At a glance
Top teams by sport
(based on recent performance)
Cross country: Jefferson boys and girls
Basketball: Jefferson boys, Rabun County girls
Baseball: Jefferson, Washington-Wilkes
Track and field: Jefferson boys, Social Circle girls
Soccer: Riverside Military boys, Jefferson girls
Golf: Riverside Military boys, Jefferson girls
Tennis: Jefferson boys, Washington-Wilkes girls
Region 8-AA plays a straight seven-game region schedule. Playoff seedings are determined by final region standings (first-fourth).
The level of contentment with the new Region 8-AA varies greatly from school to school.
Riverside Military Academy athletic director Marc Paglia is fairly happy with the draw his school has in the new eight-team region since it is located about an hour from the two schools at the far north of the region (Rabun County and Union County), and less than two hours from the two at the southern tip (Greene County and Washington-Wilkes).
Paglia added that he feels Riverside Military will be more competitive athletically, even though they are moving up in the current two-year cycle after spending the past two years in Class A.
“I think it’s going to work out better for us here at Riverside Military,” Paglia said. “There were schools we played in Region 8-A that were way out of reach for us.”
However, that spirit isn’t shared throughout all the athletic departments in a region that spans from the mountains all the way down to East Georgia, easily a three-hour bus trip for teams from one end to the other.
Union County football coach Brian Allison isn’t as worried about the travel since all his games are on Friday night, even with a tough road schedule with games at Greene County (Oct. 19) and a regular season finale two hours away at Jefferson on Nov. 9.
“Playing a subregion schedule may have been better for us because we’re so isolated from all the other schools in the region,” Allison said. “But we’re kind of used to the three-hour travel thing.”
Allison’s biggest concern is amount of tickets that will — or won’t — be sold to fans from visiting schools, only one of which (Rabun County) is less than an hour’s drive. With that in mind, Allison scheduled his first three games against nearby schools that are almost a guarantee to bring large visiting crowds. Union County’s season opener is against Towns County on Aug. 31 in Hiawassee, followed by home games against Fannin County on Sept. 7 and Andrews (N.C) on Sept. 14.
“We wanted to make sure we had some close games early in the season,” said Allison, who will play seven straight in region play after the three nonregion opening games.
Former Union County baseball coach C.T. Hussion, now the school’s assistant athletic director, said that baseball schedules in the region are set up to avoid long road trips during the week. Hussion said that subregion games will be played during the school week, then crossover games will be played as doubleheaders every other weekend.
Jefferson athletic director Tim Corbett is worried about how he’ll balance the athletic department budget, based on how schools that they now compete with traditionally travel for games. His school is a bit different in that he runs an athletic department for sixth-12th grades with a combined total of 41 teams.
Because of that, Jefferson took the same approach as Union County with its first three games. On Aug. 31, the Dragons will visit their biggest rival, Commerce, followed by a home game against Jackson County the following week. Their final nonregion game is against North Hall on Sept. 14 at The Brickyard, the third consecutive year these two have played, and a game that Corbett feels confident will also bring plenty of gate revenue.
At Jefferson, Corbett says the athletic budget is a “50-50 split” between money raised by gate sales and booster club profits.
“If we don’t make enough at the gate, we have to hope that the booster club keeps plugging,” Corbett said.
On the field, Jefferson brings one of the most successful athletic departments to the new Region 8-AA. The Dragons have the longest streak of wrestling state titles (12 at the traditionals and 11 at the duals) in the state.
Jefferson’s football program has been to the playoffs two of the past three seasons, and the volleyball team has been to state each of the past three years. Also, the Dragons have put together a deep playoff run in both baseball and boys basketball in recent seasons.
And in boys track, the team that Corbett coaches, the Dragons won the Class AA state title in 2011. Both of Jefferson’s cross country teams placed in the top 10 at the state meet in Carrollton last season.
“All our sports, from top to bottom, have been strong and experienced a decent amount of success,” Corbett said.