Region 1-AAAAAA has claimed the Class AAAAAA football championship every year since the region’s current setup was established in 2016, and it is showing no signs of slowing down in 2019.
As the region prepares to begin league play this week, four of its five teams are ranked in the top 10 – No. 2 Valdosta, No. 4 Lee County, No. 7 Coffee and No. 9 Houston County. The other team, Northside of Warner Robins, spent five weeks in the top 10 but has since dropped out.
Lee County is the two-time defending champion of both the region and Class AAAAAA. Valdosta won both of those titles in 2016. Northside was the runner-up last year, and Coffee finished second in 2017. That’s part of the reason the region is annually considered one of the strongest, if not the strongest, in the state.
Now, after compiling a combined record of 22-8 in non-region competition, the league turns its attention inward. This week, the brutal round-robin region schedule begins with Northside at Coffee and Houston County at Valdosta.
The reality is that all five of these are playoff-quality teams. Northside is the lowest-rated in the MaxPreps rankings, yet the Eagles still come in at No. 13. However, only the top four in each region make the playoffs, so somebody will be sitting home.
On Tuesdays this season, we’ve been examining the playoff outlooks for every team as region play kicks off (or shortly after it begins). We continue today with Region 1.
Here’s a closer look at each of the teams, broken down by playoff likelihood, in alphabetical order within each group:
Defending champion: Lee County
Team - Region / Overall
Coffee – 0-0 / 5-1
Lee County – 0-0 / 5-1
Valdosta – 0-0 / 5-1
Houston County – 0-0 / 4-2
Northside-Warner Robins – 0-0 / 3-3
Safest playoff bets: Coffee, Lee County, Valdosta
In a five-team region, one victory in league play is often enough to get a team into the playoffs. These three should have no trouble picking one up somewhere along the way. Lee County and Valdosta are both 9-3 in region play over the past three seasons, with three of the combined six losses coming against each other. In fact, Lee County’s only loss over the past two seasons came against Valdosta, 31-28 on Oct. 20, 2017. The Wildcats finished fourth in the region that year. Lee and Valdosta are the favorites to win the region title in 2019. Coffee has won two region titles since 1982 (most recently in 2015) but appears to have the weapons to challenge for it this year. Coffee hadn’t been tested through its first five games, but a 35-28 loss to Godby, Fla., last week raised some eyebrows.
In the hunt: Houston County, Northside
Northside is on the shakiest ground of the five teams entering region play. The Eagles opened the season with a 46-13 victory over Centennial but have since lost three of five, and one of the victories was a 33-28 win over a Class AAAA Baldwin team that was 0-4 at the time. Still, Northside has not missed the state playoffs since 1995 or the postseason since 1991 (including region playoffs). Houston County hasn’t been to the playoffs since Jake Fromm led the Bears to the quarterfinals as a junior in 2015. Houston County went 7-3 but missed the playoffs in Fromm’s senior year, then suffered through back-to-back 2-8 seasons. The Bears are drastically improved this year, as evidenced by their record, their ranking and their victory over Class AAA No. 1 Peach County on Sept. 13. But have they improved enough to make the playoffs?
Long shots: None
Not this year: None
Games to watch:
Almost any game involving these five teams should be fun to watch, but two stand out. Lee County’s visit to Valdosta on Oct. 25 could decide the region title. That was the case last year, when Lee County’s resounding 63-7 victory was the Wildcats’ only region loss. Houston County’s visit to Northside on Nov. 8, the final weekend of the regular season, could determine a playoff berth.
Next week: Region 3-AAAAAA
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