In front so far: Four teams are 3-2 overall as region play begins, but Mary Persons and Spalding have emerged as the most consistent teams. And they play Friday.
The challengers: Upson-Lee and West Laurens are mighty enigmas. The Knights lost consecutive games to Griffin and Callaway by an 87-14 margin, then hammered Jordan 55-10. The Raiders have been the lone win for Class 5A Warner Robins (lost by four) and Class 2A Dodge County (lost 3-0).
Four key players
Darius Bradford, West Laurens: He missed a chunk of last year with an injury and is the Raiders’ primary offensive threat.
Naricuss Driver, Spalding: Houston County watched the quarterback rack up more than 300 yards in total offense and rush for two touchdowns in the four-point loss to the Bears.
Malik Herring, Mary Persons: Forgotten amid all the accolades for his defense is the high-energy senior’s impact on offense as a tight end in a run-first offense.
Kalen Puckett, Upson-Lee: Among the region’s top overall athletes, the Knights’ quarterback is heady and steady.
Four key games
Spalding at Mary Persons, Friday: The region agenda will be set, somewhat, in this opener, but next week might be bigger.
Mary Persons at Upson-Lee, Oct. 7: The Knights have a well-time bye week Friday before welcoming the Bulldogs, who won 42-0 in their last visit to Thomaston, in 2014.
Spalding at West Laurens, Oct. 7: Getting Spalding at home is huge, but the up-and-down Raiders have to dispatch Howard on Friday for the visit to be as big as it can be, especially with Mary Persons coming to Dexter two weeks later.
Spalding at Upson-Lee, Nov. 4: At a minimum, playoff positioning will be at stake, but there could very easily be a region title on the line, as well.