All of the non-classification match-ups this season might have taken your attention away from the fact that region play is, for the most part, upon us. Five of the eight regions will take to the field this to decide the pecking order, and a playoff picture should begin to emerge.
Peach County head coach Chad Campbell put the importance of region games into perspective for his players earlier this week as they prepare for their region-opener at Westside-Macon on Friday night. The sentiment is, for the most part, shared by coaches across all classifications.
“It is like I told the kids,” Campbell said. “This game right here is the most important game of the season, and that is how we are approaching it.”
The second-ranked Trojans have moved past non-AAA opponents Houston County, Perry and Mary Persons this year with just one blemish, a 38-35 loss to Class AAAAA Warner Robins.
“These first four games you could consider to be all kind of rival games, to be honest with you,” he said. “Sitting there playing in front of thousands of people. The only thing that matters are bragging rights, really. They are really great fun football games that don’t really mean anything. Of course it means something in the win-loss column, but it doesn’t really mean anything to the season. The season starts this week.”
But Campbell said the preparation during early schedule is important.
“Sure, you can build some momentum in those games,” he said. “And you can get some kids who don’t have any playing experience ready for region play. But the region schedule is the most important part of the season. You have to do well in region play to set up games 11 thru 15, or however many games you play in the playoffs. You can really screw that up by an off night, and these games are the most important.”
After playing in a playoff-like atmosphere in the tough non-region games, Campbell and Peach expect a totally different atmosphere.
“You probably won’t have crowds like that," Campbell said. "Those first four were fun, but now the season really starts."
The Trojans hold a 5-2 margin in the series against Westside-Macon and have not lost a game to the Seminoles since 2007. The Trojans won last year’s game 31-13.
Other games to focus on:
-- No. 3 Greater Atlanta Christian (3-1) at Union County (4-0) (Region 7): Greater Atlanta Christian holds a 9-0 lead in the series that dates to 1998 and won last year’s game 35-12. Union Grove, however, is 4-0 and has not really been challenged this season, outscoring opponents 189-41.
-- North Murray (2-2) at No. 5 Calhoun (3-1) (Region 6): Hal Lamb’s Yellow Jackets have never lost to North Murray, and there is little reason to feel that this season will be any different. Calhoun won last year’s meeting 31-7.
-- No. 6 Jenkins (3-0) at Southeast Bulloch (0-3) (Region 3): Jenkins will look to take the second victory ever against Southeast Bulloch in a series that dates to 2000. The Yellow Jackets won the first four meetings in 2000 (18-13), 2001 (55-0), 2014 (22-21) and 2015 (28-14), before losing to the Warriors last season 41-13.
-- Class AAAAAA Apalachee (1-3) at No. 8 Monroe Area (4-0): Monroe Area has not won a game against Apalachee since the 30-19 victory in 2005 under coach John Alexander. Apalachee holds a 2-5 margin in the series that dates to 2004. The Purple Hurricanes have gone through two coaching changes since that victory. This season, under head coach Kevin Reach, could provide their best opportunity to upset the higher-classified Wildcats.
-- Coahulla Creek (0-4) at No. 7 Bremen (4-0) (Region 6): The programs have only met once (last season), and Bremen took the 48-13 victory in coach Davis Russell’s first season at Bremen.
-- No. 1 Cedar Grove (4-0) vs. No. 9 Westminster (1-3) (Region 5): For more information on this game, see my Tuesday Blog by following the link: http://highschoolsports.blog.ajc.com/2017/09/19/no-1-cedar-grove-has-a-chance-at-history-a-snapshot-of-its-14-game-winning-streak/