Speculation. That’s the name of the game this time of the year.
With a new look and teams shifting into Class AAA's eight regions after reclassification, it's difficult to guess which regions will be the strongest this season.
Regions 5, 2 and 8 look powerful on paper. The three leagues include Cedar Grove (5-AAA), the defending champions, Greater Atlanta Christian (5-AAA), Crisp County (2-AAA), Peach County (2-AAA), and Class AAAA runner-up Oconee County (8-AAA).
But there always will be sleeper programs and sleeper regions. And after spring practices were cancelled across the state, it became harder to rank which regions will be the strongest during the 2020 football season.
But let's try. Call it an early power-ranking:
No. 1 -- Region 5: Defending champion Cedar Grove and a newly added Greater Atlanta Christian has created a buffed-up power region in 5-AAA. Westminster, a perennial playoff contender, stayed in place. Former Class AAAA programs Sandy Creek and Carver-Atlanta enter the fray, along with former Class AA Douglass. This region will be a force in AAA as it has in the past, but with the addition of GAC, the defending 7-AAA champions, Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seeds now become increasingly dangerous in the playoffs.
No. 2 -- Region 2: This Middle Georgia power region now includes Crisp County, the state runner-up, with Peach County, a perennial state-title contender. Mary Persons, Upson-Lee and Americus-Sumter join from Class AAAA.
No. 3 -- Region 8: Hart County, a quarterfinalist in AAA last season, and Oconee County, a runner-up in Class AAAA last season, create a difficult 8-AAA. Monroe Area, East Jackson and Franklin County remain in 8-AAA from 2019, and Stephens County enters the league from Class AAAA.
No. 4 -- Region 6: North Murray returns to defend its region championship in a league that Calhoun controlled for 20 years before departing to Class AAAAA after reclassification. The region looks very similar, with the addition of former AA program Rockmart, which lost in the second round last season.
No. 5 -- Region 4: Burke County, which won the Region 3-AAAA title last season, moves to Region 4 and joins its former AAAA mates Richmond Academy, Cross Creek and Thomson. Harlem and Hephzibah enter the region from Class AA. Both of those programs lost in the first round in last year’s playoffs.
No. 6 -- Region 1: This region consists of former Region 2 programs, and last season Appling County and Pierce County were the most successful playoff contenders – both exiting in the second round. The other teams – Brantley, Long County and Tattnall County -- failed to make the playoffs.
No. 7 -- Region 7: With GAC’s departure, Region 7 is wide open. Dawson County, Cherokee Bluff, Lumpkin County and East Hall remain. Dawson County and North Hall lost in the second round of last year’s playoffs. Those were the only remaining programs in the region that advanced past the first round. Gilmer, West Hall and White County all joined from AAAA, but none of those programs made the playoffs last season.
No. 8 -- Region 3: The Savannah region did not change much from last year’s edition. But Jenkins, which won the region in 2016, 2017 and 2019, and Benedictine, 2018’s region champion, have departed, along with Islands. Liberty County, a talented program, moved into the region, but none of the remaining programs advanced past the first round in last year’s bracket.
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