Now the games really begin to count.
Region play begins this weekend in 5-AAAAAA and 7-AAAAAA, the two largest regions in the classification with nine football-playing members each.
The pecking order in Region 5 is a little more clear cut, and region play begins with a bang when top-10 teams Mays and Hughes meet Friday in Fairburn.
The race in Region 7 appears more wide open. The four playoff teams from last season – Johns Creek, Centennial, Alpharetta and Cambridge – are a combined 1-7 this year. The two teams that finished at the bottom of the standings in 2016, eighth-place Dunwoody and last-place North Atlanta, are the only undefeated teams. The Wildcats and Warriors meet Friday at North DeKalb Stadium, and the winner will sit at the top of the standings next week. Dunwoody won last year’s matchup 14-10, but neither team won another region game the rest of the season.
Two of last year’s playoff teams will face each other this weekend when Alpharetta takes on Centennial. Cambridge plays Chattahoochee (fifth place last year), and Johns Creek takes on Pope. Perhaps a front-runner or two will emerge.
Here’s a brief look at some of the other top games on the AAAAAA schedule in Week 4 (all games are Friday):
*Arabia Mountain at Dacula: Dacula has perhaps the most difficult non-region schedule in AAAAAA. The Falcons (0-2) already have lost to Central Gwinnett and Mill Creek from the highest classification. Next up comes Arabia Mountain, followed by West Forsyth and Walton. Those three teams are a combined 8-0. Dacula started 1-4 last season but bounced back to win the Region 8 title.
*Douglas County at Northgate: Douglas County came up a game short of the playoffs last year. The Tigers went 6-4 overall but lost to all four of Region 5’s playoff teams – Mays, Alexander, Northgate and Hughes – and finished in fifth place. Douglas County (2-0) will need to beat one of those teams to make the playoffs this year, starting tonight as region play opens against No. 10 Northgate.
*Mays at Hughes: It’s only the first weekend of region play in 5-AAAAAA, but this game could ultimately be the one that determines the region champion. These are the highest-ranked teams in the region – Mays (1-1) at No. 5 and Hughes (2-0) at No. 6. Mays won 47-28 last year and went on to capture the region title. Hughes finished in fourth place and reached the second round of the playoffs. For more on this game, check out GHSF Daily’s Week 4 preview capsules by clicking here.
*Northside-Warner Robins at Lanier: Northside’s 38-7 victory last season still stands as the most-lopsided loss in Lanier’s seven-year history. It also was the Longhorns’ second consecutive loss after a 24-game regular-season winning streak. Lanier (1-1) did not lose again until the ninth game of the season, a 20-0 defeat against Dacula that decided the 8-AAAAAA champion. Northside is 2-1.
*Stephenson at Southwest DeKalb (Hallford Stadium); Stephenson is 0-2 but gets one last shot at momentum before heading into Region 4-AAAAAA play and a big showdown with No. 8 Lovejoy next week. The Jaguars got off to a similar 0-2 start last year but beat Southwest DeKalb (21-0) and won seven of their next nine games to reach the state quarterfinals. Southwest DeKalb is 2-1.