Since the most recent Georgia High School Association region realignment, the Buccaneers (1-0) play in an 11-team region, and don’t have to worry about a non-region schedule. The season starts and ends with a Region 5AAAAA contest and every game matters with respect to the region championship and playoff seedings.
For all of the other Class A and Class AAAAA squads in Cobb County, it’s a different story.
Walker (1-0), Whitefield Academy (0-1) and Mount Paran Christian (1-0) all play in an 11-team Region 6A that is split into subregions. It allows those teams an opportunity to schedule four non-subregion opponents.
North Cobb Christian would be part of the subregion, but it is playing a non-region schedule.
Osborne (1-1), Kell (1-0), Sprayberry (0-2) and Pope (0-1) also play in an 11-team region. Region 7AAAAA is also split into subregions, but teams face two opponents from the other subregion, and then round out their schedule with other non-region opponents.
Osborne settled with contests against Class AAA Chapel Hill and McNair. Pope, Sprayberry and Kell, opted to go against teams in the higher Class AAAAAA, and they’ve all done it for different reasons and with mixed results.
Kell took on Chattahoochee in the Georgia Dome at the Corky Kell Classic and left with a 26-16 victory. The Longhorns’ next two opponents are Woodstock and Lassiter from Region 5AAAAAA.
“For us, it’s been about proximity, competing against a quality opponent and having a good gate,” said Kell coach Derek Cook, whose team is 8-2 against teams from a higher classification since 2010. “Being in the Dome, we’re told who we’re going to play, so we can’t help that. The real benefit for us is having a good gate, and playing a good opponent that can get us ready for our region.”
Sprayberry coach Billy Shackelford is also interested in facing quality opponents.
His Yellow Jackets opened the season with a 44-14 loss to Region 5AAAAAA Wheeler, a team they’ve faced 45 times dating back to 1966. Next up was a 48-27 setback to Region 4AAAAAA Kennesaw Mountain, and it ends with Friday’s matchup against rival and Region 5AAAAAA foe Lassiter. The Trojans lead the series 20-9.
“We’re an older school with established rivalries, so we try to get them in,” Shackelford said.” “The flip side is that you play these games and hope that it will help you prepare for a tough region schedule. To me, playing better competition is advantageous.
“Obviously, being successful also helps, but if we were playing smaller, less talented teams, we’d be creating a false sense of security. I don’t think that would be beneficial. We want that front end competition early and we hope that it pays dividends down the road.”
Pope’s front end competition includes Region 4AAAAAA Marietta, Wheeler and Region 5AAAAAA Etowah. The Greyhounds dropped a 63-13 decision to the Blue Devils last week. They host Wheeler and Etowah Friday and next week, respectively.
“When we did this two-year cycle, we were coming off a region championship,” Pope coach Matt Kemper said. “Coming off that 10-2 season, it was harder to find games because some teams didn’t want to play us.
“We weren’t seeking out a meet grinder schedule, but it was harder to fill one out (after winning region). We had to make it work somehow and those teams were interested.”