There are just two weeks to go in the regular season, and the Class AAAAAA playoff picture is coming into focus.
Here are five of the bigger questions heading into the season’s home stretch:
1. Will Harrison survive without Justin Fields?
- Fields, the nation’s top-rated senior prospect, is likely done for the year after suffering a broken finger in the Hoyas’ victory over Dalton last week. Harrison can clinch the Region 6 title by winning either of its remaining games (Friday at Sequoyah or Nov. 3 vs. Creekview), so that shouldn’t be the problem. The bigger test will come in the playoffs. Assuming Harrison wins the region, its first-round playoff game would be against Region 5’s No. 4 team (either Douglas County, Alexander, Hughes or Northgate). That won’t be an easy matchup. How far the Hoyas go could depend on how well sophomore Gavin Hall settles into his new role as the starter.
2. Can Valdosta win the Region 1 title?
- The defending state champion Wildcats were all but written off after a 2-5 start that included a 16-7 loss to Northside-Warner Robins in the Region 1 opener. Things sure have changed in a week. After beating previous No. 2 Lee County 31-28 on Friday, Valdosta now controls its fate. If the Wildcats beat Coffee this week and Houston County in the regular-season finale, they will be the Region 1 champions. On the other hand, if the Wildcats lose both, they’ll be out of the playoffs. Coffee is the only unbeaten team in region play, and the Trojans will be the champions if they win their final two games against Valdosta and Lee County.
3. Will history repeat itself for Dacula?
- Dacula went 1-4 in non-region play last season before sweeping its five Region 8 games to claim the title. Now the Falcons are two wins away from doing it again. Dacula opened this season with losses to four Class AAAAAAA teams (Central Gwinnett, Mill Creek, West Forsyth and Walton) and a victory over Class AAAAA Arabia Mountain. However, the Falcons are 3-0 in region play, with wins over Apalachee, Gainesville and Habersham Central by a combined score of 112-41. The biggest tests remain, however, as Dacula plays on the road at the two teams with the best overall records in the region – 5-3 Lanier and 7-1 Winder-Barrow. A loss to Lanier this week probably produces a four-way tie for first (Dacula, Lanier, Winder-Barrow and Gainesville) heading into the final weekend.
4. Who will join Tucker and Stephenson as Region 4’s playoff teams?
- Tucker and Stephenson have clinched the top two spots in Region 4, and their game on Nov. 3 will decide the championship. The three teams most likely to fill the final two playoff spots are Lovejoy, Jonesboro and M.L. King. Lovejoy currently sits in third place, and the Wildcats can clinch that spot with a victory against Jonesboro this week. Jonesboro would be in pretty good shape if it beats Lovejoy, but the Cardinals need to keep an eye on M.L. King. If Jonesboro loses this week or against Drew in the regular-season finale, the Cardinals probably will finish tied for fourth place with M.L. King, which beat them 27-17 two weekends ago. Drew and Mount Zion-Jonesboro aren’t mathematically eliminated, but they would need a miracle to work their way into the top four.
5. Who will win the other four regions?
- Richmond Hill (Region 2) and Mays (Region 5) can clinch titles in their regions with victories this week. Richmond Hill faces Brunswick, and Mays travels to Alexander. The other two first-place teams – Evans of Region 3 and Alpharetta of Region 7 – could clinch this week as well, but a lot of things out of their control would have to go their way. It’s more likely that those two region championships will come down to the final weekend, when Evans hosts Heritage-Conyers and Alpharetta travels to Chattahoochee. Evans held a similar one-game lead over Heritage going into the final game last year, but Heritage won 42-23 to take the title. Alpharetta finished in third place in Region 7 last year, behind Johns Creek and Centennial.
Here are the Class AAAAAA region standings through Week 10: