Entering Friday night’s football schedule, the overwhelming consensus from many was that fourth-ranked East Paulding would beat Pope in Dallas, and that Lassiter would take down Marietta at Frank Fillmann Stadium.
The status quo would remain — with the Raiders seemingly on their way to clinching Region 5AAAA’s northern subregion, and the Trojans content with the No. 2 position from Region 5AAAAA.
But change is inevitable, and it definitely took place Friday.
Pope’s 29-23 upset over previously undefeated East Paulding joined with Marietta’s 35-28 victory over Lassiter, and the two wins sent shockwaves throughout the teams’ respective region standings.
No longer is East Paulding the top team in its subregion. Pope (7-1, 4-1), which is now tied for the top spot with Kell and East Paulding, is in the driver’s seat.
Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker scenario, but the three teams have each beaten one another. The second is record against common opponents, but the three teams don’t share one outside the region. The third involves the team’s record against non-region opponents.
Unfortunately for Kell, its season-opening loss to Grayson leaves them with a 2-1 mark, while Pope and East Paulding were both 3-0 in non-region games. As a result, the subregion edge then goes back to the Greyhounds for winning the head-to-head matchup over the Raiders.
Pope can claim the subregion’s No. 1 seed next Friday if it can beat Hiram and Osborne can upset East Paulding. Kell will host Sprayberry in a game that will likely decide the third and fourth subregion seeds.
The top four seeds from each subregion will face off Nov. 4 — the No. 1 seeds will face the No. 4s, as will the No. 2s and No. 3s — with the winners advancing to the state playoffs.
The scenario for Marietta (4-4, 4-0), which has won four straight region games after starting the year with four straight losses, is much simpler. The win over Lassiter guaranteed the Blue Devils no worse than the No. 2 seed and a first-round home state playoff game. That’s based on the teams Marietta has already beaten — Lassiter, Etowah, Woodstock and Wheeler — all of which have two or more region losses already.
Now, however, a much bigger prize now awaits the Blue Devils, who have put themselves in position to win the region championship with a victory over eighth-ranked Walton (8-0, 4-0) next Friday.
Marietta coach Scott Burton isn’t surprised that his team beat Lassiter, but based upon what he’s heard, the victory was an important one for the program, which last won a region championship in 2005, under then-coach James “Friday” Richards.
“It’s tough to put it into perspective,” Burton said. “Hearing from Marietta folks in the community who have been around a long time, that was a big win for our program and brought a lot of enthusiasm to those invested in how we play and perform.”
Burton added that he ignores the perception of how strong or talented a program might be.
“I don’t pay attention to how strong other programs are,” he said. “I look at the film, along with my coaching staff, and we try to break down what (the opponents) do, and provide that information to our kids to give them a chance to win.”