Class 6A blog: Westlake, Hughes to renew rivalry in Region 4 opener

South Fulton County rivals Westlake and Hughes will face each other for the first time in three years when they begin the Region 4-6A portion of their schedule Friday night at Hughes.

It will be their first meeting as region rivals since 2015, after which Hughes was moved out of the highest classification. They played each other the next two seasons in non-region games, with Westlake winning both by a total of four points.

This year, it’s Westlake on the move, dropping from 7A during the offseason reclassification. The Lions won region championships each of the past six seasons, posting an overall record of 52-20 during that run. They’re 3-1 this season, their only loss coming against Class 7A Hillgrove, 42-21, in a hastily scheduled game after the teams' original opponents had to cancel over COVID-19 concerns.

“The biggest thing with 7A was we were the smallest school, so we’d play a Grayson or a Lowndes, which had 1,300 more students,” second-year Westlake coach Bobby May recently told GHSF Daily’s Todd Holcomb about the drop in classification. “In 6A, the number for us is closer. We’re not playing schools with 3,500 students. I think 6A is still loaded with a ton of talent, but we’re happy to be where we’re supposed to be.”

Hughes has been on a downward trajectory since winning region titles in 2012 and 2013, bottoming out at 2-8 last year, but second-year coach Daniel Williams has the Panthers at 4-0 for the first time since the school opened in 2009.

The Panthers raised some eyebrows with a 14-7 victory over 2019 Class 6A champion 14-7 in the season opener, then rolled past Mays, M.L. King and Cambridge by an average of 21 points the past three weeks.

Westlake leads the series 5-3.

Here are some other games worth watching this weekend involving Class 6A teams:

*Tucker at North Atlanta: This is the only game on the opening weekend of Region 4 play that matches 2019 playoff teams. Tucker, off to a 2-0 start in 2020, reached the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season, as the No. 3 seed out of Region 4. North Atlanta got there for the first time since 1996, as the No. 3 seed out of Region 7. The Warriors are 2-1 this season under new coach Jamie Aull.

*Houston County at Veterans: Houston County (4-2) will face its fourth top-10 opponent in seven games when it takes on Class 5A No. 7 Veterans in its final tune-up before beginning play in Region 1 in two weeks. These county rivals have played each other every season since 2014, four years after Veterans opened. Houston County won the first four meetings, but Veterans has won the last two.

*Evans at Grovetown: Evans will open defense of its Region 3 title when it takes on Grovetown in the first game of the region schedule (and the only one this week). Evans won two region titles and posted a 13-2 record in region play over the past three seasons. One of the losses came against Grovetown, 30-20 in the 2018 regular-season finale. Grovetown was 4-6 last year and is 1-4 in 2020.

*River Ridge at Riverwood: River Ridge and Riverwood are currently projected by the computer Maxwell Ratings to make the playoffs out of Region 7. For Riverwood, an 11-1 team in 5A last season, that was expected. River Ridge, on the other hand, has been perhaps the biggest surprise in 6A. A victory Friday would make the Knights 5-0 for the first time in the school’s 12-year history.

*Rabun County at Pope: Rabun County will make its first trip to Cobb County, filling a schedule opening that both teams had after original opponents fell off. The Greyhounds must brace themselves for Rabun County’s Gunner Stockton, the No. 1-rated dual-threat quarterback nationally among juniors. Stockton has passed for 1,141 yards, rushed for 489 yards and accounted for 25 touchdowns.

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