Before the football season started, it was widely assumed Region 8-AA's subregion "B" was significantly stronger than "A."
Through eight weeks of games, nothing has happened to change that theory.
"B" features seven teams, five of which made the state playoffs last year. Hart County and Elbert County made the Class AAA playoffs from Region 8 and Jefferson, East Jackson and North Oconee made it from last year's 11-team 8-AA, with Jefferson advancing to the quarterfinals.
"A" on the other hand, features six teams, none of which made the postseason in 2009. In fact only Fannin County and Union County (both 6-4) posted winning records.
It appears as though "B" will come down to Elbert County and North Oconee, both of which are 4-0 and will face each other in Week 10.
Heading into the season, "A" appeared to be up for grabs. So far, Banks County has taken control, posting a 3-0 record in subregion play, while East Hall and Fannin County (both 2-1), and Dawson County and Union County (1-2) are still in the mix for a top-three finish -- the top three teams from each subregion will square off in crossover games in Week 11 to determine who makes the state playoffs (the subregion winners automatically qualify).
Based on how the season has shaped up however, it's looking as though any team wanting to advance to the state playoffs from "A" will have to win the subregion, because there is a high probability "B" will dominate in the crossover games.
Each 8-AA team played one regular season crossover game (save North Oconee), and "A" was 2-4 in those games and were outscored 175-54. The two teams from "B" that lost -- Oglethorpe County and Jackson County -- are a combined 1-8 in subregion play.
"It's like the SEC," Banks County coach Blair Armstrong said. "In a given year, one side is stronger and the second or third team on the best side is better than all the teams on the other side."
Armstrong would know. His Leopards are 6-1, but the one loss was a 38-0 beatdown provided by East Jackson, which is currently the fourth-best team in "B" with a 2-2 subregion record.
Banks County appears the most solid candidate to emerge from "A." Armstrong noted his team has improved steadily as the season has progressed with strong play from LB/OT Matthew Patton, RB Jeremy Greenway, LB/RB Nathan Mathis, TE/DE Eli Autry and K/P Dean Autry.
"We're starting to learn how to finish games," Armstrong said.
The Leopards will also need to finish the season strong to secure first place in the subregion, which is the only guaranteed playoff berth.
Even East Hall -- a team that has finished 1-9 the past three seasons -- can still win the subregion. Currently at 2-1 in "A," if the Vikings can beat Dawson County on Friday in Gainesville, they'll face Banks County in the regular season finale. A win over Banks leaves both teams at 4-1 (assuming Banks beats Fannin County on Friday), with the Vikings owning the tiebreaker.
Another scenario would be Fannin County beating Banks County and winning the subregion with a Week 10 win and a Vikings loss (it owns the tiebreaker over the Vikings).
Rabun County (0-3) is all but eliminated from a crossover game that would determine a playoff spot, but the other six teams are still in line.
But the only line they're in is one that leads to a superior opponent in subregion "B."
"They're going to make some noise (in 'B'), and ('A') is going to have (its) hands full," Armstrong said.
Adam Krohn is a sports writer for The Times. You can follow him at twitter.com/gtimesakrohn.
(8-AA standings grid courtesy of Georgia High School Football Daily)