Every high school football season comes with surprises. The team that won one game last season could now be a playoff contender. On the other end, a team that was in the fight for a state title could be left scrapping just to make the postseason.
Picking which of these scenarios will play out makes for bold predictions since most teams haven’t even hit the field yet. And making such predictions comes with a disclaimer — it is far from an exact science.
With that said, here are a few with some basis in reality and could end up panning out this season.
Undefeated no more
The Region 8-AAA winner will have two regular season losses. Last season, that would have been an absurd statement with Gainesville breezing to undefeated regular season. This year, not so much.
In Region 7-AAA, North Hall and Gainesville passed the region title back and forth with the Red Elephants winning five times and the Trojans three since 2002. This season, they’re two of the top contenders for the region title, but both have stumbling blocks set up on the schedule.
The Red Elephants start out with three-time defending Class AA state champion Buford on Friday at City Park, followed by a road game at up-and-coming White County on Sept. 3.
North Hall’s schedule isn’t any easier. The Trojans have Jefferson, St. Pius and Gainesville, in that order, the first three weeks, after a Week 1 bye. Two losses in that stretch is certainly imaginable.
Despite the tough early schedules, North Hall and Gainesville are still the class of their respective subregions, until shown otherwise.
Dominance in doubt
Buford has owned Class AA with three consecutive state titles and seven total in the past decade. This season, things will change.
While the Wolves will certainly be a force in Region 6-AA, the landscape of football in the second smallest classification in the state has certainly grown tougher. Carver-Columbus — Buford’s Week 2 opponent — has dropped down to Class AA.
In the northern half of the state, the degree of dificulty is increased with the addition of Hart County in Region 8-AA.
However, the top teams in Class AA this season are located below the “gnat line.” Fitzgerald, which faced Buford last season in the state semifinals, defeated Class AAAAA Tift County, 40-26, last Friday. Meanwhile, Cook, which lost to Buford last year in the state quarterfinals, is coming off a win against Class AAAAA’s Colquitt County, 15-9, last week.
Trojans tilt toward balance
North Hall’s offense will produce fairly even passing and rushing yardage. This may seem especially bold, especially if you are accustomed to Trojans coach Bob Christmas’ tendencies in the Wing-T offense.
Still it’s possible this season that North Hall could take a serious turn toward running a balanced offense, even though still based in the Wing-T.
The Trojans have a prototypical passing quarterback with junior Kanler Coker (6-4, 190), along with wide receivers C.J. Curry (6-2, 190) and Darius Curry.
Running will still account for a fair share of North Hall’s offense with junior Imani Cross, Amin Aziz, Clay Quinn, Shane Doster and Randy Olson all in the backfield.
To put this year’s possible shift into context, last year North Hall rushed for 3,070 yards and passed for 785.
East Hall will be playing when the postseason rolls around. If that happens, it will be a huge step forward for the Vikings program and validation for all the work coach Bryan Gray has poured into this program.
The past three years have been bleak for East Hall will only a combined three wins. However, region realignment was kind to the Vikings. Although they play in a brutally tough region, their side posted a combined 16-34 record last season, and none of their opponents made the playoffs in 2009.
Lions step forward
Lakeview Academy will establish a new record for wins.
When Lions coach Matthew Gruhn pulled the trigger on going non-region in 2010-11, it was a shrewd move that could help the program in the long run. Playing teams with a limited roster, like Lakeview, will allow the program to build substantial momentum for the future and keep kids interested in playing football for the private school in years to come.
The only negative is that Lakeview takes itself out of contention for the playoffs for the next two years. However, it is a move that could pay off with immediate dividends, starting with Friday’s game at Fellowship Christian.