AAA football schedules: Buckhead's finest, Cedar Grove form super region

The GHSA recently released football schedules for the 2016 season. This is the fifth in a series of articles on some of the schedule’s interesting features. Today, we look at Class AAA in 10 blurbs.

-The Buckhead three – Lovett, Pace Academy and Westminster – are in the same loaded Region 5-AAA. The schools are lined up along Paces Ferry/West Paces Ferry Road in Atlanta. Pace, classified by enrollment in Class A, chose to play up. Westminster (AAA) and Pace (AA) were state champions last season. Lovett, 6-6 last season, has won 25 playoff games the past 10 years. The three have not played in the same region since Pace started football in 2008, if ever.

-And let’s not forget Cedar Grove in Region 5. Cedar lost to Westminster 24-8 in the AAA semifinals (considered a big upset at the time) last season but shared the Region 4-AAA title with AAA runner-up Blessed Trinity, which Cedar Grove tied 13-13. Cedar Grove returns 6-foot-7 quarterback Jelani Woods, who has an offer from South Carolina. Cedar Grove opens with Stephenson on Aug. 19.

-Westminster is going to Ireland for a Sept. 2 game as part of the Global Ireland Football Tournament. Westminster will play Community School of Naples, Fla., a Class 2A school that was 9-2 last season. Blessed Trinity and Marist also will be playing and participating in what is a four-day event. On Saturday, Sept. 3, Georgia Tech will play Boston College in the event’s culmination, the Aer Lingus College Football Classic. It's in Dublin.

-Greater Atlanta Christian is taking a trip to Denver on Sept. 9 to face Valor Christian, the Colorado Class 5A champion. GAC also will play Lovett, Westminster and St. Pius in non-region play. GAC was assigned to Region 7-AA, where its nearest opponents are in Hall County. During the two-year cycle, GAC will be playing at Union and Fannin counties, which will require driving through mountains and stopping just short of North Carolina. With Stanford commit Davis Mills at quarterback, GAC will be hard to beat in that league. By the way, Valor Christian’s quarterback, Dylan McCaffrey, is committed to Michigan and is considered the No. 1 pro-style QB recruit in the country.

-Remember when Bremen was good? The Blue Devils averaged 9.5 wins from 2004 through 2011 in Class A, then got bumped to AA, and mediocrity ensued as they face bigger schools. Now, as a result of the GHSA’s new 3-percent rule, Bremen is playing AAA, in Region 6, where predator Calhoun still lurks. The 3-percent rule – designed partly to deal with city schools that get significant amounts of their enrollment outside their counties – snared innocuous Bremen, but not state-power Calhoun. Bremen was forced to count some of its in-district students that live out of county. The city of Bremen covers part of Haralson and Carroll counties. Not that it was the fault of Calhoun, which should roll to a state-record 16th straight region title. But it’s puzzling to see Bremen, a school of 623 students, playing in a region that has schools with more than 1,000 students, and for no good reason.

-Chatham County (Savannah) schools have their own region, almost. Southeast Bulloch also is in Region 3, and in fact might be the team to beat. But it’s interesting to see seven Savannah public schools grouped together, and playing in a classification where they can compete over time, unlike the days of playing in the highest class with Camden County. The Savannah seven are Islands, Jenkins, Windsor Forest, Johnson, Savannah, Groves and Beach. Jenkins (6-4 last season) is the best of the group. Jenkins last won a region title in 1966, is the best of the group.

-Sometimes the best way to find the strongest teams in the region is to measure the quality of their non-region opponents. Peach County and Westside-Macon of Region 4 are both playing Northside-Warner Robins of AAAAAA in pre-region, so let’s go with them. They play each other in the region opener Sept. 23.

-Let’s try the formula with Region 1. Cook is playing Tift County and Brunswick, not to mention AA power Brooks County. Worth County and Monroe play Thomas County Central. Monroe also plays Brooks. Those are the three. Region 1 is a five-team region, meaning the necessity of six non-region games, which is a good deal for middle-sized South Georgia schools because there are many worthy out-of-class opponents to pick from.

-Watch for Liberty County in Region 4. This is a team that went 8-4 in AAAA and dropped down. Liberty’s Richard LeCounte might be the state’s best all-around football player. Liberty County – which has never won a region title - is playing larger schools Bradwell Institute and Effingham County to get ready for a shallow region whose chief threats are probably Pierce County and Appling County.

-Hart County is the most ambitious Region 8 team. The Bulldogs (7-4 in 2015) play at Class A private-school champion Eagle’s Landing Christian on Sept. 9 and at AAA runner-up Blessed Trinity on Sept. 16. They also play non-region local rivals Elbert County and Stephens County before tackling a region that includes only one other team that had a winning record last season, Franklin County at 6-5.