While the football season is young, it is never too early to start making predictions. To that end, I’m going to offer my early, early top 3 picks in all four subregions in 8-AA and 8-AAA. These two regions are broken in half and the top three from each subregion will play the other top three for four spots in the state playoffs.
No. 1: North Hall
Why: The Trojans went 6-0 last season in 7A-AAA and will face many of the same opponents this year. While not as strong as in 2009, North Hall has won 22 straight subregion games and should be able to hold off the rising teams it has to deal with. The season-opening win over Jefferson didn’t exactly inspire confidence (the Trojans escaped with a narrow 24-21 victory), but things should be more clear after this week’s match up with St. Pius X.
No. 2: White County
Why: Narrowly losing to Gainesville last week showed the Warriors are ready to make a statement in Class AAA. White County seems to have all the weapons — specifically an able quarterback who can run and throw — to make a run at the state playoffs. To do that, they’ll have to get a win this week over West Hall.
No. 3: Franklin County
Why: The Lions tied a perennial playoff team in Hart County to start the season and followed that up with a defeat of another playoff team: Commerce. Although both are in a lower classification, the wins give good evidence that Franklin County can do enough to make it to a play-in game. Whether or not they can earn a win over the No. 3 team from 8B-AAA remains to be seen.
No. 1: Gainesville
Why: Despite losing quarterback Blake Sims, the Red Elephants still have one of the most athletic teams in the area. That athleticism should prove strong enough to hold off the other teams in the subregion and give Gainesville a chance to play for a third straight region championship. Whether or not that happens will depend on the play of freshman quarterback DeShaun Watson, who had a tough outing to start the season against Buford but a strong one last week against White County.
No. 2: Monroe Area
Why: This spot will be highly contested between four teams with losing records a year ago and one school in it’s first year of competition. Monroe won’t have to do much to get a shot at second place, just beat three teams which had losing records last season in Walnut Grove, West Hall and Oconee County. Victories against these teams will be made easier by defensive end Stephen Tuitt, who is one of the best in the state and has a scholarship offer from the University of Georgia. If the Hurricanes want a shot at state, this year may prove their best chance.
No. 3: West Hall
Why: Senior quarterback Shunquez Stephens has never had the opportunity to play for a state playoff spot, and that extra motivation may just be enough to give the Spartans the chance. With a defense that is getting better every week (they’re giving up less than 10 points a game) and an offense that may have finally found a running back in Dre Pou, West Hall seems poised to take another step toward improving their program.
No. 1: Banks County
Why: The Leopards have put two strong wins on the board this season, the most impressive being a 40-14 victory over Social Circle who made the Class-A playoffs last season, and seem to be revitalized by the return of running back Dylan Lackey. Lackey has 309 yards and three touchdowns on the ground through three games and quarterback Harrison Dale has proved more than able to manage the offense. In a subregion that is wide open, the Leopards seem poised to secure a spot in the state playoffs.
No. 2: Union County
Why: With defeats over subregion opponents Fannin County, Banks County, Dawson County and Rabun County last season, the Panthers seem ready to make a play for state this season. If they can repeat their victories from a year ago, they may challenge for the subregion title. The loss of standouts Kolt Owenby and Blake Gowder may prevent them from dominating against their subregion opponents, but the Panthers have a chance to win enough to earn a play-in berth.
No. 3: Fannin County
Why: The Rebels are coming off of their fourth straight winning season, and have split two games with Class AAA opponents to start 2010. Moving into subregion play should show more, but Fannin County seems more than able to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
No. 1: Jefferson
Why: The two-time defending region champions look poised to take control of the stronger side of Region 8-AA. With two teams down from Class AAA and four others that went to the state playoffs last season, this competition is going to be close, no matter how strong Jefferson plays.
No. 2: Hart County
Why: The Bulldogs have made the state playoffs for 18 years straight and that run shouldn’t end this year. Although they are 0-1-1 so far this season, the loss came against Class AAA’s Stephens County, and Hart County will have plenty of opportunities to make a statement in Region 8-AA: the remainder of the Bulldogs’ schedule is against region opponents.
No. 3: East Jackson
Why: After making an appearance in the second round of state last season, the Eagles should be able to hold off the rest of the subregion and earn a play-in spot. While 0-2 so far this season, both losses came against Class AAA opponents and were close. The early season testing should prove valuable when region play begins this week.
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