Dalton, Harrison to battle for first place on a big stage

Harrison High School quarterback Justin Fields (1) runs the ball during a game against North Cobb High School, Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in Kennesaw, Ga. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Credit: Chip Saye

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Harrison High School quarterback Justin Fields (1) runs the ball during a game against North Cobb High School, Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in Kennesaw, Ga. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Credit: Chip Saye

Credit: Chip Saye

First place in Region 6-AAAAAA will be on the line Thursday night when Harrison hosts Dalton in a game that will be nationally televised by ESPN2.

Defending region champion Dalton has won six consecutive games since a season-opening 24-0 loss to Class AAA No. 4 Calhoun. The Catamounts are seeking their fourth region title in five years and their 25th overall.

Harrison lost early non-region games against Class AAAAA No. 1 Rome and Class AAAAAAA’s North Cobb but has since won four straight. Harrison finished in second place last year because of its 31-14 loss to the Catamounts. The Hoyas have won four region championships but none since 2005.

Both teams are 4-0 in region play.

“There’s really not been much talk on the ESPN aspect of it,” Dalton coach Matt Land told Tony Maluso of the Dalton Citizen. “While that’s an obvious part of it, the main talk is, this is an undefeated team in the region playing us and the second leg of this region championship stool we're trying to construct. Last week was the first one, this is the second one, and certainly [upcoming opponents] South Cobb and Allatoona are part of it. ... I think that helps distract away from the enormity of the fact that you're going to be playing on national TV.”

The star of the show, and the major reason ESPN’s cameras will be in Kennesaw, is Harrison quarterback Justin Fields, the nation’s top-rated senior recruit who committed to Georgia two weeks ago. Fields is 93-of-141 passing for 1,503 yards and 20 touchdowns and has rushed for 748 yards and 14 touchdowns on 96 carries. He has run or passed on almost 75 percent of the Hoyas’ offensive plays.

The winner of this game will be favored to win the region title, but both still have work to do. Both teams have a game remaining against one of the region’s two one-loss teams. Harrison travels to Sequoyah (5-2, 3-1) next weekend, and Dalton hosts Allatoona (4-3, 3-1) on Nov. 3 in the regular-season finale.

Here are four more Class AAAAAA games this weekend that will impact the playoff races:

*Allatoona at Sequoyah: Both teams still have a shot at the 6-AAAAAA title. However, barring an upset down the stretch, this game is likely to determine the region's No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. That also was the case last year, when Allatoona won 29-7 to secure third place and its seventh consecutive playoff berth. Sequoyah finished fourth, reaching the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.

*Lovejoy at M.L. King: Now that Tucker and Stephenson have separated themselves from the pack in Region 4, the battle is on for the region's final two playoff spots. Lovejoy and M.L. King currently hold those spots. Lovejoy was expected to be in the hunt. M.L. King, however, was winless in region play last year but got into the playoff chase with a surprising victory over Jonesboro last week.

*Northside-Warner Robins at Coffee: Northside will try to rebound from an overtime loss last week to Lee County. Another loss all but guarantees that the Eagles will finish no higher than third place in Region 1. Coffee is unbeaten in region play but has played one fewer game than first-place Lee County. A Coffee victory sets up a showdown with Lee on Nov. 3 for the region championship.

*Richmond Hill at Glynn Academy: Glynn Academy can become the first AAAAAA team this season to clinch a region title if it wins Friday against Richmond Hill in a Region 2 game. Richmond Hill, one of three remaining unbeaten teams in AAAAAA (along with Lee County and Winder-Barrow), would need to beat Brunswick, and perhaps Effingham County, to win the championship.