Region 8-AAA may be one of the most interesting regions in the state to follow down the stretch with so many teams playing at a playoff caliber. Unlike in some year’s past in Region 7-AAA, there are more teams that are strong enough to contend for the playoffs than the four postseason spots allow.
By my estimations, there are a total of six teams in this region that have a legitimate chance of claiming one of the top two spots in the north and south subregion.
Let’s break this down, starting with Region 8B-AAA, commonly known as the south subregion. I think it’s a no-brainer that Monroe Area (4-0) and Gainesville (3-1) will end up with the two playoff spots on this side. When these two collide at Hurricanes Stadium on Oct. 15, it will pretty well determine which will claim the subregion title and a spot in the region title game the final week of the regular season.
After last Friday’s trip to Monroe, I’ve now seen both of these teams play and have to say that Monroe Area seems, right now, to be the stronger of the two teams. They have a massive and very skilled defensive line, led by Notre Dame verbal commit Stephon Tuitt and junior Kendarious Whitehead (also a Division I college prospect) on the ends, and nose tackle Travis Butts. Monroe Area also has the best set of offensive skill players in Region 8-AAA, led by quarterback Demontavious Smith and running back Tre’Shard Burdette.
However, there is one small caveat that must be disclosed when talking about a future matchup between the Purple Hurricanes and Red Elephants. In it’s win against Chestatee just three days ago, Smith, a three-year starter, went out with an apparent injury after a fourth-quarter run. His inability to play would possibly tilt the outcome of this game.
Then, when you break down Region 8A-AAA, the north subregion, that is where things get really interesting. I’ve pegged four teams — North Hall, White County, Lumpkin County and Stephens County — as legit contenders for the two playoff berths.
I honestly couldn’t tell you which team out of this pack is the best, and I don’t know if anyone else could either at this point — it’s just that close. There’s so many possible outcomes in head-to-head matchups that could play out, that you could see any combo of these four teams make the playoffs and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.
We’ll start to see how they fare against one another as subregion play opens this week when White County (3-1) plays host to Lumpkin County (3-1) on Friday in Cleveland. Both of these teams are so even that it is literally a coin flip. However, the winner of this game doesn’t necessarily have an easy road carved to the playoffs. It still has to face North Hall (2-2) and Stephens County (3-1) before the regular season is said and done, and oh yeah, Chestatee is 2-2 right now, and Franklin County (2-1-1) has a winning record.
I think the Trojans will be the most improved down the stretch with junior running back Imani Cross (a 1,400-yard rusher last season) finally getting assimilated back into playing after offseason Achilles surgery, and senior defensive end/tight end D.J. Miolen is back healthy as well.
That, and North Hall has a habit the past few seasons of getting progressively better as the season goes along, and are a team that really benefits from playing a subregion schedule. However, the Trojans have an equally difficult road to get in the playoffs playing in the tougher of the two subregions in Region 8-AAA.
Try and predict future outcomes for the remainder of the regular season any way you like. You’ll get a countless assortment of playoff qualifiers in Region 8-AAA.
Bill Murphy is a sports writer for The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesbmurphy.