CONYERS - With two weeks left in the regular season, the high school football playoff picture is still cloudy for all of the area schools.
All six teams still remain in respective region races, but some have better chances than others.
Friday night's games could play a key role in helping to sort things out.
Heritage's 20-0 upset win over Apalachee, Rockdale's 6-0 loss to Habersham Central and Clarke Central's 23-21 victory over Cedar Shoals shook up the 8-AAAA standings in a major way.
Loganville and Clarke Central lead the region with 7-1 records. The Red Devils are first thanks to their season-opening 29-28 overtime victory over the Gladiators.
Salem and Apalachee are tied for the No. 3 spot at 5-3. Those two teams meet in the regular-season finale Nov. 7 at Seminole Stadium.
Cedar Shoals and Habersham Central are tied for fifth at 5-4, while Rockdale and Heritage are next at 4-4.
This week's critical games are Salem at Habersham Central and Rockdale at Loganville.
Salem can knock out Habersham Central with a victory in Mount Airy on Friday, which would set up a key clash with Apalachee next week. If the Raiders win, they'll be 6-4 and sit back and watch what happens during the regular season finales.
Rockdale needs a victory at Loganville to keep its playoff chances alive. A loss knocks the Bulldogs out of playoff contention.
For Heritage, it's pretty simple. The Patriots need a victory over winless Monroe Area to set up a key contest with Cedar Shoals in the regular-season finale at Evans Memorial Stadium. The Jaguars are off this week.
Apalachee hosts Madison County (2-6) this week.
Eastside, Stephens County and Hart County remain in a three-way tie for first in 8-AAA.
Franklin County is now fourth after dropping a 21-10 decision at Stephens County last week.
The key matchup in the region this week is Hart County at Franklin County. Hart needs a win to keep pace with Eastside and Stephens, while Franklin needs a win to maintain its hold on fourth place.
Eastside pays a visit to Morgan County (1-4), while Stephens County is at Elbert County (2-3). Oconee County (2-3) will look to climb back into the race for fourth place at Jackson County (0-5).
Alcovy's 32-15 loss at Mount Zion was a damaging blow to its playoff hopes in 4-AAAA.
However, the Tigers are not out of the picture yet.
North Clayton leads the standings with a 6-0 record. Mount Zion is second with a 5-2 mark, followed by Dutchtown, Griffin and Jonesboro tied at 4-2. Alcovy is next at 3-3.
The first thing the Tigers need to do is beat Forest Park (1-5) on Friday at Homer Sharp Stadium. Then, they'll have to wait on the outcomes of the other games this week to see how the region standings shake out heading into the final week.
Depending on Friday's outcomes, Alcovy's regular season finale next Thursday at home against Griffin might be for a playoff spot.
The key games this week in 4-AAAA are North Clayton against Jonesboro and Dutchtown at Griffin. Mount Zion wraps up its season against Ola (1-5).
Newton's playoff hopes in 2-AAAAA hit a setback with an 18-13 loss to Douglass last Friday.
However, the Rams are still alive in the race.
Stephenson, Union Grove and M.L. King are all tied at 4-1, but the Jaguars are in first since they've beaten both the Wolverines and Lions head-to-head.
Luella, Douglass, Newton and Redan are all tied at 2-3 for the fourth spot. Redan pulled into the race by upsetting Luella 18-13 last week.
On Friday, Luella and Douglass square off at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta in the key game of the week. That winner will control its own destiny for the No. 4 spot in the region.
Newton travels to face Union Grove in McDonough on Friday. The Rams close out their season Nov. 7 at Luella in Locust Grove.
It's possible that three teams could be tied for the fourth playoff spot after the regular season finales on Nov. 7.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.