The drama of which playoff-quality team from Region 1-AAAAAA won’t make the playoffs will not exist in the 2020 football season.
For the past four years, Coffee, Houston County, Lee County, Northside-Warner Robins and Valdosta consistently ranked among the top 15 in Class AAAAAA. However, because only four teams from each region make the playoffs, one of those teams stayed home during the postseason.
Among those missing out were Jake Fromm’s 2016 Houston County team, which was ranked No. 1 for much of the season but finished in last place in the region, and the 2019 Northside team, which failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1991.
That won’t be the case this season. Coffee was moved to Class AAAAA during the GHSA’s most-recent reclassification, leaving Region 1 with only four teams. All will make the playoffs.
Instead, the biggest story in Region 1 this year will be how the new head coaches fare at Valdosta and Northside, two of the state’s powerhouse programs.
Valdosta’s Alan Rodemaker was fired after four seasons despite posting a 36-17 record. The 2016 team, Rodemaker’s first as head coach, won the school’s first state championship since 1998. No replacement has been hired. The Valdosta school board was expected to discuss the vacancy at a meeting last Thursday, but board members voted to table public discussion.
At Northside, Chad Alligood was promoted from offensive coordinator to replace Kevin Kinsler, who retired. Kinsler went 100-28 in 10 seasons at Northside, winning four region titles and the 2014 state championship.
Alligood had two earlier stops as a Northside assistant, from 1999 to 2004 and again from 2010 to 2016. He spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons as the head coach at Washington-Wilkes, posting a record of 10-12.
“It is actually a dream come true,” Alligood told The Macon Telegraph shortly after his hiring. “Northside is a unique situation that I love. It is special. I said somebody may love Northside as much as me, but they don’t love it more than me.”
Three-time defending region champion Lee County, which won state titles in 2017 and 2018, will enter the season as the favorite. The Trojans are 40-4 overall and 11-1 in region play since the start of the 2017 season, and they bring back five players who were named first-team all-region in 2019. Chief among them are Chauncey Magwood and Baron Hopson, both of whom are rated among the top 75 seniors in Georgia, according to the 274Sports Composite rankings. Magwood is No. 34 overall in Georgia and the No. 74 wide receiver prospect nationally. Hopson is the No. 72 player in Georgia and the No. 35 inside linebacker nationally.
Valdosta not only must hire a new coach, but it also has to find a replacement for the former coach’s son, quarterback Tate Rodemaker, who was named the region player of the year in 2019 and earned first-team all-state recognition. The Florida State signee was 207-of- 310 passing for 3,225 yards and 42 touchdowns last season. The Wildcats also lost six first-team all-region selections to graduation but return two in defensive lineman Quinton Wade and defensive back Maxwell Cherelus.
Houston County ended a three-year playoff drought last season, going 5-5 in the regular season (1-3 in region play) and won playoff games as a No. 4 seed at Evans and South Paulding before losing to eventual state champion Harrison 28-7 in the quarterfinals. The Bears suffered a few big losses to graduation, most notably linebacker Wesley Steiner and quarterback Max Rigby. Steiner, an Auburn signee, was the region’s defensive player of the year and a first-team all-state selection. Rigby threw for more than 2400 yards and had 20 touchdown passes. OL Chandler Strong, DL Jayleem Santos and DB Cam Stewart are returning all-region players.
At Northside, Alligood will begin rebuilding a team that went 3-7 last year, its fewest victories in a season since the 1991 team that missed the playoffs. Five of the six Eagles who earned all-region recognition last season have graduated. Linebacker Micah Thurman, who will be a junior, is the only one returning.
2019 Region 1-AAAAAA standings
Team / Region record / Overall record / Playoff result
Lee County / 4-0 / 11-2 / Lost to Dacula 56-21 in quarterfinals
Valdosta / 3-1 / 10-3 / Lost to Richmond Hill 16-14 in quarterfinals
Coffee / 2-2 / 9-4 / Lost to Allatoona 24-0 in quarterfinals
Houston County / 1-3 / 5-5 / Lost to Harrison 28-7 in quarterfinals
Northside / 0-4 / 3-7 / Did not make playoffs
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