lee was shutout by Mary Persons 24-0 last Friday, while Perry shutout Howard 27-0.
Upson-Lee at Perry
OFF-Howard, Mary Persons, Spalding, West Laurens
Baldwin at Thomson and Richmond Academy at Burke County headline Region 3, while Cross Creek and Hephzibah are on the bye. Baldwin (1-0) handed Richmond Academy (0-1) a 7-0 loss last Friday and will have its hands full with No. 2 Thomson. Thomson opened up region play last Friday night with a 70-0 win at Hephzibah. Richmond Academy will look to avoid an 0-2 region start against a Burke County team that scored a 55-12 win over Cross Creek last Thursday.
Baldwin at Thomson
Richmond Academy at Burke County
OFF-Cross Creek, Hephzibah
Three matchups are set for Region 4, while Druid Hills takes an 0-3 region record into its bye week. Henry County (0-6, 0-2) is still winless on the season and will travel to Salem (1-1), which is fresh off a bye week. Luella (1-1) heads to North Clayton (1-2) Thursday night in a pivotal region game. Woodward Academy (3-0) and Eastside (3-0) play in the premiere Region 4 matchup Friday night as they battle for sole possession of first place. Eastside has outscored Luella, Druid Hills and Henry County by a combined 114-0 and Woodward Academy has outscored Salem, Henry County and North Clayton 164-12.
Woodward Academy at Eastside (SH)
Henry County at Salem
Luella at North Clayton (SC) [Thursday]
I previewed the Cartersville (3-0) at Sandy Creek (1-1) matchup on Tuesday, but I didn’t talk about the rest of Region 5. Troup is quietly 2-0 in region play after its 28-20 upset over Sandy Creek two weeks ago, and is coming off a bye week to host LaGrange (1-2). Central-Carroll’s 0-7 season and 0-3 region record has the Lions’ playoff hopes on the brink as they host Chapel Hill, which is also winless (0-2) in region action.
Cartersville at Sandy Creek
Chapel Hill at Central-Carroll
LaGrange at Troup (C)
Undefeated Ridgeland (5-0, 2-0) leads the Region 6 field with Pickens (3-3, 2-0), but this playoff race is well-alive with Heritage-Catoosa (2-1), Northwest Whitfield (2-1) and Southeast Whitfield (1-2) in striking distance. Gilmer will visit Southeast Whitfield with a chance to push the Raiders further down the region standings, and Pickens faces a road test as well with a trip to Northwest Whitfield. Heritage-Catoosa is next on the list for the red-hot Ridgeland Panthers as they travel to Ridgeland High Stadium Friday night.
Gilmer at Southeast Whitfield
Heritage-Catoosa at Ridgeland
Pickens at Northwest Whitfield
In the small five-team Region 7, Marist is the last team in the state to enter region action. The War Eagles (0-0) will travel to West Hall (1-0), which outscored Chestatee (1-0) 35-28 last Friday. Chestatee will have to visit Blessed Trinity (1-0) this week after the Titans defeated White County (0-1) 34-7 last week. White County is off this week.
Chestatee at Blessed Trinity
Marist at West Hall
Finally, there are three intriguing matchups in Region 8. Each matchup pins a 1-0 region team against an 0-1 region team, which makes these matchups that much more important for this talented six-team region. Jefferson (1-0) visits North Oconee (0-1), Madison County (0-1) visits Stephens County (1-0) and St. Pius (0-1) visits Oconee County (1-0). Jefferson’s win was a 28-7 victory over Madison County, while North Oconee’s loss was a lopsided 55-14 home game against Oconee County. Stephens County edged St. Pius 27-13 last week to drop the Golden Lions to 0-6. St. Pius will be fighting to salvage its season Friday night as Oconee County has its sights still set on the region title and No. 1 seed.
Jefferson at North Oconee
Madison County at Stephens County
St. Pius at Oconee County