Normally there will be several regions each year that will feature games on the final weekend that match the two best teams to determine the regular-season championship. That’s not the case this year. There is still likely to be some heartbreak on the last week.
Champions have already been determined in Region 4 (Stockbridge), Region 6 (Grady), and Region 8 (Buford). Four others teams can nail down titles with wins on Friday: Thomas County Central in Region 1, Ware County in Region 2, Arabia Mountain in Region 5 and Rome in Region 7.
That leaves most intriguing race in Region 3, where Whitewater, Starr’s Mill and Griffin could end up in a three-way tie if each wins its season finale. Whitewater is on the road against McIntosh, Starr’s Mill hosts rival Fayette County, and Griffin hosts Riverdrale. If the region finishes in a three-way tie, Starr’s Mill will be the No. 1 seed, with Griffin as No. 2 and Whitewater No. 3.
In Region 6, there is a good possibility that a three-way tie could develop for the final two spots. If Riverwood, North Springs and Banneker wind up tied with three region losses apiece, the tie will be broken by point differential. In that case, Riverwood would finish third, North Springs fourth and Banneker fifth.
The addition of an eighth classification and the latest reclassification has further limited the number of teams that are eliminated after the regular season. After this weekend’s games, only 24 of the state’s playoff-eligible teams (two are playing non-region schedules) in Class AAAAA will be eliminated.
Harris County at Thomas County Central: Thomas County (6-3) will win the school’s 12th region championship on Friday with a win over Harris County (3-6). The Yellow Jackets are currently tied with Bainbridge and Warner Robins for the lead in Region 1, but have beaten those teams head-to-head. Thomas County quarterback Kelias Williams has had a great year, throwing for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns and running for 924 yards and 17 touchdowns. Harris County is 2-2 against Thomas County Central and has won the last two meetings, most recently in 2013.
New Hampstead at Ware County: No. 6 Ware County (5-3) will nail down the Region 2 championship with a win over New Hampstead (3-5-1). This game features two outstanding quarterbacks. Ware quarterback Jemar Lincoln is a two-way threat who has thrown for 710 yards and eight touchdowns and run for 776 yards and 10 touchdowns. New Hampstead’s Calvin Turner Jr. has thrown for 1,243 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 1,448 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Gators, who are after their 12th region title, will be playing New Hampstead for the first time.
Riverdale at Griffin: There’s a lot at stake here in Region 3. Griffin (8-1) would finish in a tie for first with a win. Riverdale (6-3) has the fourth playoff spot nailed down, but could potentially climb a couple of rungs with a win. That won’t be easy, because Griffin’s high-scoring offense has produced at least 36 points in each game behind quarterback Tylan Morton, who has thrown for 3,306 yards and 31 touchdowns. Riverdale has lost two straight, falling to co-region leaders Whitewater and Starr’s Mill. The Raiders have gotten great production from quarterback Joseph Cambridge, who has thrown for 2,126 yards and 23 touchdowns and rush for 440 yards and three touchdowns. Griffin leads the series 24-3 and has won the last 13 meetings, including 27-0 in 2014.
Arabia Mountain vs. Lithonia (Saturday, Hallford Stadium): The No. 8 Rams (8-1) can sew up the Region 5 title with a win over Lithonia (4-5). A Lithonia win would create a three-way between those two teams and Southwest DeKalb. The two teams have split their two previous meetings, with Arabia Mountain prevailing 23-7 in 2015.
Grady at Banneker: No. 7 Grady (8-1) has already nailed down its first region title since 2010, but Banneker (5-4) could fall into a three-way tie for one of the final two playoff spots if it loses. The Trojans are led by quarterback Dionte Bonneau (755 yards passing, 257 yards rushing) and running back Gary Benton (793, eight TDs). Grady quarterback Caylin Newton has thrown for 2,609 yards and 27 touchdowns and rushed for 760 yards and 11 touchdowns. Grady has won both previous meetings on the field, but forfeited the 2013 game, the most recent meeting between the teams.
Cedar Shoals at Walnut Grove: The final playoff spot from Region 8 will be determined here. Walnut Grove (3-6) will earn its first state playoff appearance with a win. Running backs Tydre Colquitt (845 yards, five TDs) and D.J. Rivers (408 yards, six TDs) lead Walnut Grove. Cedar Shoals (4-5) has a chance grab the final playoff spot if it wins and Buford beats Flowery Branch.
Paulding County at East Paulding: The only thing on the line here is a bucket of pride. Paulding County (4-5) and East Paulding (3-6) have already been eliminated from the playoffs. Pauling County quarterback Brantley Mauldin has thrown for 1,329 yards and 14 touchdowns. East Paulding leads the series 9-7 and has won nine of the last 10 meetings, including 35-21 in 2015.