Class 6A blog: How the playoff races are shaping up heading into Week 9

High school football

Credit: For the AJC

Credit: For the AJC

High school football

Region play in Class 6A will finally be in full swing this weekend as four-team Region 1 gets its league schedule under way in Week 9 of the high school football season.

The 56 Class 6A teams are fighting for the four playoff spots available in each region. The exception is four-team Region 1, which will send only three teams to the playoffs because Valdosta was banned from the 2021 postseason over alleged recruiting violations last season.

Here’s how the playoff picture is shaping up heading into Week 9. Records in parentheses are region records.

*Region 1: Second-ranked Lee County, the state runner-up last season, is the overwhelming favorite to win the title. If the Trojans meet those expectations, that will leave Northside-Warner Robins and Houston County battling for the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds from the region. The teams will meet in their final regular-season game at McConnell-Talbert Stadium on Oct. 29. Valdosta will be home for the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

*Region 2: Brunswick (3-0) is 7-0 overall and rolling toward what it hopes will be its first region title since 2009. Behind the Pirates is a group of four teams with one region loss – Glynn Academy (2-1), Richmond Hill (2-1), Effingham County (1-1) and Statesboro (1-1). Three of those four will join Brunswick in the playoffs. Glynn Academy lost to Brunswick, which it also did in 2020 but battled back to claim the No. 1 seed. Bradwell Institute (0-2) and South Effingham (0-3) aren’t likely to be factors.

*Region 3: Evans, which went 20-3 in region play with three titles from 2016 to 2020, is the clear favorite. The Knights are 5-1 overall this season, while the other five teams are a combined 5-23. They opened region play with a 42-20 victory over Grovetown on Oct. 1. Lakeside-Evans and Alcovy also won their region openers, which was especially important considering that two victories is often enough to earn a playoff berth from a six-team region. Rockdale County, Grovetown and Heritage-Conyers will battle it out for the final one or two berths.

*Region 4: The four playoff teams are likely to be Hughes (2-0), Lovejoy (2-0), Westlake (1-1) and Tucker (1-1), but North Atlanta still has a way in despite its 0-2 start in league play after going 4-1 in non-region games. The key for North Atlanta will be the season finale against Lovejoy. Assuming that No. 3 Hughes and No. 5 Westlake continue to win, Lovejoy and Tucker likely would be 2-2 and North Atlanta would be 1-3 on the final weekend, and a North Atlanta victory would create a two- or three-way tie for fourth. The climb into the top four appears too steep for Morrow.

*Region 5: This is the most interesting race in Class 6A. Carrollton, Douglas County, Alexander, Rome and South Paulding are in a five-way tie for first place, all with 3-1 records in region play with three games remaining to determine which one won’t make the playoffs. Alexander has the toughest remaining schedule, with games against Rome, Carrollton and South Paulding. Carrollton remains a slight favorite, but the Trojans will need to avoid finishing in a tie with Rome, which holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. The other three teams – Paulding County, East Paulding and Dalton – are a combined 0-10 in region play.

*Region 6: Kennesaw Mountain (4-1) started the season 6-0 overall and appeared on its way to a region title, but a stunning loss last week to last-place South Cobb put those thoughts on hold for the moment. Still, the Mustangs can regain front-runner status with a victory over Pope, the region’s last remaining unbeaten. Both teams will be headed to the playoffs. Perennial contender Allatoona (2-1) lost to Kennesaw Mountain but remains a factor for the region title. Beyond those three, the final playoff berth is likely to go to Lassiter, Kell or Sprayberry, which have two region losses each.

*Region 7: Cambridge (3-0) and Johns Creek (3-0) are the remaining unbeatens, and the winner of their game this week at Johns Creek will take sole possession of first place. Both are in good shape for the playoffs. Creekview and Riverwood are a game behind them at 2-1. They’ll face off Friday night at Riverwood. Defending region champion River Ridge (1-2) is in a bad spot after losing to Creekview and Riverwood. The Knights would end up on the wrong end of the tiebreaker against either and would need to finish ahead of at least one of them to return to the playoffs. Centennial (1-2), Sequoyah (0-3) and Chattahoochee (0-3) aren’t likely to be factors.

*Region 8: Buford, Dacula and Shiloh are unbeaten in region play. Top-ranked Buford (2-0) remains the overwhelming favorite to win the title, and Dacula (3-0) is in good shape. Shiloh picked up an important win when it beat Winder-Barrow 9-0, and the Generals likely need just one more win to secure the fourth playoff berth in school history. Lanier (1-1) or Winder-Barrow (1-2) probably gets the other playoff berth. Habersham Central (0-3) still has a shot, but a loss to Lanier this week likely would knock the Raiders out. Central Gwinnett is out of the mix.