Harrison head coach Matt Dickmann and player Mason Bollin (44) hold their championship trophy after the AAAAAA state championship game at Georgia State Stadium on Friday, December 13, 2019. Harrison won 20-7 over Allatoona. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Class AAAAAA football blog: Champions moving out, big names moving in

The football landscape in Class AAAAAA will look a lot different in the 2020 season, which is scheduled to begin in the third week of August.

For starters, there will be no defending state champion in the classification. Harrison, which won the 2019 title when it defeated rival Allatoona at Georgia State Stadium in December, was moved into Class AAAAAAA as part of the Georgia High School Association’s most recent reclassification, which was completed over the winter. 

Harrison was one of 19 former AAAAAA schools that were moved out of the classification and one of four – along with Alpharetta, Dunwoody and Gainesville – moved into the highest class. Twelve schools dropped one class into AAAAA, and three (Mays, Mount Zion-Jonesboro and Stephenson) dropped to AAAA. 

Taking their places will be 17 schools, eight which dropped from the highest class and nine that moved up from AAAAA. Among the big names moving into AAAAAA are traditional state powers Buford, Carrollton and Rome, all of which moved up one class. Those three schools have won a combined 21 state championships in their histories. 

Seven other schools – Creekview, Dalton, Hughes, North Atlanta, Pope, River Ridge and Sequoyah – remained in Class AAAAAA but changed regions. 

Here’s how the eight Class AAAAAA regions will look this fall: 

Region 1 (four teams) 

*Returning: Houston County, Lee County, Northside-Warner Robins, Valdosta 

*Moving in: None 

*Moving out: Coffee (to AAAAA) 

*What it means: For the past four years, a quality team was left out of the postseason because this five-team region was allowed to send just four teams to the playoffs. Three times in that four-year reclassification, the team that was left out was Houston County. Now, Coffee’s departure to Class AAAAA leaves the region with four teams, meaning that all of them will qualify for the playoffs. 

Region 2 (seven teams) 

*Returning: Bradwell Institute, Brunswick, Effingham County, Glynn Academy, Richmond Hill 

*Moving in: South Effingham (from AAAAA), Statesboro (AAAAA) 

*Moving out: None 

*What it means: The five-team region remains intact and adds two teams to the mix. Statesboro and South Effingham were playoff teams in 2019 that finished in third and fourth place, respectively in Region 2-AAAAA behind Ware County and Wayne County. Both lost in the first round of the playoffs and finished with a combined record of 11-10. Richmond Hill won this region last season. 

Region 3 (six teams) 

*Returning: Alcovy, Evans, Grovetown, Heritage-Conyers, Lakeside-Evans 

*Moving in: Rockdale County (AAAAAAA) 

*Moving out: Greenbrier (AAAAA) 

*What it means: Rockdale County is essentially replacing Greenbrier in what remains a six-team region. Rockdale County missed the playoffs in Class AAAAAAA last season and has not reached the postseason since 2014. The Bulldogs will be joining a region that has posted a combined 3-16 record in the playoffs over the past four seasons and got swept in the first round three times. 

Region 4 (seven teams) 

*Returning: Lovejoy, Morrow, Tucker 

*Moving in: Hughes (Region 5), Lakeside-Atlanta (AAAAAAA), North Atlanta (Region 7), Westlake (AAAAAAA) 

*Moving out: Drew (AAAAA), Forest Park (AAAAA), M.L. King (AAAAA), Mount Zion-Jonesboro (AAAA), Mundy’s Mill (AAAAA), Stephenson (AAAA) 

*What it means: Playoff teams Tucker and Morrow and perennial contender Lovejoy remain, but defending region champion Stephenson is one of six schools moving to a new classification. Those losses, plus the addition of four new schools, will turn what had been a nine-team DeKalb/Clayton region into a seven-team league with schools in DeKalb (two), Clayton (two) and Fulton (three). 

Region 5 (eight teams) 

*Returning: Alexander, Douglas County, South Paulding 

*Moving in: Carrollton (AAAAA), Dalton (Region 6), East Paulding (AAAAA), Paulding County (AAAAA), Rome (AAAAA) 

*Moving out: Creekside (AAAAA), Hughes (Region 4), Mays (AAA), New Manchester (AAAAA), Northgate (AAAAA), Tri-Cities (AAAAA). 

*What it means: This region underwent more change than any in the class, with five teams moving in and six moving out. All three returning teams finished in the top five of what was a nine-team region, but this year’s additions bring a lot of firepower. Carrollton was 12-1 and a quarterfinalist last year, Rome won state titles in 2016 and 2017, and Dalton was a playoff team in Region 6. 

Region 6 (nine teams) 

*Returning: Allatoona, Osborne, South Cobb, Sprayberry 

*Moving in: Kell (AAAAA), Kennesaw Mountain (AAAAAAA), Lassiter (AAAAAAA), Pope (Region 7), Wheeler (AAAAAAA) 

*Moving out: Creekview (Region 7), Dalton (Region 5), Harrison (AAAAAAA), River Ridge (Region 7), Sequoyah (Region 7) 

*What it means: With nine schools, this will be the largest region in Class AAAAAA. The departure of Harrison, Dalton and three Cherokee County schools and the addition of five Cobb County schools will turn this into an all-Cobb region. Allatoona, the runner-up to Harrison in 2019, won a state title in 2015. No other school in the new region has ever won a state championship in football. 

Region 7 (eight teams) 

*Returning: Cambridge, Centennial, Chattahoochee, Johns Creek 

*Moving in: Creekview (Region 6), River Ridge (Region 6), Riverwood (AAAAA), Sequoyah (Region 6) 

*Moving out: Alpharetta (AAAAAAA), Dunwoody (AAAAAAA), North Atlanta (Region 4), Northview (AAAAA), Pope (Region 6) 

*What it means: What had been a nine-team region will now have eight schools. Creekview, River Ridge and Sequoyah will inject three Cherokee County schools into the mix along with five from Fulton County. Johns Creek is the defending champion, but 2019 playoff teams Alpharetta, North Atlanta and Northview have moved on. Riverwood won a region title in AAAAA last season. 

Region 8 (seven teams) 

*Returning: Dacula, Habersham Central, Lanier, Winder-Barrow 

*Moving in: Buford (AAAAA), Central Gwinnett (AAAAAAA), Shiloh (AAAAAAA) 

*Moving out: Apalachee (AAAAA), Gainesville (AAAAAAA) 

*What it means: Gwinnett County schools Dacula and Lanier had been the only Gwinnett County schools in Class AAAAAA, and they dominated this region over the past four years. The addition of Buford, Central Gwinnett and Shiloh will greatly expand Gwinnett’s footprint in the class. Habersham Central and Winder-Barrow will be the only non-Gwinnett teams in the region.

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