The final 25 region champions of 2019 were crowned on the last Friday night of the Georgia high school football regular season, and none was more unforeseen than Clarke Central, which became the first team to defeat Buford in a non-forfeited region game since 2009.
Coached by alumnus and former University of Georgia baseball coach David Perno, Clarke defeated the No. 1-ranked Wolves 31-28 to win Region 8-AAAAA. Clarke was pegged as a 29-point underdog by the computer Maxwell Ratings.
The region championship is Clarke’s first since 2011, and the victory was the program’s first over a No. 1-ranked team since 1982, when the Gladiators beat Warner Robins.
It was Buford’s first region loss since 2012, covering 47 games. And that understates Buford’s region dominance as the Wolves were docked two region wins in 2012 for the inadvertent use of ineligible players in games Buford won easily. Buford’s on-the-field record in region games since 2001 had been 120-1 with that single defeat to Lovett in 2009.
Buford’s loss leaves Carrollton and Riverwood (both 10-0) as the only undefeated teams in Class AAAAA. Another unbeaten, third-ranked Jones County, was upset by unranked Stockbridge 44-14. Jones County (9-1) already had Region 4-AAAAA won entering the game.
A similar mishap occurred to third-ranked Dublin in AA. The Irish, who entered 9-0, lost to unranked Washington County 27-23. Dublin had clinched Region 4-AA the previous week.
Otherwise, there weren’t many big upsets, just plenty of suspense as several games such as Buford vs. Clarke Central decided region titles.
In DeKalb County, Stephenson beat Tucker 13-7 to win 4-AAAAAA while Southwest DeKalb defeated Columbia 28-18 to claim 5-AAAAA.
In Savannah, Jenkins beat Benedictine 34-9 to win Region 3-AAA and ended Benedictine’s 39-game winning streak in region games. Jenkins also became the first Savannah public school to beat Benedictine, a Savannah private school, since 2011.
Another Savannah school, Country Day, won its first region title since 1980. The Hornets defeated Johnson County 47-42 to capture Region 3-A.
Other victors in winner-take-all games for region titles were Lee County (1-AAAAAA over Coffee), Warner Robins (1-AAAAA over Veterans), Ware County (2-AAAAA over Wayne County), West Laurens (2-AAAA over Perry), Rabun County (8-AA over Union County), Mitchell County (1-A over Pelham), Marion County (4-A over Macon County), Fellowship Christian (6-A over Darlington), Mount de Sales (7-A over Aquinas) and Athens Academy (8-A over Hebron Christian).
Other teams that clinched region titles, though not in de facto championship games, were Westlake (2-AAAAAAA), Roswell (4-AAAAAAA), Milton (5-AAAAAAA), Starr’s Mill (1-AAAAA), Burke County (3-AAAA), Ridgeland (6-AAAA), Pierce County (2-AAA), Peach County (4-AAA), Metter (2-AA) and Rockmart (7-AA).
Region champions are guaranteed home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs, which begin next week. The finals are Dec. 13-14 at Georgia State Stadium.
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