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Murphy: Tests for teams are best for fans
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I have to say that the new scheduling format in Region 7-AAA appears to be much more fan friendly.

The option to add an early season, nonregion game adds some variety to the schedule right off the bat, and leaves room to foster new rivalries with area schools. The last time Region 7-AAA schools got to play an out-of-region regular season contest was the 2005 season.

For the past two seasons, each school had to play each school in 7-AAA, leaving no room for out-of-region games. That all changed with the addition of West Forsyth and Creekview into the expanded region.

The by-product of getting to play an outside opponent early in the season is some pretty exciting games for fans to watch.

I like the fact that Flowery Branch has selected to play Stephens County on Friday in Toccoa. I would pay to see that one in person. We’re looking at two programs that are heavy favorites to win their region title going head-to-head in the first game of the season.

That’s exciting. That’s what fans want to see.

“It’s not a make-or-break game,” Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw said. “If we can just compete against them, then it will set the tone for the rest of the season.”

Regardless of the outcome, this game has no impact on the playoff picture.

The Falcons could lay an egg against Stephens County, and still could play for a state title this year.
In Region 7-AAA, it’s still the five games in subregion play that determine playoff qualifiers, but pitting your program against another top caliber opponent only makes sense to generate a buzz for the rest of the season.

North Hall is also following the same train of thought with a two-year series in 2008 and 2009 against Buford.

The Trojans visit the defending Class AA state champion Wolves on Sept. 5 at Tom Riden Stadium.

Next season, Buford will return the favor and visit North Hall at The Brickyard.

Originally, it was Buford’s idea to try to play North Hall with four open dates on their schedule. Trojans coach Bob Christmas said, at first he had to decline the offer last year, since the original proposition to play came during a slew of region meetings to determine the schedule format. When the schedule format was hammered out, and both schools still had an opening for the same date, both North Hall and Buford agreed to play a home-and-away series.

Christmas said plenty of good can come from trying to cultivate a rivalry with one of the state’s best. It can create good ticket sales for both schools, and with a good performance, it could generate some confidence going into region play.

On the other hand, if things don’t go well against a big time school like Buford, North Hall’s coach says it certainly could have a negative impact on the team’s outlook going into region games. But you got to give credit to any school willing to step up to the plate and play against one of the state’s best — in any classification.

“Every game has implications,” Christmas said. “You just have to weigh it out and decide what’s best for your team.”

Buford gets started with an out-of-state contest against Mansfield-Timberview High out of Arlington, Texas on Saturday at Texas Stadium. The Wolves also play a quality out of region game against Region 3-AAA’s Thomson, which is sandwiched in the middle of their region schedule. Buford had the luxury of three nonregion games since there are only seven other schools in Region 6-AA.

White County and Gainesville both agreed to play Franklin County as the out-of-region game.

In Region 7-AAA, the schedule format calls for each school to play four cross-over games, before playing all five schools in subregion.

I like the variety that these out-of-region games provide for the fans in Region 7-AAA. Hopefully in the future, schools will be able to schedule more of these games.

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