Region 5: Defending region champion Cartersville has gone 55-0 against teams not named Blessed Trinity over the last four seasons. Outside of those two playoff losses to the Titans, the program's dominance is incredible. Cartersville has gone undefeated in six of its last seven regular seasons, including each of its last four. Head coach Joey King stepped down following the Canes' 23-9 loss to Blessed Trinity in last year's state championship game, and longtime defensive coordinator Conor Foster is taking over. Foster's defense held opponents to just 8.27 ppg this past season. Offensively, Cartersville is quarterbacked by Louisville-commit Tee Webb, who tossed 35 touchdowns this past season. As solid as Cartersville is, the competiveness of Region 5 has also been on an upwards trend, and we could see a handful of programs battling for the top seed. Troup has finished region runner-up to the Canes in each of the past two seasons. Auburn-commit Kobe Hudson stars as the Tigers' quarterback, and has Player of the Year potential heading into his final varsity season. Last year, Hudson accounted for 50 total touchdowns (32 passing, 18 rushing) and 4,796 total yards of offense (3,386 passing, 1,410 rushing). The Tigers lost to Blessed Trinity in last year's semifinals (51-35) and finished 12-2. Troup's other loss came to Cartersville 43-10. Whether or not Troup can get past Cartersville remains to be seen. Other region opponents, however, played Cartersville much closer than the Tigers. Sandy Creek, for example, lost 7-0 to Cartersville last season and finished 7-4 under second-year head coach Brett Garvin. The Patriots are going to be ultra-talented this upcoming season and the championship expectations and excitement have returned to the proud program
“The biggest strength this year is probably going to be the secondary,” said Garvin. “There will be four seniors back there in the secondary and all four of them have offers. They are pretty athletic, all four of them are about 6-foot, 185 pounds, so they will definitely be the strength in experience as well. We are pretty fast as a unit defensively and also offensively. We’re returning two very good wideouts, our running backs, our quarterback and four or five offensive and defensive lineman.” Another team to watch for is Cedartown, and the Bulldogs gave a preview last season of the level of competitiveness that could be in store this year. Cedartown ultimately earned the No. 4 seed with its 3-3 region record in 2018—The three losses: (Cartersville 21-20, Troup 20-13, Sandy Creek 31-28). Chapel Hill, Central-Carroll and LaGrange went a combined 0-12 against the four playoff teams in 2018 and will have to break through to the upper tier.
Region 6: Region 6 has three new head coaches set to make debuts in 2019. Chris Parker stepped down at Pickens following the Dragons' school-record 11-1 finish and assistant Jeff Nelson took over. The Dragons featured one of the state's top rushing offenses last year, and closed the season with a 315.9 rushing yards per game average. Former Ridgeland coach Cortney Braswell accepted a job at the University of Louisville and the Panthers promoted Kip Klein, who has been with the program for 25 years. The third coaching change is very intriguing. Former Pebblebrook head coach Kevin Saunders stepped down from his position with the Class AAAAAAA Falcons and accepted the job at Gilmer, which carries a state-worst 30-game losing streak into 2019. Saunders is now going to try and build back the Bobcats' program and restore its confidence. Heritage-Catoosa earned the No. 3 seed out of the region last year, but its defense was one of the least effective in all of the classification. The Generals went from allowing 16.9 ppg in 2017 to allowing a whopping 41 ppg. Northwest Whitfield earned the No. 4 seed, but ran into Blessed Trinity in the first round to cap a 6-5 season. LaFayette went 5-5 overall in Paul Ellis' first year as head coach. Southwest Whitfield defeated Gilmer 42-14, but went 0-5 against the rest of the region and finished 3-7.
Region 7: There were two new schools introduced to Region 7 last year—Flowery Branch and Denmark. Their arrival dialed up the competiveness of what was already considered to be one of the toughest regions in the classification. Joining a field of teams that includes Blessed Trinity, Marist, White County, West Hall and Chestatee, Flowery Branch and Denmark will be among those battling for the Region 7 championship again this season. Sophomore quarterback Banks Atkins will lead the Blessed Trinity offense this season with a running attack that features Jackson Hamilton and Elijah Green. Marist fell 10-7 to Blessed Trinity to earn the No. 2 seed last year, and then fell 17-14 to Cartersville in the semifinals. The War Eagles' defense was phenomenal this past year, and was able to hold Flowery Branch scoreless in a 20-0 win. The War Eagles are going to be without U.S. All-American and Notre Dame signee Kyle Hamilton, however, in their secondary. Flowery Branch had to play Blessed Trinity and Marist in back-to-back weeks. The 20-0 loss to Marist followed a 21-20 loss to Blessed Trinity that ended on the Falcons' unsuccessfully gambled two-point conversion attempt that could've won them the game. Earning the No. 4 seed was White County, which lost to first-year program Denmark 28-27, but got in by winning a three-way tie-breaker with the Danes and West Hall. Chestatee closed out the year 0-6 in region play and 1-9 overall. Flowery Branch will be led by South Alabama-commit and three-star quarterback Elijah Gainey this season. Gainey started as a sophomore before the Falcons switched classifications this past season, and his experience will be a great advantage. Lastly, there is perhaps the most intriguing storyline in all of GHSA football this season—The Denmark Danes. Last year's team nearly made the playoffs as a first year school and finished the year 5-5. This occurred, despite the roster consisting entirely of freshmen, sophomores and juniors. As a result, the program is returning all of last year's starters with a few exceptions. Auburn-commit and junior Aaron McLaughlin transferred in from Buford, and last year's starter Ben Whitlock is now playing for Johns Creek. McLaughlin will have Auburn-commit Ze'Vian Capers as his top target. Defensively, returning team captain and First Team All-Region linebacker Zach Burchfield provides the Danes with a physical 6-foot-2, 230-pound presence.
Region 8: St. Pius finished 10-2 last year and captured is seventh region title since 2009. The Golden Lions' defense was back to form and the team scored a 17-0 win over rival Marist before sweeping the Region 8 field. Marist, however, won the rematch 24-8 in the second round. It won't take long to get an idea of what this year's St. Pius team is about; the Golden Lions are traveling to BT to open their season. One of the biggest storylines last year was the drastic turnaround that was seen with the North Oconee program under head coach Tyler Aurandt. Following an 0-10 finish in 2016 and a 1-9 effort in 2017, North Oconee took an 8-2 record into the postseason and defeated Sandy Creek 27-8 before suffering a 35-10 loss to Blessed Trinity in the second round. The North Oconee defense improved from 33.9 points per game allowed in 2017 to 16.8 ppg this past season. Last year's No. 3 seed Oconee County has struggled against the classifications top defenses in the past couple of seasons, but four-star quarterback and LSU-commit Max Johnson will have a chance to break the trend as he prepares for his final varsity season. Stephens County went 5-6 in Wesley Tankersley's debut and earned the No. 4 seed. Madison County was swept by the competition (0-4) and finished 2-8 overall.