The start of the 2018 high school football season is just over a week away as schools in Northwest Georgia get ready for another big year. The official first games will take place at Barron Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 16, with most teams opening the following night and the remaining teams swinging into action on Aug. 24.
The Rome Wolves have gone unbeaten in region play in 2016 and 2017 on their way to two straight Class 5A state championships. The Wolves lost a lot of talent to graduation, but with the core of their 2017 record setting offense returning, they still are the favorite to repeat as region champions. Quarterback Knox Kadum, running back Jamious Griffin, and lineman Aiden Gaines all are preseason first team all-state players and wide receiver Xavier Roberts-Donaldson is as good as anybody in the state at his position. Add in the fact that non-starters saw a lot of action last year and John Reid’s Rome team is in the mix once again for a state title.
The team set to challenge Rome in the region is Carrollton. The Trojans have a strong defense centered on three preseason first team all state players. Carrollton still will be young in 2018 but with the talent to make a postseason run.
The battle for the remaining two playoff berths should come down to four teams. The Kell Longhorns always are strong and an experienced defense and talented quarterback are in place for 2018. The Hiram Hornets return a lot of players on both sides of the ball with a seasoned quarterback and new coaching staff in place. The Villa Rica Wildcats, after disappointing showings in recent years, have one of the best backfields in northwest Georgia. The East Paulding Patriots showed glimpses of returning to prominence.
The Woodland Wildcats boast more returning experience than any team in the region off of a season that was their most successful in four years. The Paulding County Patriots, coming off a playoff year, will be young this season. The Cass Colonels, who were winless a season ago after expecting a much better showing, will try to improve in 2018.
The Cartersville Purple Hurricanes were the surprise story of Northwest Georgia in 2017 after their shocking second round state playoff loss to eventual state champion Blessed Trinity. Despite that defeat and the graduation of all state quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Cartersville is the odds-on favorite to repeat as Region 5-AAAA champion and to contend for another state title.
The Cedartown Bulldogs look to be the second best team in the region. The Bulldogs will feature a powerful offense with a lot of underclassmen supporting a talented senior class.
The Chapel Hill Panthers, Sandy Creek Fighting Patriots, and Troup Tigers will battle it out for the remaining two playoff berths. The LaGrange Grangers are looking to rebuild after going winless a year ago.
The one thing certain in Northwest Georgia high school football is a region championship for Calhoun. The Yellow Jackets, who last lost a region game to Darlington on Oct. 19, 2001, have won 17 straight region championships. The 2018 season will be no different as Calhoun looks to capture another league crown.
With the loss of Bremen to Class AA, the rest of the region is a tossup. The North Murray Mountaineers may well be the team to step up and take the second slot in the playoffs. The Adairsville Tigers look to continue their improvement in 2018. The remaining playoff berth likely will come down to a battle between the Ringgold Tigers and Sonoraville Phoenix.
The remaining teams in Region 6-AAA are the Coahulla Creek Colts, Haralson County Rebels, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe Warriors, and Murray County Indians.
The one thing most observers agree on is the team that will finish Number 1 in Region 7-AA. The Rockmart Yellow Jackets will rely on a backfield of Zabrion Whatley, Dylan Bailey, and company to run the table in the region in 2018. The Yellow Jackets may start the year 1-2 with an exceptionally strong non-region schedule that includes Cedartown, Central of Carrollton, and Heard County, but will be ready when league play starts in September.
The battle for the remaining playoff berths from the region may be the most competitive in recent history. The Coosa Eagles return a plethora of talent on offense and, if they can beat on Chattooga on Sept. 14, may be 7-0 when they host Rockmart in mid-October. The Chattooga Indians must survive a very tough non-region slate of Adairsville, Wesleyan, and Heritage before embarking on what they expect will be another postseason run in 2018. The Pepperell Dragons suffered heavy graduation losses from a year ago but they are hoping their young replacements will come through in the post season.
The other teams all look to a combination of younger players and experience as they try to answer questions in 2018. The Gordon Central Warriors improved their win total to two games in 2017 but graduated a lot of players who were part of that rebirth. The Model Blue Devils did not have the success they had in recent years in 2017 but hope to get back on their feet under new head coach Ricky Ross. The Armuchee Indians, under new head coach Jeremy Green, want to put the losing records of the past four seasons behind them and return to the success they experienced a decade ago. The Dade County Wolverines look to rebuild as they start anew on defense in the coming season.
The Darlington Tigers must once again replace several key graduating seniors as they try to stay alive in Region 6-A. Darlington has reached the state playoffs 14 straight seasons and 21 of the past 22 years.
The 15-team region, one of the toughest Class A leagues in the state, had seven different teams reach the playoffs in 2017. This season promises to be no different.
The Mt. Zion Eagles, one of the four public schools in the region (Bowdon, Gordon Lee, and Trion are the other three), may be the best team in the north sub region of Region 6-A. The Trion Bulldogs, anchored by first team preseason all-state offensive lineman Jake Hayes, are looking for a deeper run into the post season in 2018. The Bowdon Red Devils have a new head coach after a disappointing 2-8 record a year ago. The Christian Heritage Lions, Gordon Lee Trojans, and North Cobb Christian Eagles are the remaining North sub region teams.
The Mt. Paran Christian Eagles, who should repeat as the Number 1 team in the B sub region, are one of the legitimate contenders for the Class A Private School state championship. The Mt. Pisgah Christian Patriots are another team expected to have playoff success after an upset second round loss a year ago. The Fellowship Christian Paladins, who reached the second round a season ago after a disappointing 2017, will be playoff contenders again. The Walker Wolverines and Whitefield Academy Wolfpack may challenge the sub region leaders followed by the Pinecrest Academy Paladins and St. Francis Knights.
Regular Season Opening Games for Each Team
The 2018 regular season in Georgia officially kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 16, with the Corky Kell Classic at Barron Stadium in Rome. Most Northwest Georgia high schools will begin regular season play the following night. Cass, Sonoraville, Unity Christian (who does have a scrimmage that Saturday), and Georgia School for the Deaf officially kickoff the following weekend.
Calhoun v. Ridgeland at Barron Stadium
Marietta at Rome
Murray County at Armuchee
Trion at Coosa
Darlington at Pepperell
Model at LaFayette
Woodland at Southeast Whitfield
Allatoona at Cartersville
Cedartown at Rockmart
Chattooga at Adairsville
Gordon Central at Haralson County
Harvester Christian Academy at Unity Christian School
Adairsville at Cass
Model at Sonoraville
Georgia School for the Deaf at Louisiana School for the Deaf