While most teams in Class AAAAA are completing their non-region schedule and dealing with their local rivalries, Region 4 is ready to start playing games that really count.
The league, made up mostly of schools from the southern Atlanta suburbs and exurbs, is made up of nine teams and features an eight-game region schedule. There have already been a couple of region games. Now things are about to get real.
There are currently two state-ranked teams from Region 4: No. 2 Stockbridge and No. 7 Jones County. Neither gets a chance to slide into region competition, as both face a tough task in the first week.
Stockbridge (2-0) will host Dutchtown (2-0) in the region opener, while Jones County (2-0) travels to Locust Grove (1-1). The outcome will help establish a pecking order for the rest of the season.
Stockbridge remains the big kahuna. Since Kevin Whitley arrived on the scene as head coach in 2009, the Tigers have steadily built a playoff machine. Stockbridge has won 11 or more games each season since 2012 and has won three straight region championships. Last year the Tigers advanced to the state semifinals for the second time in three years.
Stockbridge, with its steady offensive scheme and physical defensive style, is again considered to be among the handful of teams capable of winning the state championship. So far the Tigers have done nothing to change that opinion.
Dutchtown has outscored its two outmanned opponents 82-7. Quarterback Nolan Gomes accounted for four touchdowns last week against Columbia and the Bulldogs overcame a slow start on offense to net a 43-0 win.
Stockbridge leads the series 10-3 and has won the last six, including last year’s 27-14 victory. Dutchtown’s last win came in 2010.
The other big game features Jones County at Locust Grove, which could be an offensive shootout.
Jones County has some game-breaking players in Drake Bolus, who returned the opening kickoff of the season 96 yards for a touchdown. Bolus is a threat as a rusher, receiver and return man. Quarterback Teldrick Ross is a two-way threat and the duo of Wesley Steiner and Donavon Mabry have been highly effective and efficient.
Locust Grove lost a tough 20-3 decision to No. 6 Warner Robins in the opening week before bouncing back with an easy win over Forest Park. R.J. McDaniel had 180 total yards and two touchdowns and Cade Powell rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns in the 59-13 win.
The two teams met for the first time last season, with Jones County prevailing 49-34.
Kell at Rome: No. 9 Kell (0-2) will try to turn its season around against No.1 Rome (2-0). Kell won last year’s game 33-30, a loss that may have sparked Rome to win its first state championship. Click here to read more details about the game.
Arabia Mountain at Dacula: Arabia Mountain (3-0) will likely gets it biggest test of the season to date from Class AAAAAA Dacula, even though the Falcons are 0-2. The Rams are being led by quarterback Josh Campbell, who rushed for 120 yards and four touchdowns last week against Redan.
Southwest DeKalb vs. Stephenson (Hallford Stadium): The two rivals from South DeKalb meet for the 14th time. Class AAAAAA Stephenson (0-2) leads the series 8-5 and have won the last six meetings, including 21-0 a year ago. Southwest DeKalb (2-1) is led by quarterback Justin Tomlin, who has rushed for 210 yards and one touchdown and thrown for 288 yards and five touchdowns. Tommy Wright has eight catches and Aquil Muhammad has five receptions for the Panthers. Linebacker Eris Walker leads the Southwest defense with 14 tackles.
Banneker at Whitewater: This promises to be an interesting non-region game for both clubs. Banneker (2-0) competes in Region 5 and Whitewater (2-0) is a member of Region 3. Neither team has played an overly ambitious schedule; Banneker’s opponents are a combined 1-4, Whitewater’s opponents are a combined 1-3.
International School at Buford: The No. 2-ranked Wolves (2-0) will play their second of three consecutive games against out-of-state competition. The International School of Broward, Fla., is 1-1, having lost to Lowndes 56-0 in the season opener. Buford won the game 48-8 a year ago.