AA in brief: GHSA assessing KIPP fine; Playoff talk

2nd-rount-2016-class-aa-football-playoff-bracket-with-predictions

After one round, my Class AA playoff predictions bracket is beat up pretty good. There’s at least one wrong pick in each section of the bracket and one team predicted to reach quarterfinals has already been eliminated. But the semifinalists are all still alive, so the bracket is not yet completely busted.

Where I was wrong in my predictions, for the most part, was underestimating regions 6 and 7. Of the five games I whiffed on, four of the wins came from those regions. The reasoning for the underestimations is simple: I chose not to give these regions the benefit of the doubt.

For Region 6, it was starting from scratch after being the undisputed powerhouse of AA across all sports. This was thanks to the private Atlanta area schools that resided in Region 6, including Lovett, Wesleyan, Pace Academy, GAC and Holy Innocents’. In fact, those schools finished No. 1-5 last year’s in AA’s Director’s Cup, with those schools trading places in the Cup standings every year they were in the region. Those schools were replaced South Atlanta, Douglass, Therrell and Washington among notables, and those schools have been nowhere near the Cup standings in recent years.

While the private schools were dominating Region 6, it was the remaining teams that currently make up the region that were finishing near the bottom of the standings. Holdovers that qualified for the playoffs this season were No. 10 Hapeville Charter, B.E.S.T. Academy and KIPP Atlanta Collegiate. Those teams were a combined 9-22 last year, with only two total winning seasons among them dating back to 2011. That year was B.E.S.T.’s first as a program. Hapeville’s program is only 5 and KIPP’s is only 3.

So there was no frame of reference to make a case for the region to be competitive come playoff time. Especially when the four schools that qualified for the playoffs were a combined 6-9 in non-region games, with just one of those wins coming against a team that reached the playoffs. That didn’t mean these Region 6 schools weren’t capable of competing in the postseason, but there was a clear case for not assuming they would.

Region 7 was similar in that the new lineup didn’t make it stand out. Last year’s region champion, Darlington, left. Model appeared to be the team to beat, at least among the holdovers, because the Blue Devils have been winning and on the rise since Gordon Powers resurrected the program beginning in 2012, when he guided them to their first winning season since 1999. But they would end up losing three region games this year.

Rockmart was 2-8 last year and hadn’t enjoyed a winning season since 2010. Chattooga finished 7-4 last year for its first winning season since 2009, so I thought the Indians would be competitive in the region but not necessarily in the playoffs, where until Friday they’d never won. No. 6 Pepperell has been the most successful from a historic standpoint and it should have been obvious the Dragons were a region contender upon joining the league, though it was Model that was ranked before them. Still, the Dragons hadn’t won a playoff game in eight years, though I picked them to win in the first round.

And again, like with Region 6, there wasn’t much of a frame of reference for how they’d compete outside of the region. Perhaps the most significant non-region win by Region 6 teams was Model’s victory over Northwest Whitfield. Pepperell against Ridgeland would have been a good barometer, but that game was cancelled due to weather. Chattooga played Ridgeland and lost 48-7.

As I mentioned on Saturday after three of Region 7’s four teams advanced, the most surprising fact isn’t that the teams advanced, it’s that they advance with blowout wins.

The one game I got wrong that didn’t involve a team from Region 6 or 7 is Dodge County‘s win over Thomasville. I thought the Bulldogs had caught fire late by winning four of their last five games, one of which came against a Brooks County team that has advanced to the second round. But Dodge County, which went 11-1 last season in AAA, was simply the better team.

My first round misses could be compounded as the tournament plays out. It’s now looking like Hapeville has a real chance to beat No. 7 Jefferson County, and in that section of the bracket it wouldn’t be shocking to see Chattooga beat Washington County. With Pepperell knocking off the Bulldogs, they will be competitive against Dodge County at home. I expect Rockmart, which plays No. 2 Fitzgerald, and Douglass, which plays No. 5 Screven County, to lose.

In brief:

  • As I tweeted yesterday, the GHSA will wait until the playoffs are completed before determining what penalties it will impose on the KIPP Warriors for forfeiting their first round playoff game. The GHSA’s director of media relations, Steve Figueroa, said in an email that the association is waiting for the playoff receipts of all AA playoff games to determine the restitution figure, and that it takes time for those financial reports to be completed. Once the GHSA has those figures, executive director Gary Phillips will determine the restitution and any additional sanctions. The viewpoint here is to throw the book hard at KIPP, but in a way that doesn’t further penalize the players. KIPP administrators were reckless in forfeiting the game because it unfairly robbed Banks County of hosting a playoff game.
  • Though Banks County was unfairly and unnecessarily robbed of hosting a playoff game, at least the community got to take part in a pep rally on Thursday that was broadcasted live on Atlanta television. The Leopards were honored as High5Sports’ Team of the Week.
  • There were two AA playoff games played on Saturday. No. 4 Rabun County, a No. 1 seed from Region 8, beat B.E.S.T. Academy, a No. 4 seed from Region 6, by a score of 55-20. Go here for the highlights. Douglass, a No. 2 seed from Region 6, beat Region 8 No. 3 seed Elbert County 28-7.
  • The AJC released its 6-AA all-region team on Monday, with South Atlanta’s Frank Bailey, Jr. earning athlete of the year honors.
  • Bendictine‘s first round game was more than just its postseason opener. It was also homecoming. Hurricane Matthew forced the Savannah school to cancel its original date.
  • Yeah, turns out there was not more good news coming. Only bad news. In any event, congrats on the season.
  • Rabun County’s Bailey Fisher and Cal Drummond and Banks County’s Griffin Goodwin and Clayton Dykehouse are Player of the Year finalists for The Gainesville Times’ Blitz.
  • The mannequin challenge is sweeping social media nationwide and the Douglass Astros are partaking.
  • Check out highlights from Fitzgerald’s win over Dublin on Friday.
  • Check out highlights Pepperell’s win over Spencer.
  • Callaway‘s Braylon Sanders scored on a 100-yard return of a fumble recovery against Model.
  • It’s not too late to jump on the Brook County bandwagon. Or should I say bus?
  • Daniel Shirley of The Macon Telegraph profiled Washington County on Monday.

Follow the AJC’s Class AA coverage on Twitter.

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