Allatoona finished 11-3-1 last season and will be the favorite going into 2020, although it will have some rebuilding to do. Three all-state players – wide receiver Asante Das, offensive lineman Nick Lundeburg and place-kicker Jude Kelley – have graduated. So have seven of the other nine players who made the all-region team last season, including quarterback Dante Marshall (1,811 yards passing) and leading rusher Alex Wilson (1,395 yards). All-region players Bennett Christian (tight end) and Brett Blomquist (defensive back) return.
The Buccaneers, typically a run-heavy team but a bit more balanced last year with Marshall and Das, will have plenty to work with in the running game despite the loss of Wilson. Four players who had at least 35 carries, 200 yards and a touchdown are back and will get their turns in the backfield.
Of the five newcomers to the region, only Kell and Wheeler made the playoffs last season, and it’s Kell that is likely to be the top challenger to Allatoona in 2020. Playing in a region that included state powers Carrollton and Rome, which are moving up to Region 5-AAAAAA, the Longhorns went 9-3 and reached the second round of the playoffs. Kell has made 12 consecutive trips to the playoffs, averaged 9.8 victories per season over the past 10 years and won at least one playoff game in 10 of 13 trips to the postseason.
The Longhorns will have to replace two all-state players – defensive end Vincent Dinkins (signed with Middle Tennessee) and linebacker Branson Hall (Jacksonville State) – but bring back running back David Mbadinga, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards as a freshman last season and recently received an offer from Michigan State.
Expect Sprayberry, one of the four teams returning to the region, to be a factor as well. In three seasons as head coach, Brett Vavra has taken his team from 2-8 to 3-7 to 6-5 and last year guided the Yellow Jackets to a third-place finish and their first playoff appearance since 2011. The Yellow Jackets lost one honorable mention all-state selection (offensive lineman Jake O’Buck signed with Eastern Kentucky) but return another in running back Damarion Owens. The Yellow Jackets had 11 players named first- or second-team all-region last season, and Owens is one of four who return. The others are defensive lineman Christian Mergler, athlete Josh Bush and wide receiver Fatir Muhammed.
Wheeler, in its first season under head coach Bryan Love, made its first playoff appearance since 2016. The Wildcats finished fourth in Region 2-AAAAAAA and upset region champion Westlake during the regular season but lost to Roswell 31-0 in the first round of the playoffs. Aakil Washington, an honorable mention all-state lineman, signed with Liberty.
Pope, which is moving over from Region 7-AAAAAA, had a two-year playoff streak ended when it lost three of its final four games and finished in fifth place. The Greyhounds had four players make first-team all-region, but only punter Peyton Cariaco returns. Cariaco also is listed as a safety and quarterback.
The other teams moving down from Class AAAAAAA, Lassiter (Region 4) and Kennesaw Mountain (Region 3), struggled mightily in 2019. Lassiter went 1-9, its only victory coming against Kennesaw Mountain 7-3 in early October in the final game before region play. The Trojans went 1-9 in 2018 as well and have had just two seasons with more than six wins since the 2011 team reached the state semifinals. Kennesaw Mountain went 0-10 last year and finished its four-year stint in the previous reclassification cycle with a 1-19 region record in a league that included Marietta, McEachern and Hillgrove. Kennesaw Mountain has never reached the playoffs in the program’s 20-year existence.
Returning region members South Cobb and Osborne also had a tough time in 2019. South Cobb finished 1-9, its only victory coming against Osborne 22-19 on Oct 4, and missed the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season. Osborne was winless for the third consecutive season and will enter the season with a 30-game losing streak. The Cardinals played in region playoff games in the mid-1990s but have never reached the state playoffs in a history that dates to 1957.
2019 Region 6-AAAAAA standings
Team / Overall record / Region record / Playoff result
Harrison (moving to 3-AAAAAAA) / 15-0 / 8-0 / Beat Allatoona 20-7 in state championship game
Allatoona / 11-3-1 / 7-1 / Lost to Harrison 20-7 in state championship game
Sprayberry / 6-5 / 5-3 / Lost to Lanier 15-14 in first round
Dalton moving to 5-AAAAAA) / 7-4 / 5-3 / Lost to Dacula 49-18 in first round
Creekview (moving to 7-AAAAAA) / 6-4 / 4-4 / Did not make playoffs
Sequoyah (moving to 7-AAAAAA) / 5-5 / 4-4 / Did not make playoffs
River Ridge (moving to 7-AAAAAA) / 3-7 / 2-6 / Did not make playoffs
South Cobb / 1-9 / 1-7 / Did not make playoffs
Osborne / 0-10 / 0-8 / Did not make playoffs
(Teams moving in)
Kell (from 7-AAAAA) / 9-3 / 6-2 / Lost to Starr’s Mill 45-28 in second round
Kennesaw Mountain (from 3-AAAAAAA) / 0-10 / 0-5 / Did not make playoffs
Lassiter (from 4-AAAAAAA) / 1-9 / 0-5 / Did not make playoffs
Pope (from 7-AAAAAA) / 5-5 / 4-4 / Did not make playoffs
Wheeler (from 2-AAAAAAA) / 5-6 / 3-2 / Lost to Roswell 31-0 in first round