MACON, Ga. — The high school football season is underway and we have already had some instant classics on Football Friday Night. The team at 13WMAZ gathered around the table to discuss the hot topics heading into week 5. Lehgo!!!
1. As some teams start to enter region play, what are some of the races you'll have your eye on?
Frank: Region 1 in Class 6A is one of the strongest in the state, with Houston County, Northside, Veterans, Lee County and Thomas County Central battling for four playoff spots. I can't wait to see how that shakes out.
Marvin: Region 1-6A, will Houston County be able to knock off Lee and TCC this season? Also, will this be the season Northeast can claim the region trophy over Spencer and Ace?
Connor: Region 2 in Class 4A is always loaded, and this year is no exception! Westside is off to a 4-0 start, but we'll find out what the Noles are made of when they host Perry in their region opener on September 29. The same goes for the Baldwin Braves, who are 3-1 on the year and have the week off before their biggest test yet at Spalding next week. I truly think this region is one of those teams to win – and we'll find out quickly who's on top!
Justin: Northeast was likely the best team in its region a season ago, but they did not win it. ACE and Spencer are still threats. The Raiders must avoid looking ahead too far and must handle business each week.
2. Is there a specific game that is most important to a region title race this season?
Frank: Whoever wins this Friday's game between Northeast and ACE will undoubtedly be in the driver's seat in Class 2A Region 2. Also, there is a showdown between Macon County and Schley County to see who rules Region 6 in Class A Division II.
Connor: I'm going to go right to our featured matchup on Tailgate13 this week – Region 2 in Class 2A looks to be a two-horse race between Northeast and ACE, and I think whoever wins this one in Week 5 will be the de facto region champ, barring any late pushes from the other teams in the mix. The Raiders will be expected to repeat last year's performance in this matchup when they topped the Gryphons 47-21, but ACE has got revenge on the brain! I can't wait to see these two do battle on Friday night.
Marvin: Warner Robins and Dutchtown this Friday night. Last year, the Bulldogs took the trophy from the Demons. This season, I believe the winner of this head-to-head matchup will have the easiest path to a region championship.
Justin: I am going to pile on the Northeast and ACE train. This one should have a region title game feel to it.
3. What team has struggled so far in non-region play that you expect to see right the ship heading into their region schedule?
Frank: Peach County is winless after three games, with a tough task on tap this Friday vs. Perry. The region schedule can't come soon enough for Marquis Westbrook and company, but the region does include Mary Persons and Upson-Lee, both of whom are off to solid starts.
Marvin: Even though Upson Lee and Mary Persons sit atop the standings in Region 2-AAA, Peach County (0-3) will have a chance to finish in the top 2 in region play.
Connor: I don't know if "struggle" is a fair word to use for the Warner Robins Demons when you see that their two losses have come against Valdosta and Lee County, but I do see that program turning it around and cruising through its region schedule. If anything, those early tests will better prepare the Demons for what's ahead for the rest of this season.
Justin: Frank and Marvin are spot on with Peach County. I will also toss out a team like Warner Robins that has lost a pair of games to Valdosta and Lee County, but the Demons could make a run for another region title.
4. How important is seeding when it comes to a deep playoff run?
Frank: Region winners get home-field advantage through at least the first two rounds of the playoffs if they keep winning, which can be huge.
Marvin: Not as important as one may think. Sometimes, 3-4 can make it easier against weaker regions. As a point of reference, out of the last three seasons, the WR Demons made it to the state finals twice as the number two seed and not outright region champs.
Connor: I think the most significant factor with a favorable seed is being able to host throughout the playoffs. On the other side of the coin, some of Warner Robins' most memorable playoff wins in recent years have come away from home (Cartersville in 2021, Creekside in 2022). Still, you can't underestimate the power of a home-field advantage.
Justin: This is a bit of a "hedging my bets" answer. For some teams, seeding is everything; for others, it is simply a little extra or less travel on their path to a title. Warner Robins has shown they can win from any seed. But we have also seen teams where someone had a misstep in the regular season, got dropped to a 3-seed and ended up losing in the first round.
5. We had several coaching changes over the offseason; which new coach has impressed you the most?
Frank: Hawkinsville's Tim Suttles has the Red Devils off to a 3-1 start, including a thrilling overtime win over Marion County last Friday. That equals the team's win total from last season.
Marvin: Ben Bailey walked into some big shoes to fill when Chad Alligood left a vacancy after three seasons. So far this season, he has managed to win two out of three games versus Jones and Peach County, as well as only a 4-point loss to rivals Warner Robins. North Cobb and Crisp County are on the horizon before region play begins. The Eagles should be favored in those two contests.
Connor: I love seeing the strong start from head coach Adam Lord and his Brentwood War Eagles! The fellas in Sandersville are off to a strong 3-1 start, and with a favorable schedule going forward, I give Brentwood a great shot at making it back to the GIAA state championship game this fall.
Justin: Ben Bailey walked into a solid program that Chad Alligood had built, but he still has to produce, and so far, so good. The loss to Warner Robins was tough, but it showed that this team isn't far off from their crosstown rivals. I am excited to see what he can do for the rest of the season.