Perhaps the biggest story in Region 7-AAAAAA during the first four weeks of the season has been the success of North Atlanta.
The Warriors are 3-0 for the first time since 2010 after beating Dunwoody 14-0 last weekend in the teams’ region opener. That victory put North Atlanta in a tie for first place with Alpharetta, Chattahoochee and Johns Creek in the early going.
Does that victory make North Atlanta a contender for a playoff berth? Maybe, maybe not. But it gives the Warriors one more region victory than they had last year, when they finished 1-9 overall and 0-8 in the region.
We continue our Tuesday series examining the playoff outlooks for every Class AAAAAA team as region play kicks off with a preview of Region 7.
This region appears as wide open as any in the classification. The league had a 6-12 record in non-region play, and the four playoff teams from last year – Johns Creek, Centennial, Alpharetta and Cambridge – were a combined 1-7.
Here’s a closer look at each of the teams, broken down by playoff likelihood, in alphabetical order within each group:
*Alpharetta (2-1, 1-0): The Raiders are considered the best team in the region by the computer Maxwell Ratings, and they got off to a good start in region play with a 34-31 victory against Centennial last week. Alpharetta was the No. 3 seed last season and lost to Alexander in the first round of the playoffs. The Raiders made the playoffs six of the past seven seasons, with three region titles.
In the hunt
*Cambridge (0-3, 0-1): This 6-year-old program had been agonizingly close to a playoff berth in 2014 and 2015 before finally breaking through last season. The Bears were 6-4 in the regular season and tied with Alpharetta for third place, taking the No. 4 seed into its playoff game against Mays. At 0-1 in region play, this week’s game against Pope is all but a must-win for Cambridge.
*Centennial (0-3, 0-1): The Knights’ playoff berth last season was their first since 2011, and their eight wins were the most since 2003. Centennial’s 31-30 overtime victory over Alpharetta last year in the region opener essentially locked up second place for the Knights. They lost to Alpharetta this year, however, and need to rebound quickly with Johns Creek and Cambridge coming up next.
*Chattahoochee (2-1, 1-0): The Cougars were the fifth-place team in 2016 and could’ve made the playoffs by beating Alpharetta in the regular-season finale but lost 42-35. Chattahoochee is one game ahead of the curve this year, avenging a loss to Cambridge with a 21-13 victory last week. Coach Vince Strine has the team heading in the right direction after bottoming out at 1-9 in 2015.
*Johns Creek (1-2, 1-0): The defending region champion opened the season with two losses to AAAAAAA teams but rebounded with a 21-13 victory over Pope last week in the region opener. The 2016 region title, under coach Matt Kemper (now at Roswell), was the program’s first. Johns Creek’s fate will be settled in the second half of the season, when the toughest part of the schedule awaits.
*North Atlanta (3-0, 1-0): The Warriors haven’t made a postseason appearance since 1996, when they won a school-record seven games and advanced to the state playoffs for the only time in the history of a program that began in 1991. North Atlanta hasn’t scored a lot of points, but it has given up just 4.6 points per game in victories against Grady, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate and Dunwoody.
*Northview (0-2, 0-0): The Titans were a playoff team in 2015 but slumped to 2-8 last year, recording their only victories against Dunwoody and North Atlanta. Their 0-2 start this season has come against some good competition, losing to Lanier 33-24 and No. 8 Winder-Barrow 38-14, so it’s a little early to write them off. Starting region play against Alpharetta and Johns Creek will be tough.
Not this year
*Dunwoody (2-1, 0-1): The Wildcats are 2-1 after three games, just as they were last year. Unlike last season, however, the loss came in the region opener, so they’re already in a hole. Dunwoody lost its final seven games in 2016 after beating North Atlanta in the region opener and finished in eighth place. It doesn’t seem likely that these Wildcats will make their first playoff trip since 2009.
*Pope (0-3, 0-1): The Greyhounds’ 3-7 record last season was a three-win improvement from 2015. Coach Kyle Adkins (hired by Campbell) and quarterback Evan Conley (transferred to Kell) are gone from that team, and the Greyhounds are off to an 0-3 start, although it came against good competition, including Johns Creek last week. New coach Tab Griffin faces an uphill climb this year.
Next week: Region 6-AAAAAA