K.I.P.P. Atlanta Collegiate football coach Lester Caldwell is thrilled and admittedly surprised to be playing for a region championship in the school’s third full varsity season, especially after going 1-9 and 1-9 in the first two.
‘’We’re not known as an athletic school,’’ Caldwell said. “’The premise on which we stand is academics. So this is pretty special.’’
Caldwell’s Warriors (7-2, 4-1) will be facing a similar school, 7-year-old Hapeville Charter Career Academy (6-3, 5-0), for the Region 6-AA championship Friday night at the Hapeville Recreation Center. The charter schools are in a region with older, more traditional city schools such as Washington and Douglass.
Neither K.I.P.P. nor Hapeville has won a region title. Led by Georgia-committed cornerback William Poole III, Hapeville is probably the favorite.
The K.I.P.P.-Hapeville game is one of 16 statewide this week that will decide region championships. Another 16 teams can clinch region titles with victories over teams lower in the standings.
Here’s a look at those and other story lines for the final weekend of the regular season.
For the title: Six games involving metro Atlanta teams will decide region titles. In addition to Hapeville-K.I.P.P., they are Cherokee at Roswell (Region 4-AAAAAAA), Grayson at South Gwinnett (8-AAAAAAA), Greater Atlanta Christian at Dawson County (7-AAA), Eagle’s Landing Christian at Landmark Christian (5-A) and Fellowship Christian at Mount Zion-Carroll (6-A).
No. 1 vs. No. 2: The ELCA-Landmark Christian game is only the 16th in the last 30 years played in the regular season between No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the same classification. ELCA played another of those Sept. 30, when it defeated then-No. 2 Wesleyan 34-31. The No. 1 teams are 9-6. ELCA is going for its seventh straight region title.
Give me Liberty: The most interesting region-title matchup outside of metro Atlanta is probably Liberty County at Pierce County 2-AAA. Liberty County, led by the state’s consensus No. 2 college prospect Richard LeCounte (committed to Georgia), has never won a region championship in football. The school opened in 1993. In the spring, the versatile LeCounte led Liberty to the Class AAA championship in basketball, the first state title in any sport for the Southeast Georgia school.
Seven-year itch: Three metro Atlanta schools are one victory from their first region titles, and all three opened in 2009. Lambert of Forsyth County can win 5-AAAAAAA with a victory over Forsyth Central. Johns Creek of Fulton County can win 7-AAAAAA with a victory over Dunwoody. Arabia Mountain can win 5-AAAAA with a victory over Lithonia. Other metro area schools that are one victory from titles, though not their first, are McEachern (3-AAAAAAA), Tucker (4-AAAAAA), Mays (5-AAAAAA) and Blessed Trinity (7-AAAA).
*Record chasing: Jake Fromm, the quarterback from Houston County, is 430 yards from tying Deshaun Watson’s career record for passing yards in a season (13,077). Houston County, ranked No. 9 in Class AAAAAA, must defeated No. 1 Valdosta to make the playoffs, so Fromm might have only one shot at it. The Army All-America has committed to Georgia.
*Science of tiebreakers: The state-playoff draws will be set after the final regular-season games are played on Saturday, and that won’t be easy. Three-team ties in the standings are inevitable, and each region has its own method of breaking them. Some use point differentials in games involving the tied teams. Other employ complicated points systems that assess strength of schedule. They don’t always work. Region 7-AAAA in northwest Georgia is probably going to have a three-way tie for first place involving Ridgeland, Pickens and Northwest Whitfield. Trouble is, the coaches can’t agree on the tiebreaker they agreed upon in preseason. ‘’It’s interpreted differently by everybody in our region; that’s our problem,’’ region secretary Ed Vosburgh said. So principals were meeting late this week, hoping to solve it. ‘’We’ll either come to an agreement, or we’ll go to a coin toss.’’
[Principals did meet and decided on point differential in games among the tied teams. Ridgeland would be the winner with a victory Friday at Southeast Whitfield.]
The state playoffs will begin Nov. 11 with 240 teams vying for eight state titles Dec. 9-10 in the Georgia Dome.
Here is a look at how the region champions could shake out.
3-McEachern w/ a win
4-Roswell vs. Cherokee
5-Lambert w/ a win
8-South Gwinnett vs. Grayson
3-Evans w/ a win (2008)
4-Tucker w/ a win
5-Mays w/ a win (2003)
6-Dalton w/ a win
7-Johns Creek w/ a win
1-Thomas County Central w/ a win
2-Ware County (clinched Thursday)
5-Arabia Mountain w/ a win
7-Rome w/ a win
5-Troup vs. Cartersville
6-Ridgeland w/ a win
7-Blessed Trinity w/ a win
8-Jefferson w/ a win
1-Crisp County vs. Worth County
2-Liberty County vs. Pierce County
4-Peach County vs. Jackson
6-Calhoun w/ a win
7-Greater Atlanta Christian vs. Dawson County
1-Fitzgerald vs. Thomasville
4-Jefferson County vs. Screven County
6-Hapeville Charter vs. K.I.P.P. Atlanta Collegiate
7-Pepperell w/ a win
1-Mitchell County vs. Pelham
3-Emanuel County Institute*
3-Calvary Day w/ a win
4-Macon County vs. Manchester
5-Eagle’s Landing Christian vs. Landmark Christian
6-Mount Zion vs. Fellowship Christian
7-Tattnall Square vs. Washington-Wilkes
8-Prince Avenue Christian vs. Athens Academy
*ECI has clinched a share of the Region 3-A title. The other co-champion will be decided this week.