Just four weeks into the high school football season, the world seems a little bit upside down in Region 4-AAAAAA.
Morrow, which hasn’t had a winning season or gone to the playoffs in two decades, is undefeated in region play and tied for first place. M.L. King, coming off a school-worst 1-9 season in 2018, is 2-0 overall heading into its region opener this week against Mount Zion of Jonesboro. And Mundy’s Mill, a playoff team in 2018, is off to an 0-2 start in the region and faces perennial power Tucker this week.
The biggest surprise of the season, however, took place last Thursday night, when Mount Zion knocked off Stephenson 14-9 in the teams’ region opener. Mount Zion was 2-8 and finished seventh in the nine-team region last year, and the Bulldogs had started the 2019 season with losses to Class AAAAA teams Jonesboro and Starr’s Mill. Stephenson, the defending region champion, came into the game 2-0 and ranked No. 7 in Class AAAAAA. The Jaguars were projected as 28-point favorites by the computer Maxwell Ratings.
“It’s a very long season; we’ll take one game at a time,” Mount Zion coach Kevin Jones told Darius Goodman for the Clayton News Daily. “But it’s a good feeling to start off region play with a win against a perennial powerhouse like Stephenson High School.”
That’s makes this week’s Stephenson-Morrow game Friday at Hallford Stadium a big one, and that’s something not many people saw coming.
Morrow went 3-7 last year, finishing in sixth place, and lost both of its non-region games this season. The Mustangs beat 2018 playoff team Mundy’s Mill 37-31 last week to improve to 2-2 overall and 2-0 in the region, and a victory over Stephenson would go a long way toward helping Morrow reach the playoffs for the first time since 1998.
Not everything is completely out of order in 4-AAAAAA, however. The Maxwell Ratings still project Lovejoy, Tucker and Stephenson to be three of the four playoff teams, just as they have been every year since the current region alignment was created in 2016. It’s just that, this year, it appears that there are a few more hurdles in their path.
Here are five other games involving Class AAAAAA teams to keep an eye on this weekend:
*Clarke Central at Lanier: Lanier is 3-0 for the first time since 2015 and will try to make it four consecutive wins when it faces a Clarke Central team that has been explosive but erratic. The Gladiators won close games against Winder-Barrow (44-36) and Oconee County (28-21), got blown out by Flowery Branch (38-0), then won a 48-41 shootout with Thomson, which was No. 10 in AAAA.
*Dalton at Creekview: Dalton avenged one of its four Region 6 losses in 2018 when it beat Sequoyah 42-14 in its region opener last week. Now the Catamounts will try to extract more revenge when they travel to Creekview, the defending region champion. Dalton’s Jahmyr Gibbs (committed to Georgia Tech) is having a monster season, with 825 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns in three games.
*Northview at Dunwoody: Northview and Dunwoody are two of the four teams tied for first place in Region, but Dunwoody’s 21-19 victory over Cambridge was the most unexpected, considering that the Wildcats were 2-8 last year and entered the game as 20-point underdogs. Northview beat Dunwoody 35-7 last year and went on to finish in fifth place, one game out of the playoff picture.
*Veterans at Houston County: Houston County announced its re-emergence as a playoff contender last week when it rallied for a 32-31 overtime victory over AAA No. 1 Peach County, which had beaten Region 1 teams Northside-Warner Robins and Lee County the previous two weeks. This week, the Bears take on county rival Veterans, which was 3-0 until a 29-19 loss to Statesboro lost week.
*Wayne County at Glynn Academy: Glynn Academy will take the field for the first time in three weeks when it takes on the No. 9 team in Class AAAAA. The Red Terrors opened the season 1-1, then had their game against Groves on Sept. 6 canceled because of Hurricane Dorian before a scheduled week off last weekend. Wayne County is 1-1 and had a game postponed by the hurricane.
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