In front so far/The challengers: Everybody. Region play won’t start for another week, but all five teams were ranked for the early part of the season, with No. 1 Houston County, No. 2 Northside and No. 5 Lee County still undefeated, a combined 16-0. Northside is the only one of the three that has won every game by double figures. No. 7 Valdosta’s lone loss is to Class 7A Colquitt County, and Coffee’s losses are to Ware County by three and Tift County by nine.
Five key players
Zakoby McClain, Valdosta: The junior linebacker is getting attention from SEC programs.
Jake Fromm, Houston County: You already know his resume.
Tobias Oliver, Northside: You already know his resume.
Aubrey Solomon, Lee County: The elite defensive lineman is a key reason the Trojans have given up 7 rushing yards in the first five games. That’s not even a first down’s worth of rushing yards.
Jameon Gaskin, Coffee: He’s a slightly undersized linebacker at 5-foot-11 but is strong at 231 pounds and averaging 11.2 tackles per game.
Five key games
Houston County at Lee County, Oct. 7: Wow. That offense against that defense? To open region play? With Power 5 prospects and hungry non-Power 5 prospects battling? Wow.
Northside at Valdosta, Oct. 7: It’s the Tradition Bowl, another region opener that starts the slugfest.
Lee County at Northside, Oct. 14: This game either muddies things up even more, or backs up a team against the wall.
Northside at Houston County, Oct. 28: May not be a high school stadium within three hours big enough to hold the crowd in Oliver’s regular-season finale and a game in which Fromm will probably be within sight of the state passing yards record.
Valdosta at Houston County: Could be for the region title. Could be for the final playoff spot. Could be Fromm’s final home game. Could be the game Fromm passes Deshaun Watson.