While some Georgia regions that include local schools gained clarity concerning the upcoming GHSA football playoffs last week, two leagues remain quite murky heading into this week's regular-season finales — and cancellations forced by COVID-19 are causing some regions to go to the chalkboard to determine their postseason qualifiers.
Region 7-AAAA is using a points system to determine its four spots after Ridgeland was forced to cancel its final two games, against Northwest Whitfield and Central-Carroll. Pickens forfeited against Central earlier in the season, and now officials at Heritage, which had clinched a playoff spot, announced Thursday the Generals' scheduled game against Cedartown is canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test within the team and the resulting quarantine of several other players.
Heritage (5-4, 2-2) could have earned the region's No. 2 seed with a win over region champion Cedartown (6-2, 4-0). Instead, the Generals will likely miss the playoffs if they cannot convince next week's potential first-round opponent, Hapeville Charter, to push the game back to Saturday, Nov. 28, to allow currently quarantined players to clear protocol to play. To assist in that matter, Heritage officials have petitioned the GHSA to have the game moved.
Region 7-AAAA's biggest finale is in Jasper, where host Pickens (3-5, 1-2) and Northwest (6-2, 1-2) will play for the region's No. 2 seed. The loser, however, is eliminated from playoff contention — unless Heritage is forced to drop out. In that case, the loser of the game would be the No. 4 seed, with Central (5-3, 1-2) moving to the third seed.
Northwest coach Josh Robinson, who is the football competition chairman for the region, was concerned before the season began that noncompetitive scenarios could decide playoff berths.
"This is why on day one I said we need to do everything to play games, because this is going to be a pen-and-paper disaster," he said Thursday. "Now, here we are. It would be different if we had eight teams. With so few teams, the line is so thin. 2020 just keeps on rolling, right?"
What's clear is Rockmart (7-1, 6-0) is the region champion and Adairsville (6-3, 5-2) and North Murray (5-3, 5-2) are also in. Adairsville clinched the No. 2 seed Thursday after its game at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, scheduled for Friday, was canceled due to several LFO players facing quarantine time.
The LaFayette (4-4, 4-2) at North Murray game was in jeopardy of being canceled as well after LaFayette had to forfeit last week's contest against Rockmart. However, LaFayette coach Paul Ellis said barring further trouble, his Ramblers' game is on with much on the line against the Mountaineers.
"At this time, we are playing," Ellis said. "If we win, we are probably third. If we lose and Ringgold loses to Rockmart, we are still in. We would have the same region record as Ringgold, and we have the tiebreaker. If we lose and Ringgold wins, we are out."
The Ramblers, if they make the playoffs, would end a 27-year drought.
Ringgold (5-4, 4-3) took a damaging last-minute loss to Sonoraville (4-5, 2-5) last week, forcing the Tigers into the must-win situation versus Rockmart, ranked in the top 10 in the state in Class AAA.
The top two seeds, Fannin County (7-0, 4-0) and Pepperell (5-4, 4-1) are set, but three teams are vying for the other two playoff spots. Model (5-4, 3-2) would earn the third seed with a win Saturday over Gordon Central (3-6, 2-3), a situation that also would put idle Chattooga (3-7, 2-4) in as the fourth seed. A Gordon Central win would secure the third seed for the Warriors — ending an eight-year playoff drought — and make Model the fourth seed.
REGION 6-A PUBLIC
Bowdon (5-4, 4-0) is the region champion and Gordon Lee (8-1, 3-1) the runner-up. The winner of the Mount Zion-Carroll and B.E.S.T Academy game is No. 3, the loser No. 4. Gordon Lee will close its best regular season since 2002 and could tie that team with nine victories if it wins the visit to old rival Trion; the Trojans already have clinched a home playoff game for the first time since 2007.
REGION 7-A PRIVATE
The schedule makers got it right here as Christian Heritage and North Cobb Christian will determine the region champion in Dalton. It will be the first GHSA region title for either program.
A concern for Christian Heritage coach Jay Poag is having not played in two weeks due to a canceled game.
"It's the second time this season we've had a two-week break," said Poag, whose Lions blocked a PAT with less than a minute to play to win last year's meeting 21-20. "It's not fun, and you worry about coming out rusty, especially on offense. It should be a good night with a good crowd and lots of excitement."
THIS WEEK’S CHATTANOOGA-AREA PREP FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Friday, Nov. 20, 2020
Games begin at 7 p.m. local time
Class 1A quarterfinal
South Pittsburg at Gordonsville, 8
Class 2A quarterfinal
South Greene at Meigs County
Class 3A quarterfinal
Loudon at Red Bank
Division II-AAA semifinal
McCallie at Brentwood Academy, 8
GHSA regular season, final week
Games begin at 7:30 p.m.
Coahulla Creek at Sonoraville
Dalton at East Paulding
Fannin County at Dade County
Gordon Central at Model (Saturday at noon)
Gordon Lee at Trion
LaFayette at North Murray
North Cobb Christian at Christian Heritage
Northwest Whitfield at Pickens
Rockmart at Ringgold