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Competition tight in Region 8-AA
13 teams battling for 4 playoff spots
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Region 8-AA
Subregion A
  Region Overall
Fannin County 0-0 2-1
Banks County 0-0 2-1
Rabun County 0-0 1-1
Union County 0-0 1-2
East Hall 0-0 1-2
Dawson County 0-0 0-3
Subregion B
  Region Overall
North Oconee 0-0 2-0
Elbert County 0-0 2-1
Jackson County 0-0 2-1
Jefferson 0-0 2-1
Hart County 0-0 1-1-1
East Jackson 0-0 1-2
Oglethorpe County 0-0 0-3
Friday’s games
Adairsville at East Hall
Athens Christian at Banks Co.
Chestatee at Dawson County
Elbert Co. at Oglethorpe County*
Fannin County at Murphy, N.C.
Jackson Co. at East Jackson*
Jefferson at Hart County*
North Oconee at Rabun County
Union Co. at Robinsville, N.C.
*Subregion game

The football schedule just got heavier for Region 8-AA.

Friday will mark the beginning of subregion play in the 13-team league for those in Subregion B, which includes area schools Jackson County and Jefferson.

Subregion A, which houses area schools Banks County, Dawson County, East Hall and Union County, will begin league play next week.

In 8-AA, subregion record will determine state playoff eligibility. The top two teams from each subregion will play for the region championship and automatically qualify for state. The second place team from one subregion will play the third place team from the other and vice versa. The winners of those crossover games qualify for state, while the loser goes home.

That means 13 teams are now fighting for four playoff spots.

Jefferson (2-1) begins its quest for a fifth straight state playoff appearance Friday at Hart County (1-1-1), while Jackson County (2-1) travels to play cross-county rival East Jackson (1-2).

Though the Dragons have played a competitive non-region schedule to this point, including games against Commerce and North Hall, they won’t be as ready as coach T. McFerrin would like them to be. That’s because injuries in last week’s 35-14 win over Dawson County have four starters sidelined for this week’s game against the Bulldogs.

“Those are key injuries that put a damper on this team,” McFerrin said. “Especially because they start both ways.”

McFerrin wouldn’t say which starters were injured, but did say the Dragons have had to adjust their gameplan to adapt to new personnel, which could prove to be a difficult challenge against Hart County — a state playoff team the last 18 seasons.

And the schedule won’t get easier. Subregion B includes three teams other than the Dragons and Bulldogs — Elbert County, North Oconee and East Jackson — that qualified for the state playoffs last season.

Meanwhile, in Subregion A, no teams qualified for the state playoffs in 2009.

“Obviously, our side is pretty darn tough,” McFerrin said. “The three AAA teams that moved down (Hart County, Elbert and Jackson counties), as far as we’re concerned are still AAA schools because they’re so close in size.”

Jackson County is trying to put last week’s game, a 28-14 loss to Fannin County — its first loss of the season — in the rearview mirror.

East Jackson advanced to the second round of the AA state playoffs last year, and though it plays in the same county as the Panthers, Jackson County coach Billy Kirk said his team’s focus should be on the big picture.

“What matters is what happens the next seven weeks,” Kirk said. “We’re going to treat this game (vs. East Jackson) like any other subregion game. The big buzz word is ‘rivalry,’ but this is not truly a rivalry because we’ve never played each other. The fans will be excited and it will be a great atmosphere, but at the end of the day, all the games count.”

Subregion A kicks off play next week, and without a 2009 playoff team included, it remains wide-open.

“Overall, it’s a much more balanced subregion than maybe in the past,” East Hall coach Bryan Gray said. “But (playing in the subregion) is going to be a major challenge for us.”

The Vikings play their last non-region game at home against Adairsville on Friday before traveling to Rabun County Sept. 24.

Gray feels East Hall, which finished 1-9 the last three seasons and is 1-2 this year, has a legitimate shot at qualifying for its first playoff appearance since 2005.

“I feel that’s the case even more so now,” he said. “Once we learn to stop beating ourselves with turnovers, we’ve got as good of a chance as anybody.”

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