Class AAAAAA blog: Mays, Douglas Co. lead pack in wide-open Region 5 race

ajc.com

Credit: Adam Krohn

The opening weekend of region play in 5-AAAAAA took a little longer than expected, as the lightning and strong thunderstorms that blew through north Georgia Friday night caused two of the four games be postponed.

Alexander and South Paulding completed their game on Saturday. Defending champion Creekview and New Manchester didn’t finish up until Monday evening, with Creekside taking a 28-13 victory.

One thing is clear after one week of games, however. The playoff race in Region 5 appears wide open, especially in the middle of the pack.

On Tuesdays over the next few weeks, we’ll examine the playoff outlooks for every team as region play kicks off (or shortly after it begins). We continue today with Region 5.

Here’s a closer look at each of the teams, broken down by playoff likelihood, in alphabetical order within each group:

Defending champion: Creekview 

Safest playoff bets: Douglas County, Mays 

Mays’ two-year reign as region champion ended last year, but the Raiders (2-1, 1-0) made it safely into the playoffs for the 14th time in 17 seasons. Mays lost to Kell 17-12 in the opener this year but bounced back with wins over Carver of Birmingham and Hughes. At Douglas County (2-1, 1-0), coach Johnny White has restored a once-proud program to prominence in three-plus seasons after inheriting a team that finished 2-8 in 2015. The Tigers went 6-4 in 2016 but were 18-5 the past two seasons, finishing as region runner-up both years.

In the hunt: Alexander, Creekside, Northgate, South Paulding 

Creekside (1-2, 1-0) ended a school-record 12-game losing streak when it beat New Manchester in the region opener last year, then went on to win the region title. Despite another slow start in 2019, the Seminoles are 1-0 in region play and back in the mix. Northgate (0-3, 0-1) was a playoff team last year but has to find its offense. In three games, the Vikings have scored 16 points, 13 of which came in a 27-13 loss to Newnan in the opener. Alexander (1-2, 0-1) was a playoff team every year from 2013 to 2017 but slipped to 3-7 last season. The Cougars are off to a 1-2 start, just like last year, but this time one of the losses came in region play (28-21 against South Paulding), putting them in an early hole. South Paulding (2-1, 1-0) went 5-25 over the past three seasons but is off to a good start this year that includes a region win. We should find out quickly if the Spartans have made enough of a jump to contend for a playoff berth.

Long shots: Hughes, New Manchester 

Hughes (0-3, 0-1) finished in fifth place last year and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The Panthers’ 0-3 start has come against three pretty good teams, and they played Mays close (20-13) in the region opener. New Manchester (1-2, 0-1) made its only playoff appearance in school history in 2014 but has not had a winning record since then. A loss to Creekside in the region opener won’t knock the Jaguars out of contention, but the schedule over the next few weeks is rough, beginning Saturday with Mays.

Not this year: Tri-Cities 

Tri-Cities (0-2, 0-0) had the best team in school history in 2011, finishing 10-3 and reaching the quarterfinals. However, the Bulldogs have struggled lately. They are just 4-28 since the start of the 2016 season, went 1-9 last year (1-7 in region) and are 0-2 in 2019. Tri-Cities needs to get off to a good start in region play against Hughes this week to entertain any thoughts of a climb in the standings.

Games to watch: 

The region championship may hinge on the Douglas County-Mays game on Oct. 11. But don’t be surprised if Creekside makes another surge. The Seminoles play Mays at home on Oct. 18 and Douglas County on the road on Nov. 1. Also telling will be the Oct. 4 matchup between perennial playoff contenders Northgate and Alexander. The loser of that game will have a tall hill to climb.

***

Next week: Region 7-AAAAAA