Class 6A blog: Region 4 loaded with title contenders

Tucker receiver Isaiah Raheem (7) hauls in the second of his two touchdown catches in the Tigers' 29-12 win over the Southwest DeKalb Panthers on Oct. 2, 2020. (Photo by Mark Brock)
Tucker receiver Isaiah Raheem (7) hauls in the second of his two touchdown catches in the Tigers' 29-12 win over the Southwest DeKalb Panthers on Oct. 2, 2020. (Photo by Mark Brock)

If the teams that moved into Region 4-6A this year as part of the GHSA’s offseason reclassification were looking for an easy road to the playoffs, they came to the wrong place.

Four of the six teams that are playing a region schedule this season advanced to the playoff in 2019, and the two that didn’t – Lovejoy and Hughes – are currently a combined 10-1. In fact, Lovejoy is the region’s top-rated team at No. 4, its highest ranking since 2013.

Defending region champion Stephenson and playoff team M.L. King departed in reclassification, as did the bottom four teams in the standings – Mundy’s Mill, Mount Zion-Jonesboro, Drew and Forest Park.

Region holdovers Morrow, Tucker and Lovejoy were joined by Westlake, North Atlanta and Hughes (along with Lakeside-Atlanta, which opted against playing a region schedule).

Westlake dominated its region in Class 7A over the past few years; North Atlanta broke a long playoff drought in 2019; and Hughes is on the way up again after a couple of years of struggle.

What it all adds up to is that two pretty good football teams are not going to make the playoffs this year, as only the top four advance.

Here’s a closer look at the teams of Region 2 (in order of the current standings):

*Lovejoy (6-0, 1-0): The Wildcats missed the playoffs in 2019 for the first time in 10 years, but they have already matched last season’s six victories and are ranked No. 4 in 6A. Lovejoy’s most notable victory this year came against North Gwinnett, which was ranked No. 3 in Class 7A at the time. Its next three games - against Tucker, Hughes and Westlake – will settle the Wildcats' fate.

*Westlake (4-1, 1-0): The sixth-ranked Lions won Class 7A region titles the past six years. They have as much high-end talent as any team in the class, with four players among the top 50 seniors in Georgia, led by cornerback Nathaniel Wiggins (committed to LSU) at No. 13. Their 26-21 victory over Hughes last week was the first step toward what likely will be an eighth straight playoff appearance.

*Tucker (2-1, 1-0): The Tigers finished in third place last year, rather than their usual first or second, but still advanced to the state playoffs for the 24th time in 26 seasons. Tucker didn’t start the 2020 season until Oct. 2 because of DeKalb County’s delay, and the Tigers have played three tough ones, beating Southwest DeKalb (29-12) and North Atlanta (11-8) and losing to Parkview (38-33).

*Hughes (4-1, 0-1): The Panthers have been in a steady decline since going 8-4 in 2016, but they started 4-0 this year for the first time since the school opened in 2009. Their hot start was cooled off last week with a 26-21 loss to Westlake, but head coach Daniel Williams has the Panthers headed back toward being the program that made six straight playoffs appearances from 2012 to 2017.

*North Atlanta (2-2, 0-1): Last year, the Warriors earned their first playoff berth since 1996. Head coach Jamie Aull, who took over this season after Sean O’Sullivan departed for Centennial, has North Atlanta at 2-2, with three-point losses to Tucker (11-8 last week) and Pebblebrook (20-17), a 5-1 Class 7A team. The loss to Tucker hurts, but the Warriors will remain a factor in the playoff face.

*Morrow (1-3, 0-1): The Mustangs ended two decades of frustration with a breakout season in 2019. Their six wins, runner-up finish in the region and trip to the playoffs were firsts for the program since the 1998 team went 10-2 and reached the second round of the playoffs. Morrow’s 47-0 loss to Lovejoy last week wasn’t a good first step toward a repeat playoff berth, but there’s time to recover.

*Lakeside-Atlanta (0-3): Lakeside was a state power from the early 1970s until the late 1990s, but those days are long gone. The Vikings have had just one winning season and made only one trip to the playoffs since the final year of coach Phil Lindsey’s tenure in 1997. They are playing a non-region schedule this year after moving down from 7A and have lost a school-record 22 straight games.

Schedule

Here is the schedule of this week’s games in 4-6A, as of Monday night:

Lovejoy at Tucker (Thursday, Adams Stadium)

Hughes at North Atlanta (Friday, Grady Stadium)

Morrow at Westlake (Friday)

Lakeside at Berkmar

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