Mid-season report: It’s calm before storm in high class

Most of Class AAAAAAA’s 48 teams are off this week or playing non-region tune-ups. In lieu of highlighting the best games, here’s a look at how each of the eight regions look at the midway point in the regular season. Most have not started region play.
Region 1 – All four teams are playing this weekend. Tift County (at Fitzgerald) and Lowndes (at Ware County) are taking on pretty good lower-classification teams but should win,  while Camden County should bowl over Forest Park. Colquitt County welcomes Bishop Sullivan, Virginia’s second-ranked team overall according to MaxPreps. Second-ranked Lowndes (5-0)  and sixth-ranked Colquitt County (5-1) are the region favorites with 10th-ranked Tift County (6-0) hoping to make a bid at a first region title since 2006, which is the last time that Tift beat both Lowndes and Colquitt in the same season. Camden County (2-3) is the clear No. 4 team in a season when the fourth-place team is not likely to make the playoffs as the wildcard. Colquitt plays at Lowndes on Oct. 27. Colquitt has won there the last two visits, but this Lowndes team appears up to the challenge.
Prediction: 1. Lowndes 2. Colquitt County 3. Tift County 4. Colquitt County
Region 2 – East Coweta (4-1) has been the most impressive so far, with its win over North Cobb standing out, but Westlake (2-3) has won three straight region titles and prepared itself with a tougher schedule. The two have played each of the past nine seasons with Westlake holding a 5-4 edge. They meet Oct. 6 at East Coweta.  That’s a tossup. All six teams in the region are legitimate playoff contenders, though none has shown itself to be a serious state contender. The other four are Wheeler (2-3), Newnan (1-4), Campbell (2-3) and Pebblebrook (2-3). Campbell hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006 but is 2-3 after an 0-10 finish last year and might break through.
Prediction: 1. East Coweta 2. Westlake 3. Wheeler 4. Newnan
Region 3 – It’s unclear if a true state-title contender will emerge from this region, but it’s deep, with four teams in the top 20 of the class, according to the Maxwell Ratings, and a fifth that would be too, if healthy. That would be Marietta, whose star QB Harrison Bailey is out until likely the late stages of the regular season. That might be too late in this unforgiving region, although the Maxwell Ratings currently project Marietta as the at-large (wild card) playoff team. Ninth-ranked McEachern (3-2), the defending champion, is the team to beat. Hillgrove (3-2) and North Cobb (4-1) are consistently good. North Paulding (5-0) has shut out four of five opponents. Kennesaw Mountain (4-1) has equaled its win total of the past two seasons combined but has never made the playoffs. Next week will be a big one as North Paulding plays at Hillgrove, and McEachern plays at North Cobb.
Prediction: 1. McEachern 2. North Paulding 3. North Cobb 4. Hillgrove
Region 4 – East Marietta rivals Walton (5-0) and Lassiter (4-1) have been the fastest out of the gate, although defending champion Roswell (1-3) can’t be discounted, even in a rebuilding year. Roswell has played the second-toughest schedule in this classification so far. Woodstock (3-2) and Etowah (3-2) are also factors while Cherokee (0-5) appears destined for last. This is the region that got the wild card last season. Key team to watch here is Roswell. The Hornets open region play Oct. 6 at Lassiter, then play at home against Walton. Don’t be surprised if Roswell wins at least one of those. If not, Walton and Lassiter will play Oct. 20, and that winner would be the team to beat.
Prediction: 1. Walton 2. Roswell 3. Lassiter 4. Woodstock
Region 5 – South Forsyth (5-0) is 10 points better than its closest region rival, according to Maxwell, and should win it. Avenging a 2016 loss to Lambert on Oct. 6 would be a great start. Still, full respect for the War Eagles won’t occur unless it makes waves in the playoffs. It’s interesting that they are ranked No. 5 by the Georgia Sports Writers Association but unranked by the AJC, SCORE Atlanta and Maxwell. Who’s right? Time will tell. All good for the bulletin board. But let’s face it, this isn’t the strongest region. If Milton (3-1) can knock off Roswell this Friday, it might be seen differently. The rest, all playing relative weak schedules, are West Forsyth (4-1),  North Forsyth (3-2), Lambert (2-3) and Forsyth Central (0-5).
Prediction: 1. South Forsyth 2. Milton 3. West Forsyth 4. North Forsyth
Region 6 – Region play resumes Friday with fifth-ranked Mill Creek (4-1, 1-0) playing at sixth-ranked North Gwinnett (4-1, 1-0). Mill Creek has won 18 straight region games. North Gwinnett, just 6-5 last season, has been a pleasant surprise under first-year coach Bill Stewart, although the Bulldogs are no stranger to vying for region titles. Mountain View (4-1, 0-1) lost to North Gwinnett last week but is probably the No. 3 team here. Collins Hill (2-3, 0-1) and Peachtree Ridge (1-4, 0-1) are viewed as 4-5 teams. Duluth (2-2, 0-0) and Discovery (1-4, 0-1) don’t figure to factor.
Prediction: 1. Mill Creek 2. North Gwinnett  3. Mountain View 4. Collins Hill
Region 7 – Eighth-ranked Brookwood (3-2, 1-0), with its win over Colquitt County this month, has been the most impressive despite losses to Walton and Archer. Parkview (2-2, 0-0), ranked in preseason but struggling with its defense, plays at Norcross (2-3, 1-0) on Friday, and the winner will be Brookwood’s chief rival for the moment. But most interesting is Meadowcreek – 5-0 for the first time in history. Meadowcreek has won as many games this season alone as it did from 2002 through 2014. Yes, it was bad. But, while impressive and heart-warming, Meadowcreek hasn’t played a tough schedule, at all. The Mustangs will have to beat Brookwood, Norcross, Parkview or Central Gwinnett (3-2, 0-1). Central, possibly the fourth-best team here, at least, merely has the classification’s best passer, Jarren Williams, an U.S. Army All-American. Truth is, any of the big four probably has a better chance of winning this region than Meadowcreek has of beating one of the big four. We’ll see. Meadowcreek plays Brookwood on Oct. 6. Lakeside (1-4, 0-1) and Berkmar (0-5, 0-1) won’t be factors.
Prediction: 1. Brookwood 2. Norcross 3. Parkview 4. Central Gwinnett
Region 8 – Slice up this division in pairs. Top-ranked Grayson (5-0) and fourth-ranked Archer (4-0) will finish 1-2, in some order. Newton (4-1) and South Gwinnett (1-4) will finish 3-4, in some order. Shiloh (0-5) and Rockdale County (1-3) won’t make the playoffs. That’s how it looks going in. Not saying there can’t be an upset, but it would indeed be an upset. Newton plays at South this week. Grayson plays Ramsey of Alabama.
Prediction: 1. Grayson 2. Archer 3. Newton 4. South Gwinnett

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