Flowery Branch at Johnson
Gainesville at West Hall
North Hall at Creekview
Riverside at East Jackson
Habersham Central at Winder-Barrow
Jackson County at Morgan County
Union County at Jefferson
Wesleyan at Lakeview
Lumpkin County at Gilmer
Banks County at North Oconee
Decatur at Buford
Pickens at Chestatee
Lincoln County at Commerce
East Hall at West Forsyth
Towns County at Dade County
I’d always thought that a subdivided region for football in Region 7-AAA wasn’t the most efficient model to follow. Using last year as an example, it’s clear that the four best teams weren’t sent to the state playoffs. That, and it essentially makes games in the first half of the season irrelevant.
Yep, I had it all figured out in my mind that all 13 schools in the region should play in one massive region and send the top four schools to the playoffs. Case closed. It sounded like a rational idea, that is, until I started talking to the coaches that actually have to play the schedules.
Actually, I wanted to find coaches to validate my own personal stance. Surely West Forsyth coach Frank Hepler would agree with my point of view since the Wolverines were the only 8-2 team in the state last season shut out of the playoffs. Surely he would have a bone to pick with the system in place, right?
However, I was mildly shocked when Hepler calmly relayed his perspective that, while there is no perfect system possible, the subregion alignment is as fair of a format as foreseeable for Region 7-AAA — one of three subdivided Class AAA regions in the state.
The way Region 7-AAA has it set up, the top two teams on each side of the region earn a playoff spot.
“We know the rules going in and know who we have to beat,” Hepler said. “I think the GHSA does a good job researching things going in to find the best system possible.”
The reason West Forsyth didn’t make the playoffs last year was losing head-to-head against playoff qualifiers Gainesville and eventual state finalist Flowery Branch. Meanwhile on the other side of the region, Creekview made the playoffs in 2008, despite losing four in the regular season, however, only one of those losses (North Hall) came in the subregion.
The GHSA is pretty clear on subdividing regions. Any region with 12, or more, schools participating is required to be subdivided. Regions with less than 12 schools also have the option to subdivide, which is the case with three regions in the state.
However, the biggest sticking point remains the inequity with the proportion of playoff spots for regions. Every region, regardless of size, gets four playoff spots. The 15 schools that comprise Region 7-AAAA get the same number of playoff spots as Region 2-AAA, which only has seven schools.
“In subregion A, you have seven schools playing for two playoff spots,” Lumpkin County coach Tommy Jones said. “And then you have some regions in south Georgia that only have seven teams total and get four playoff spots.”
However, even after acknowledging the flaws in the system, Jones tends to agree with Hepler that the system in place is fair to all the schools in Region 7-AAA. “It’s far from perfect,” added Jones. “But there is no perfect solution.”
There will certainly be changes in Region 7-AAA’s format with the upcoming realignment that takes effect next year. The process of realignment begins with projected enrollment numbers that are submitted to the GHSA in October.
With those numbers, the GHSA will turn around and spit out the new region alignments, sometime before the Christmas holidays.
After that, schools have a chance to appeal, or campaign, to be moved from one region to another, which are more often than not denied by the governing body at the GHSA. However, during the last cycle Creekview successfully campaigned to move into Region 7-AAA from the original blueprint of having the newest school in Cherokee County as part of Region 6-AAA.
Projected changes are purely speculation at this point. However, it isn’t going to be a surprise if Flowery Branch, Creekview and West Forsyth all move up in classification, along with East Hall moving down to Class AA.
It’s also been speculated that Buford could opt to move into the Hall County-heavy Region 7-AAA, despite having Class AA enrollment numbers. Schools have the option to move up in class, but can’t move down in classification from actual enrollment numbers.
With such changes possibly in the works, talking about subregion systems may be a non-factor this time next year in Region 7-AAA.