The football season still feels new, but the regular season is halfway over.
For many of the players, coaches and fans around Middle Georgia, that just means things are getting interesting.
Northside, Peach County and Westfield lead a brigade of undefeated teams hoping to carry an unblemished record into the postseason. A number of others will try to scratch closer to region championships and/or playoff spots with each of the final five weeks of the season.
We expected players like Demarcus Robinson and Undre Williams to come up big after making our preseason 12 to Treasure team. Others, like Noah Grayer and Greg Williams, are becoming familiar names to those who follow Middle Georgia football.
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The Telegraph takes a look at the first six weeks of the season, and we look ahead to the final five before the playoffs.
School Record Likelihood of undefeated regular season
John Milledge 6-0 Very Good
The Trojans have navigated the toughest portion of their schedule by beating Tattnall Square, Trinity Christian and Mount de Sales. The combined record of the Trojans’ final four opponents is 8-17. The Trojans are without question contenders for a GISA Class AA title.
Lamar County 4-0-1 Even-to-Good
The Trojans have been impressive in most of their games, but turnovers and missed opportunities on offense can force the Trojans to struggle with lesser opponents. The Trojans have potential roadblocks remaining in Macon County and Bleckley County.
Northside 5-0 Good
The Eagles should face just one more test the rest of the way, but that test comes in the form of playing heated rival Warner Robins. At their best, the Eagles have the best team in Middle Georgia and one of the five to seven best in any class in Georgia. But if the Eagles have a sluggish night on defense similar to the one they had against Westside, the Demons can more than compete with their neighbors to the north.
Peach County 5-0 Even-to-Good
Like Northside, Peach County should have just one more tough game remaining on the schedule -- a Nov. 2 home tilt against Carver-Columbus. Carver’s lone loss this season came to Colquitt County, which is ranked in Class AAAAAA.
Vidalia 6-0 Very Good
The Indians cleared the biggest hurdle on their schedule by beating Benedictine 12-7 early in the season. Their biggest test the rest of the way should come Oct. 19 against Bryan County. The Indians are seeking their first undefeated regular season since completing the feat three straight years from 2002-2004.
Washington County 6-0 Even
The Golden Hawks begin region play Friday against Jefferson County, but their true test will come Oct. 26 at home against Thomson. Like Washington County, Thomson has survived a tough non-region schedule against some perennial contenders.
Westfield 5-0 Low-to-Even
Without question, the Hornets have the talent to finish the regular season unbeaten. They face an absurdly difficult stretch the next three weeks, and a successful navigation of this stretch would earn Westfield the distinction of team to beat in the GISA Class AAA. The Hornets host Southland, travel to Deerfield-Windsor and host Bulloch Academy. The combined record of the Hornets’ first five opponents: 10-20. The combined record of their next three: 15-2.
Westside at Baldwin, Oct. 19: This game could shape up as the Region 2-AAAA championship game. Both teams are undefeated, and the winner will hold an all-important tiebreaker. The Seminoles would be in a great position with a win because they have the easier remaining schedule.
Westfield at Deerfield-Windsor, Oct. 19: The Hornets face a tough game Friday against Southland and another on Oct. 26 against Bulloch Academy. But Westfield’s big rival is Deerfield, and the road to the region championship runs through Albany. Westfield has lost seven straight to the Knights.
Marion County at Dooly County, Oct. 19: Dooly County has a pair of tough Region 4-A game remaining, beginning with Marion County. The Bobcats probably need to beat Greenville as well to win the region title, but that game doesn’t matter unless they beat Marion County first.
Perry at Veterans, Oct. 19: One of the youngest rivalries in Middle Georgia will have some added impact this year. The loser could do some real damage to its playoff hopes.
Wilkinson County at FPD, Oct. 26: FPD has a number of big games left, with games against Hancock Central and Aquinas coming between this Wilkinson County game. The Wilkinson County game, however, probably holds the most interest locally. The Warriors are currently three spots out of the final public school playoff spot, so they need to pick up as many wins as possible.
Baldwin at Mary Persons, Oct. 26: Baldwin definitely will have something at stake in this game. A loss to Westside on Oct. 19, and the Braves will be playing Mary Persons with a home playoff game potentially on the line. A win over Westside, and the Braves might be able to clinch the region championship in Forsyth.
ECI at Johnson County, Oct. 26: Johnson County is on the outside looking in of the GHSA Class A public school power rankings. The Trojans need to do some work to crack the top 16, and a win over the No. 8 team in the rankings might clinch a playoff spot.
Bleckley County at Lamar County, Oct. 26: If Bleckley County can get past Macon County on Friday and Taylor County on Oct. 19, then the Royals could head to Barnesville for the second time in less than a year with a lot at stake. The Trojans knocked the Royals out of the playoffs a year ago, but the Royals could get revenge in a game that may decide the Region 4-AA title.
Screven County at East Laurens, Oct. 26: The Falcons need to win at Laney first, but this game might be for the Region 3-AA championship. The Gamecocks are 5-1, and they are in the driver’s seat for the title after beating Laney. East Laurens has won one region title (1991) in school history.
Thomson at Washington County, Oct. 26: All roads have led to this game between rivals and traditional powers. Both teams have remained undefeated throughout tough non-region schedules.
Warner Robins at Northside, Nov. 2: The annual showdown should decide the Region 2-AAAAA championship and give the winner a ton of momentum heading into the state playoffs.
Carver-Columbus at Peach County, Nov. 2: Peach County will face its biggest challenge of the season against Carver in a game that will decide Region 2-AAA. Both teams should be playing their best football when this game rolls around.
Jackson at Central, Nov. 2: As much as they struggled early in the season, the Chargers might be able to clinch a playoff spot with a win over Jackson or Pike County on Nov. 9.
Bleckley County at Northeast, Nov. 9: There are five teams fighting for four playoff spots in Region 4-AA, so the Raiders might need to beat the talented Royals to get in.
Player of the Year Watch
A look at some of the early candidates for The Telegraph’s GHSA and GISA player of the year awards:
Brantley Attaway, John Milledge: At this point, the Telegraph’s GISA Player of the Year competition might be a two-man race between Attaway and teammate Cooper Morgan. Attaway has passed for 736 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions. He has completed 70 percent of his passes while rushing for two touchdowns.
Noah Grayer, Westside: Grayer has conducted the productive Westside offense to a 5-1 start. He has passed for 1,159 yards and 13 touchdowns with just one interception for a Seminoles team that has rebounded from last year’s 5-5 season. He also has rushed for two touchdowns.
Cooper Morgan, John Milledge: Morgan has rushed for 859 yards and nine touchdowns through six games, giving the Trojans a second contender for GISA Player of the Year.
Demarcus Robinson, Peach County: Robinson hasn’t put up monster numbers because Peach County tends to blow out opponents. He has caught 21 passes for 455 yards and five touchdowns. He has an interception return for a touchdown, as well. Robinson is on pace to become one of the few players in Middle Georgia history to post back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
William Walker, Washington County: Walker has propelled the Golden Hawks to an undefeated start with his legs and his arm. He has passed for 813 yards and eight touchdowns while completing 66 percent of his passes. Walker rushed for 436 yards and six touchdowns.
Undre Williams, Jones County: Williams is in the midst of his toughest stretch, but the Jones County standout has rushed for 531 yards and a Middle-Georgia best 12 touchdowns on just 56 carries.
Players who might not have been on everyone’s radar before the season:
Taye Brantley, East Laurens: Brantley’s explosiveness has helped the Falcons to a 4-2 start to the season, with the running back sprinting to 635 yards and nine touchdowns. He has two touchdown catches and a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Tahjea Chambers, Baldwin: Chambers filled in at times last year under center for DeAndre Thomas, but the sophomore quarterback has come into his own this year. He has passed for 842 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for 318 yards and three scores.
Stephone Johnson, Trinity Christian: After winning eight games total the past four years, Trinity is 5-2 partly thanks to Johnson’s 743 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Keyshawn Lowe, Peach County: Lowe played in key moments down the stretch last season, but the sophomore has exploded with 534 yards and seven touchdowns on 63 carries. He also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Alex Sands, Mount de Sales: Sands has been one of the Cavaliers’ bright spots, rushing for 524 yards and six touchdowns.
Greg Williams, Peach County: Williams was supposed to start last year at quarterback, but an ACL tear ended his season. He has passed for 955 yards and 10 touchdowns with just one interception as a junior while completing 69 percent of his passes.