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Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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A lot of uncertainty in Region 5 after rugged start to season

The 2017 football season was a good one for Region 5-AAAAAA.

Five strong teams went into the final week of the regular season with a realistic shot at making the playoffs. Four of them were ranked at some point during the season. 

Mays had its second consecutive 11-win season and reached the quarterfinals for the second year in a row, losing to eventual champion Lee County. Douglas County had its best season in more than a decade. Northgate missed the playoffs despite going 5-3 in region play. 

The 2018 season has been a different story. The league went 3-15 in non-region games (it was 8-10 last year), and no team from the region is ranked this week. But that doesn’t mean that the fight for playoff berths will be any less competitive. 

We continue our Tuesday series examining the playoff outlooks for every Class AAAAAA team as region play kicks off with a preview of 5-AAAAAA, which began league play last week. Here’s a closer look at each of the teams, broken down by playoff likelihood, in alphabetical order within each group: 

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Safest bets 

*Douglas County (2-1, 1-0): The Tigers reached the 10-win mark last year for the first time since 2005 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs, losing to Alpharetta to finish 10-2. Their only loss this season came in the opener, a 17-0 setback against an undefeated defending region champion from the highest class (Hillgrove). The Tigers beat Northgate 33-7 in the region-opener. 

*Mays (1-2, 1-0): The two-time defending region champion Raiders opened the season with losses to Class AAAAAAA Norcross and Central-Phenix City, the No. 2-ranked team in Alabama’s highest class, according to MaxPreps. They won’t face anybody else that good until the playoffs. Mays opened region play with a 26-0 victory over Hughes, extending its winning streak in region games to 17. 

In the hunt 

*Alexander (1-2, 1-0): The Cougars opened region play with a 34-21 victory over South Paulding, but their non-region games were a bit alarming. Both of those losses came by more than 20 points against teams (Cedartown and Newnan) that are 1-4 when playing teams other than Alexander. The Cougars have made five consecutive playoff appearances, however, and should be in the hunt again. 

*Hughes (0-3, 0-1): The Panthers’ 0-3 record isn’t the concern. Those losses came against a top-10 AAAAA team (Dutchtown), a highest-class team (Mountain View) and Mays. The problem has been offense, as Hughes has scored just seven points in those games. Still, a team that has made six consecutive trips to the playoffs (and won first-round games four times) gets the benefit of the doubt. 

*Northgate (1-2, 0-1): The Vikings finished in a three-way tie for third place last year but missed the playoffs because of the region’s tiebreaker. They opened region play with a 33-7 loss to Douglas County, but that loss likely won’t kill their playoff hopes. Northgate will have a chance to rebound in its next two games, against Creekside and South Paulding, and will need to take advantage. 

The jury’s still out 

*Creekside (1-2, 1-0): Can a team that went 0-10 last year make a run at the playoffs in a nine-team region? That’s probably a bit too much to ask. The Seminoles opened region play with a victory over New Manchester last week that ended a school-record 12-game losing streak and, at least for now, gave them a share of the region lead. We’ll find out more when they play Northgate this week. 

*Tri-Cities (0-2, 0-0): The Bulldogs had a bye week on Friday and will open region play against Hughes this week. Tri-Cities lost both of its non-region games against lower-classification teams, although both (Southwest DeKalb and Douglass) are likely to finish in the top two in their regions. The Bulldogs haven’t reached the playoffs since 2012 and probably aren’t ready to make it back yet. 

Not this year 

*New Manchester (1-2, 0-1): The Jaguars made their only playoff appearance in 2014 and had another couple of near-misses, but they have struggled recently, going 4-16 (3-13 in region play) the past two seasons. Losing to Creekside wasn’t a good way to start region play, either. It won’t get any easier in the four weeks with games against Mays, Alexander, Douglas County and Northgate. 

*South Paulding (0-3, 0-1): The Spartans made three consecutive trips to the playoffs from 2013 to 2015, but they have since gone 3-20 overall and 3-14 in region play, including last week’s 34-21 loss to Alexander. First-year coach Jason Thompson at least has them more competitive this year – their average loss has been by 18.7 points, compared to 36.0 against the same three teams a year ago. 

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Next week: Region 7-AAAAAA

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