CONYERS - When the football coaches of the newly realigned Region 8-AAAA meet this morning at Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, they'll answer the following question: Will Region 8-AAAA switch to a 10-game region schedule for the next two years or will it keep its current subregion setup and region playoff in the final week of the regular season?
After the Georgia High School Association put only 11 teams in Region 8-AAAA after its biannual reclassification last week, Salem's Chad Estes and Heritage's Chad Frazier are both in favor of a straight 10-game region schedule.
Estes, coming off a Region 8-AAAA championship at Salem, is not a huge fan of the region playoff games that are in essence play-in games on the final week of the regular season.
"I'm proposing we play a straight region schedule," Estes said. "I think that's the best way to pick your football playoff teams. Our meeting Wednesday will still be preliminary since schools can still try to make lateral moves. But we want to have some idea of what we're going to do when the reclassification process is over.
"We're down from 13 schools to 11 schools, which makes a straight region schedule possible. I just don't think the play-in games are the way to determine your playoff teams."
Frazier, heading into his second season at Heritage, echoed Estes' stance.
"With an 11-team region, I'm in favor of playing a full region schedule," he said. "That way, we can determine who the top four teams are without any debate over this or that. If everybody plays everybody once, you'll get your four best teams. That's the way I feel about it, I like settling it on the field."
Salem athletics director Jim McBrayer feels the majority of the teams want to play a region schedule.
"I think two teams will vote not to play a region schedule," he said. "But I feel like there are nine schools that want to play a region schedule."
Madison County coach Randell Owens, who coached previously at Heritage, agrees with McBrayer's assessment.
"Without a doubt, most of the teams in our region would prefer to play a region schedule," he said.
William Johnson, preparing for his second season as Rockdale's coach, understands the benefits of both situations.
"I'll be honest, we have made plans for both outcomes," he said. "If the region decides to accept a 10-game schedule or subdivide, we'll live with either outcome. You'll probably have some folks that are not excited about a region schedule because they'll lose out on some big gates (from games against local rivals).
"But either option is fine with us. The one advantage of playing a region schedule is you don't have to hunt and peck for games and there's not a hassle with home and away. It's already set up for you."
Although in Johnson's mind, there's is one local drawback to a full region schedule. If that happens, then 2008 and 2009 will mark the fifth and sixth straight years that the area's oldest gridiron rivalry - Rockdale and Newton - will be interrupted.
"I would love to see us starting playing Newton. I've spoken to Coach (Nick) Collins at Newton about it several times," Johnson said. "I think the kids and the communities would like to see it again. I think it would be a hard-fought, entertaining game."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.
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