As difficult as it has been to keep Georgia high school football teams on the field this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in some cases it's proving just as tricky to get a read on the upcoming GHSA playoffs.
Case in point: Region 6-AAA, which has five teams in the mix for its four postseason berths with two weeks remaining in the regular season. Muddying up the picture is the news that coronavirus concerns within the LaFayette Ramblers will prevent them from playing their game at Rockmart as scheduled Friday night.
At issue is how the region views the result. Some GHSA regions consider such games, if not made up, full forfeits; others reward the team that did not forfeit with a win but don't give the team forfeiting a loss. Others view such games as a no-contest, resulting in neither a win nor a loss for either team.
If that is the case in 6-AAA — and region coaches are still trying to clarify the rule — a team with more league wins than another could find itself missing the playoffs. For example, if LaFayette, which is set to end the season against second-place North Murray, cannot play either of its final two games, the Ramblers would be 4-2 in league play.
Ringgold and Adairsville, each currently 4-2 in 6-AAA, could finish 5-3. If the playoff seedings go by winning percentage, LaFayette would go ahead of both sets of Tigers.
"I would not imagine how a team would not get a loss if it has to forfeit a game due to not having enough players," Ringgold coach Robert Akins said. "We're going to have to check on it. I told our kids if we win Friday against Sonoraville we are in, but how would you explain not getting in?"
Akins' team is set to finish the regular season against league leader Rockmart (7-1, 6-0), which has had only one close call in region play this year.
LaFayette coach Paul Ellis, who noted his team has no active cases of the virus, said he believes the games would result in a forfeit loss.
"As far as I know, it's a forfeit," he said. "There probably isn't time to reschedule with the short amount of time left in the season. We are continuing to monitor the situation, and there will be a decision on the North Murray game at the beginning of next week."
The biggest game in the region this week is at Adairsville (5-3, 4-2), which hosts North Murray (6-2, 5-1). The Mountaineers would clinch second place in the standings with a win, while an Adairsville victory would throw the region into more chaos. North Murray has defeated Ringgold, but Ringgold downed Adairsville. LaFayette lost to Adairsville and North Murray but defeated Ringgold.
Here's a closer look at the other northwest Georgia regions and what's on the line:
Barring something unforeseen, Blessed Trinity will win the region and this week's Cartersville at Calhoun game will determine the No. 2 seed. Cartersville does not have a league loss but had to cancel its game with Blessed Trinity due to COVID-19. It's the regular-season finale for Calhoun, which earlier lost to Blessed Trinity, so the Cartersville-Calhoun loser will miss out on the opportunity to host a first-round playoff game. Calhoun will try to avenge a 58-6 loss to Cartersville from three years ago.
Next week could be crazy in this league. For now, each of the region's six teams is still alive in the playoff hunt and controls its own destiny, though Cedartown (5-2, 3-0), which faces Central-Carroll (5-2, 1-1), could clinch the championship this week.
Central, Northwest Whitfield (6-2, 1-2), Pickens (3-4, 1-1), Heritage (4-4, 1-2) and Ridgeland (1-7, 1-2) can win out and clinch a spot, but it's possible two wins might be good enough with help. Northwest has perhaps the best path, having lost to Cedartown and Central but owning a victory over Heritage. Northwest hosts Ridgeland before closing next week at Pickens.
Heritage faces Pickens in a must-win game before ending with Cedartown. Heritage beat Central in impressive fashion but also lost to Ridgeland, which needs to win at Northwest and at Central to get in.
Tiebreaking possibilities are cloudy considering Pickens was forced to cancel its game with Central due to COVID-19 and 7-AAAA does not recognize such games as forfeits.
Six of seven teams have playoff hopes. Fannin County (7-0, 4-0) won the region after Coosa had to cancel this week. Pepperell (4-4, 3-1) has the inside shot at the No. 2 seed, which it would clinch with a win against Chattooga (2-5, 2-2).
Chattooga, even with a loss to Pepperell, would likely earn a playoff spot with a win Tuesday at Model (4-4, 2-2), which needs to win against either Chattooga or Gordon Central (2-6, 1-3) to clinch a berth. The Gordon Central at Dade County (2-6, 1-3) game will eliminate the loser, but Gordon Central finishes with Model and Dade County with Fannin County next week, so the playoff road will still be steep for the winner.
Region 6-A public
Bowdon (4-4, 3-0), thanks to a two-point win over Gordon Lee (7-1, 2-1) has the inside track on the No. 1 seed. However, B.E.S.T. Academy (3-3, 1-1) could create a logjam at the top with a win at Bowdon. Gordon Lee, which defeated B.E.S.T., hosts Armuchee (2-4, 0-2) then closes next week at rival Trion (3-5, 1-2), needing to win one to clinch at least the No. 2 seed. The loser of the Trion at Mount Zion-Carroll (6-2, 1-2) game would need help to make it.
Region 7-A private
This one is fairly simple: Christian Heritage (8-1, 3-0), awarded a forfeit win over Mount Paran Christian last week and off this week, will host North Cobb Christian (7-1, 2-0) for the region championship next week.
THIS WEEK’S CHATTANOOGA-AREA PREP FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Friday, Nov. 13, 2020
TSSAA playoffs, second round
Games begin at 7 p.m. local time
Monterey at South Pittsburg
Hampton at Meigs County
Marion County at Watertown
Trousdale County at Bledsoe County
Brainerd at Red Bank
East Hamilton at Elizabethton
Oak Ridge at Rhea County
Walker Valley at Knoxville West
Bradley Central at Maryville
McMinn County at Dobyns-Bennett
Division II-AAA quarterfinal
McCallie at Christian Brothers
Games begin at 7:30 p.m.
Armuchee at Gordon Lee
Cartersville at Calhoun
Chattooga at Pepperell
Gordon Central at Dade County
Heritage at Pickens
LaFayette at Rockmart
Lakeview-F.O. at Murray County
North Murray at Adairsville
Paulding County at Dalton
Ridgeland at Northwest Whitfield
Ringgold at Sonoraville
Trion at Mount Zion-Carroll
Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020
Division II-AAA quarterfinal
Baylor at Montgomery Bell Academy, 8