The Georgia High School Association’s first reclassification in four years has brought about new regions and fresh rivalries.
Reigning region football champions such as Peach County and Crisp County, Parkview and Grayson, Blessed Trinity and Cartersville, and Harrison and Marietta will have to go through each other in 2020 if they’re to win another title.
The Georgia High School Association released the 2020 football schedules on Tuesday for a season that’s four months away if COVID-19 allows.
Below are the 10 most intriguing region games of the 2020 season. On Wednesday, AJC.com will look at the 10 most intriguing non-region games.
• Peach County at Crisp County (Oct. 9) — Peach and Crisp each have won four straight Class AAA region titles, and both are unbeaten in region play since 2015. Peach was the AAA runner-up in 2017 and 2018. Crisp was runner-up in 2019. This fall, these AAA powers will be in the same Region 2-AAA along with Mary Persons, which is coming down from AAAA. Though just 52 miles apart, Peach and Crisp haven’t played since 2009. Peach offensive lineman Terrence Ferguson is a top-75 national recruit. Crisp linebacker Chris Paul Jr. is the reigning AAA defensive player of the year.
• Athens Academy at Prince Avenue Christian (Oct. 9) — These Athens-area rivals have won Region 8-A five times apiece over the past 10 seasons, with Athens Academy taking the past three. Both are likely to be ranked in the top five again in preseason. This year’s game has the added spice of two of the nation’s most heavily recruited players. They were there in 2019 too, but now they’re spotlighted seniors. Prince Avenue Christian quarterback Brock Vandagriff and Athens Academy cornerback/wide receiver Deion Colzie both show up as top-50 national prospects. Vandagriff has committed to Georgia. Colzie, formerly committed to Notre Dame, is being courted by home-town Georgia, as well.
• Parkview at Grayson (Oct. 16) — Parkview won Region 7-AAAAAAA the past two seasons and reached the semifinals in 2019. Grayson won Region 8-AAAAAAA the past two seasons and made the quarterfinals in 2018 and 2019. Now, these highest-classification powers — each almost certainly to be ranked in the top five of the preseason rankings — will share the new Region 4. Parkview returns eight players who were all-region, including 1,676-yard rusher Cody Brown, the state’s highest-rated running back prospect. Meanwhile, seven of 247Sports’ top 102 rising senior prospects attend Grayson. Those include Florida commits Carlos Del Rio, a quarterback, and Daejon Reynolds, a wide receiver. These two Gwinnett County schools haven’t played each other since 2015.
• Blessed Trinity at Cartersville (Oct. 16) — Since 2014, when Trevor Lawrence showed up at Cartersville, only two teams in Georgia have won as many as 79 games in all classifications. You guessed it. Blessed Trinity is 79-7-1 with three state titles, and Cartersville is 79-5 with two state titles. Two of Cartersville’s five losses in that span came against Blessed Trinity, one in Lawrence’s last high game in 2017, the other in the 2018 AAAA championship game. Now, the ‘Canes and Titans are about to share the same Region 7-AAAAA, both moved up from AAAA in the latest reclassification. (This region also will include Calhoun.) Cartersville has won 53 straight games that count in region standings. Blessed Trinity has won 33 of its last 34 and avenged the lone defeat (Marist) in a state championship.
• Lowndes at Colquitt County (Oct. 23) — It’s simply the biggest of several big South Georgia region games every year. Lowndes has gone 10-0 two of the past three regular seasons, including 2019, when the Vikings were state runners-up to Marietta. Colquitt County, state champion in 2014 and 2015 (runner-up in 2016-17), is still Colquitt under second-year coach Justin Rogers. Lowndes will have a new coach for the first time in nearly 20 years. Jamey DuBose, replacing the retired Randy McPherson, won two state titles at Central of Phenix City, Ala. He’ll have nine returning first-team all-Region 1 players. Safety T.J. Quinn and defensive end Jacques Hunter are top-100 senior recruits. Colquitt has only four returning first-team all-region players. One is Lemeke Brockington, an all-state wide receiver who is committed to Minnesota. Lowndes beat Colquitt 28-17 last year.
• Harrison at Marietta (Oct. 23) — Two reigning state champions will collide at Marietta’s Northcutt Stadium. Marieta won the highest class last season, the Blue Devils’ first title since 1967. Harrison won the class just below, the Hoyas’ first title in history. Now, they’re in Region 3-AAAAAAA together, set to play each other for the first time since 2015. Marietta is graduating several major Division I recruits that include Harrison Bailey (signed with Tennessee), tight end Arik Gilbert (LSU), wide receiver Ricky White (Michigan State) and defensive end B.J. Ojulari (LSU). The Blue Devils had six first-team players on the recently released GSWA all-state team. The Hoyas lost a good senior class also but return all-region players in receiver Marques Owens, defensive lineman Bryce Stanfield, middle linebacker and leading tackler Marcus Bleazard and place-kicker Christian Lowery.
• Stephenson at Marist (Oct. 23) — Region 6-AAAA also counts Mays and Hapeville Charter among its new members, and any game involving the four will be interesting, but history takes Stephenson vs. Mays to a higher level of intrique Those two programs, and their coaches, are DeKalb County icons, yet the schools have never played each other in football. Stephenson dropping two classes to AAAA is making it possible. Their coaches are treasures. Marist’s Alan Chadwick has won 386 games, 18 region titles and two state championships. Stephenson’s Ron Gartrell has won 239 games and 10 region titles. They’re the only two GHSA coaches who have headed up Georgia teams continuously since 1988. Gartrell was a rookie head coach at Shamrock at the time. Shamrock played Chadwick’s Marist teams in 1988 and 1989. Now, the two coaches will meet again, 31 years later.
• Valdosta at Lee County (Oct. 30) — The 53-50 score of last year’s game is enough to hype this one. It was won by a field goal in the final minute. Chauncey Magwood, a rising senior committed to Kentucky, had eight receptions for 136 yards. But this game will have the extra excitement of Rush Propst walking Valdosta’s sidelines. The former Colquitt County coach and seven-time state champion was hired earlier this month after a year in exile. Lee County has won Region 1-AAAAAA the past three seasons and took state titles in 2017 and 2018. Valdosta won state in 2016. Lee has beaten Valdosta the past two seasons; Valdosta won the previous four meetings.
• Dacula at Buford (Nov. 6) — These schools are just 13 miles apart but haven’t played each other since 1995. Prior to that, they’d been rivals dating to the 1960s, when both were Class B schools. Buford is coming off a state title in Class AAAAA, the Wolves’ 12th in history but first since 2014. Dacula has won four straight region titles and reached the semifinals last season at 13-1. Buford moved up in class, and now the two are Region 8-AAAAAA rivals. Dacula has won 20 straight region games and four straight region titles. Buford hadn’t lost a non-forfeited region game since 2009 until beaten by Clarke Central last year. Amari Wansley of Buford and Kaleb Edwards of Dacula are two of the best safeties in Georgia. Lanier also will be a factor in this loaded region.
• Sandy Creek at Cedar Grove (Nov. 6) — The reclass committee couldn’t have put Region 5-AAA together without cracking a smile. Cedar Grove, Sandy Creek, Greater Atlanta Christian, Westminster. Any game among those could be epic, but Sandy Creek is the most exotic to the other three. Only Westminster has played Sandy Creek, and that was 25 years ago. A state champion in 2009, 2010 and 2012, Sandy Creek had a resurgence last season, rising to the semifinals in Class AAAA. Now, the Patriots drop down in class and find the two-time defending state champ, Cedar Grove, in their new region. These two meet in the final game of the regular season.
• Others to watch: Rome at Carrollton (Sept. 25), Coffee at Warner Robins (Oct. 30), Kell at Allatoona (Oct. 23), Roswell at Milton (Oct. 23); Irwin County at Clinch County (Oct. 30)
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