Riverwood has one of the biggest hurdles to overcome as it tries to contend for a state playoff berth in Region 7AAAAA.
The Raiders compete in Subregion B, which features state powerhouse Kell as well as a formidable Pope team which has made it to the postseason the last three years in a row.
Sprayberry and Osborne are the other teams in the Raiders’ subregion.
“The main challenge is not being able to sleep at night after reading that region schedule,” quipped Riverwood coach Robert Ingram. “We’re playing some big-time talent. Kell has been to the state playoffs. Pope is also a state playoff team — their coach does a great job and they’re so big and strong. Sprayberry, they’re very well coached and they have a lot of speed every year. It’s going to be tough from the beginning of that schedule to the end.”
North Springs will also navigate its way through the competitive gauntlet of 7AAAA as it begins its rebuilding process under new coach Steve Horton after three straight 0-10 seasons.
The Spartans play in a Subregion A that includes Creekview, Sequoyah, Northview, Forsyth Central and Cambridge.
North Atlanta has it especially tough in 6AAAAA, where the young and inexperienced Warriors will have to face the likes of state powerhouses M.L. King, Tucker, Stephenson and Southwest DeKalb.
Other teams in the region are Miller Grove, Mays, Arabia Mountain, Dunwoody, Lakeside and Clarkston.
“We’re in such a tough region,” North Atlanta coach Doug Britten said. “But I think once we get through [the region schedule] and our young kids step up to the challenge, they will be better on the field — no matter what the record shows.”
Marist will try to repeat as 6AAAA champions as last year’s Class AAAA state semifinalists will try to fight off the challenges of Chamblee, Columbia, Lithonia, Stone Mountain and Redan in Subregion A.
Challenging the War Eagles in Subregion B are Grady, Carver, Washington, Banneker, Therrell and South Atlanta.
“I think from our side of the region, Chamblee and Lithonia are the top teams,” Marist coach Alan Chadwick said. “Chamblee had a great year last year. Columbia was definitely very impressive last year. Lithonia has some quarterbacks and receivers back. On the other side of the region, Carver and Grady are still the top two teams over there.”
Defending AAA runner-up St. Pius X will once again face a stiff challenge in 6AAA from Blessed Trinity, Woodward and Cedar Grove, while Decatur is another contender for a state playoff spot. McNair, Towers and Cross Keys are the other teams in the region.
“We’ve got five pretty good teams,” St. Pius coach Paul Standard said. “One of them is not going to get in the playoffs and hopefully, it ain’t us. Do we have a chance to win the region? We do, but so do the other teams. We all have an equal chance to do that and it’s going to all depend on what kind of injuries do we have, what kind of depth can we establish as we go into the region schedule. We’re not in a very big region, but the teams that I feel like can go a long way are those teams right there [in the region].”
Lovett attempts to repeat as 6AA champions as it fights off challenges from archrival Westminster and Greater Atlanta Christian, with Wesleyan and Hapeville also competing in the five-team league.
Region 6AA features a couple of teams that made deep runs in the AA state playoffs last year, with Lovett — which went undefeated in region play at 4-0 — advancing to the quarterfinals and GAC to the semifinals.
“The region we’re playing in is as tough a region as there is in the state,” Lovett coach Mike Muschamp said. “Westminster is good team and [coach] Gerry Romberg has done a great job over there. Wesleyan is a good team. You are really talking about some well-established programs that are well coached and the kids play hard. So if you get through that region and you do well, you’re prepared for the playoffs.”
Romberg also expects a tough challenge in 6AA as his Westminster squad looks to challenge archrival and defending champion Lovett for the title.
“It’s an extremely competitive region,” he said. “First and foremost, there’s tremendous coaching in this region. Only four teams can make the playoffs and we have five teams who are capable of making the playoffs. So you don’t have much margin for error.”
Holy Innocents’ is expected once again to be in the thick of the race in 5A, along with defending champion Eagle’s Landing Christian and Landmark Christian.
It will be a tough challenge for the Golden Bears as they go up against an ELCA team that advanced to the Class A semifinals last year and a Landmark squad that made it to the quarterfinals.
“I feel like our region is one of the tougher ones around and, for us, I would say our schedule is as tough as anyone’s around,” Holy Innocents’ coach Ryan Livezey said. “Our first region game is against ELCA and our last one is against Landmark Christian and there is not many easy weeks in between.”
Pace and Mount Vernon Presbyterian will also battle for state playoff spots in 5A, along with Our Lady of Mercy and Strong Rock Christian.
Holy Spirit Prep will try to earn a third consecutive playoff spot in the Glory For Christ league, which features a mix of small Christian schools and teams comprised of home-schooled players.
The Cougars are joined in the West division by North Georgia, Freedom Academy, Grace Christian, Johnson Ferry and Crown, while the East division features defending GFC champion East Atlanta, runner-up Anderson, Augusta Prep, the Augusta Eagles, the Georgia Force and Skipstone Academy.
“The biggest challenge for us is that we’re playing so many of the teams on the Eastern half of the league, which has been pretty strong since its inception,” Holy Spirit Prep coach Andre Taylor said. “Those are going to be some challenging games for our kids.”