After Commerce closed out the 1990s and opened the new decade with a string of four straight region championships, Athens Academy wrestled away the Tigers’ crown, winning five of the last seven region titles.
Only Commerce (2003) and Social Circle (2005) have been able to top the Spartans in region standings lately, but a new challenger arrives with Wesleyan.
The Wolves were .500 last season in Region 6-AA, and return ample experience at the skill positions. Last season they played Class AA runner-up Lovett to within a touchdown, and lost by a two-point conversion to Region 8-AAA runner-up Hart County.
They’ll have their hands full with the Spartans, who’ve reached the state semifinals each of the last two seasons, and haven’t lost a region game since 2005.
The additions of Athens Christian and Lakeview Academy will help fill out the region, which last year had only five teams competing in a region schdule in 2007.
The Eagles will be returning to the region after a four-year, non-region hiatus. Lakeview joins the league for its first season of varsity football. The Lions were unbeaten last season while playing a non-region/junior varsity schedule.
Favorite/defending champ: Athens Academy
A number of ingredients that coach Michael Gunn used to cook up back-to-back appearances in the Class A state semifinals are missing from his kitchen this year.
Quarterback Carter Gunn and running backs Will Callaway and Jeff Turner have graduated.
But at Athens Academy, the cupboard is rarely bare.
The Spartans have suffered through just one losing season in coach Gunn’s 17-year tenure and they don’t appear to be in store for another one in 2008.
Senior quarterback Will Daniel filled in ably last season as Carter Gunn battled injuries, and James Colquitt was vital part of the Spartans’ punishing running back trio last year. Experienced receivers McKay Matthews and Wright Shamp also return for their senior year.
Dark horse: Commerce
It’s hard to call a team with the Tigers’ tradition a darkhorse in any season, but the fact that they lost quarterback Reuben Haynes and his nearly 3,000 yards of total offense makes it easier. His leading receiver, Cohen Cooke, is also gone.
Replacing thoses pieces will be a task, but there are seven other starters on offense — not to mention the entire defense — coming back. That should help. Javon Womack and Jon Cash return with experience and athleticism on offense after combining for more than 400 receiving yards last year. This season they’ll be called upon to shoulder a greater offensive load.
Junior linebacker Josh Streetman (123 tackles in 2007) leads a unit that struggled limiting opponents’ offenses last season. But there’s no greater teacher than experience, something there’s no lack of this year in Commerce.
Colors: Purple and gold
Coach: Van Beachem
2007 results: 6-4 (non-region schedule)
Offensive scheme: Spread
Defensive scheme: 5-2
Key players: QB Tyson Beacham (6-3, 195, Sr.); WR Forest Shealy (6-0, 160, Sr.); OL Tim Campodonico (6-2, 215, Jr.); LB Joey Moon (6-3, 195, Sr.); RB Anthony Cosby (6-0, 155, Sr.)
Colors: Navy blue and white
Coach: Matthew Gruhn
2007 results: 7-0 (non-region/junior varsity schedule — new program)
Offensive scheme: Triple option
Defensive scheme: 3-4
Key players: QB/DB Haugton Carswell (5-10, 150, Sr.); FB/LB Tom Drury (5-10, 185, Jr.); WR/OLB Nick Saye (6-0, 185, Sr.); QB/LB Jordan Chastain (6-0, 175, Jr.); SB/DB Austin White (6-0, 175, Sr.)
Colors: Green, gold and white
Coach: Franklin Pridgen
2007 results: 5-5 (Region 6-AA)
Offensive scheme: Multiple-I
Defensive scheme: Multiple
Key players: WR/DB J.J. Russell (6-0, 185, Sr.); OL/DL Andrew Patrick (6-2, 265, Sr.); QB/DB Conor Welton (6-0, 185, Jr.); WR/LB Anderson Porter (6-1, 190, Jr.); RB/LB Bobby Fulton (6-0, 190, Jr.)
Moved to: Region 8-AA
2007 results: 8-4, second round of playoffs