The North subregion in Region 8-AAA is looking like it will be the most interesting to follow when the playoff race picks up this season, as four quality teams will be in the hunt for playoff spots.
In the past, the subregion with North Hall in it has typically been a battle for second place, but this year there’s no clear frontrunner at this point.
And it’s easy to pinpoint why this specific subregion will be so much more competitive: the rise of Chestatee. The War Eagles (2-0) have gotten off to a faster start than probably any outsider thought they could, and add them to the pot with Lumpkin County (2-0), Stephens County (2-1), and a Trojans (0-2) squad that has shown in the past they can shake off a slow start, it’s anyone’s guess how this one is going to play out. White County, the defending subregion champ is starting over with a young team this year, and won its first game of the season on Friday.
The South subregion in 8-AAA looks much more predictable right now. Gainesville (1-1) looks like the best in the group with everyone else in a battle for the next two spots in play-in games.
But for now, Chestatee has been the big attention grabber. And for a school that struggled the past few seasons — and still hasn’t registered a playoff win in school history — this success probably was a welcomed sign for sixth-year coach Stan Luttrell.
The War Eagles showed last Friday how versatile they can be on offense with six different players reaching the end zone in a 46-13 win against Johnson. Also, Chestatee has an offensive line that is creating room to run. Keying on one offensive player from Chestatee would just open up others to run wild.
Now the real test for Chestatee will come when the subregion schedule opens with North Hall and Stephens County back-to-back. The War Eagles, who are 1-8 all-time against the Trojans, need to win at least one of those two games to stay in the hunt for the subregion title.
Also, Lumpkin County has put itself into position for a special season. The Indians have possibly the most explosive player in the entire region in senior Ian McIntosh, who can score running, receiving, on defense and on special teams.
The Indians have the longest playoff drought of any team in Region 8-AAA (last making the playoffs in 2003), but have been on a general upswing since Tommy Jones took over as coach in 2006.
And never count out North Hall to catch fire and run to another region title. I don’t put a lot of stock in the Trojans being 0-2 right now, especially since the losses were against two quality opponents. Just two years ago, North Hall started 1-2 (two ugly losses), but still went on to a subregion title, home-field advantage to start the playoffs, and a playoff win.
We’ll learn a lot about where North Hall stands when it visits Gainesville on Friday night at City Park. A win would put the Trojans back on track with subregion play right around the corner.
Right now, it looks like the bulk of the quality in Region 8-AAA is on the north side.
Bill Murphy is a sports writer for The Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.