Lost among all the chaos that is the Georgia Class A football playoff chase is one interesting sidelight: The public/private postseason split finally has created a group of coaches who favor week 10 region crossover games.
That group includes Trion coach Justin Brown and Gordon Lee's Charlie Wiggins, who by playing successful teams tonight have a better chance of making the convoluted playoffs.
Subdivided regions come about for many reasons, usually because there are more teams in the region than available regular-season games. That creates subregions and the dreaded crossover games, where the two first-place teams meet to decide the region champion and the second- and third-place teams pair off to determine the other two playoff teams.
Such a system often forces a team, as in Ridgeland's case in 7-AAAA, to beat someone for a second time in a season to win a title or, as with Dalton two years ago, just to make the playoffs. That Catamounts team easily defeated Gilmer County early but fell to them in week 10 and sat at home.
"Well, it's not a perfect system -- a perfect one is where you play everyone in your region once and the best teams advance -- but it's better than some systems in nearby states," Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis said. "If you have to subdivide, it's the best way to do it."
Still, if his Panthers, having already downed River Ridge 42-8 earlier, lose tonight they will fall to the No. 2 seed from 7-AAAA and have a more difficult path in the playoffs. It's a system Calhoun had to deal with for four years before Region 7-AA shrank due to reclassification, something coach Hal Lamb is thankful glad to be rid of despite coming out on top each year.
"I much prefer playing a straight region schedule and let the best teams fight it out," Lamb said. "There are several cases where the top four teams in a region didn't go, but there are some pluses to it."
In Class A, a team's power ranking following tonight's games will determine if it makes the 16-team playoff field. As it stands now, Gordon Lee (5-4), ranked 17th, would not make it, but a win tonight in the 6-A crossover game against 9-0 Walker likely would put the Trojans in.
"A win for sure gets us in, but even a loss wouldn't necessarily put us out," said Wiggins, whose team will earn nine points for just playing Walker. "With a win we would get 18 points, so we could move up to 10th or 12th. We really shouldn't be in this position, but it is what it is and we have to take care of business."
Trion (7-2) is ranked 12th and is, according to coach Justin Brown, likely in even with a loss. However, the game against 6-3 Whitefield Academy could be a big boost or cause a big fall.
"I did the numbers, and a win could get us up to No. 8 and we might host the first round," Brown said. "A loss would probably drop us to 14th or 15th and we would have to travel to one of the high seeds."
Ironically, each may be in a better situation than subregion winner Mount Zion, which, with a loss tonight against two-win Mount Paran Christian could be out of the postseason due to scheduling issues. Mount Zion will get credit only for eight games because it scheduled two games against teams playing nonregion schedules. The Eagles come in ranked 15th.
"It's all about the scheduling," Wiggins said of the power-ranking system that rewards teams with bonus points for playing teams in higher classes. "For example, if we played [Class AAAA] Ridgeland next year and lost and they go 10-0, we would get 16 points just for playing them. Next, we play [Class AAAAAA] Camden County and we take our beating, but we get 20 points if they go undefeated. That's 36 points for two losses.
"There are good and bad points about this system, but there is probably a better way."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...