Last week, we bid an extremely emotional farewell to some great teams leaving AA in which everyone cried. But cheer up, you. In the words of Semisonic — the greatest rock band ever formed — “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Today, we welcome with open arms some new teams that will be joining AA.
So, come on in, take off your shoes and make yourself at home, new teams! But only 10 of you can come it at a time and you must stay at least six feet apart from one another, per CDC recommendations.
Pace Academy (Region 6)
Coming from: AAA, Region 5
What to know: The Knights are back in AA for the first time since winning a state title in 2015. That season ended their first stint in AA, which lasted just two years. They went 20-8 and reached the quarterfinals in 2014 in that time. Former NFL player Chris Slade, who played eight seasons — seven with the Patriots and one with the Panthers — from 1993-2001, has led the Knights since 2013. They probably feel relieved to return to AA after success was hard to come by in AAA, where they went 16-15 in three seasons, going 0-3 in the playoffs. They were originally reclassified to play in Class A-Public but won their appeal to rejoin AA.
Lovett (Region 6)
Coming from: AAA, Region 5
What to know: The Lions — like Pace Academy — return to AA, where they also, like Pace, won a state title. The Lions’ championship came in 2013, during their second stint in AA, which lasted from 2004-2015. The Lions were also in AA from 1978-97. Presumably, the Lions and Knights will take turns winning the reconstructed Region 6, which was rid of its previously two best teams in Hapeville Charter and Douglass. Pace Academy and Lovett are just located just 2.7 miles apart in north Atlanta. The Lions are led by Mike Muschamp, who is 134-59 at Lovett since taking over in 2005. They had more success in AAA than their crosstown rivals Pace, going 28-19 and advancing to the second round in three of their four postseasons.
Worth County (Region 1)
Coming from: AAA, Region 1
What to know: The Rams haven’t been very competitive the past few seasons, but that will be expected to change with the arrival of Phillip Ironside, who comes to Worth County after building Hillgrove’s program from scratch. From 2006-2019, Ironside compiled a 109-46 record at Hillgrove and took the Hawks to the playoffs in each of the past 10 seasons, reaching as far as the quarterfinals four times. The Rams will play in a six-team region with high hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2016. They went 2-8 last year but that was their best finish of the last three seasons — they went 1-9 in 2018 and 0-10 in 2017. Ironside marks the Rams’ third coach in four seasons, but he should bring desperately-needed stability to a program that last played in AA from 1970-77, their only other stint at this level. They have one state title to their name, winning AAA in 1987.
Haralson County (Region 5)
Coming from: AAA, Region 6
What to know: The Rebels come to AA on the heels of back-to-back 8-3 seasons under third-year coach Scott Peavey, who has turned the program around. Their 2018 finish ended a string of 10 consecutive losing seasons. They had one other stint in AA that lasted from 1978-1999 and they’re hoping a return will put them in better position to win their first-ever playoff game in a program history that dates back to 1968. They’re 0-5 in the postseason since their first appearance since 2005.
Others joining AA: Region 1 - Cook; Region 6: Columbia, Towers; Region 7 - Fannin County; Region 8 - Riverside Military
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Ironside’s record at Hillgrove.
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