The race for the championship in GHSA Region 2-AAA football last year quickly boiled down to two teams.
Both Peach County and Westside rolled through their competition en route to an end-of-season showdown to determine the region champion. Peach County then defeated Westside 49-16 for the region title.
The downer for the region as a whole? All four playoff qualifiers lost in the first round.
There’s every possibility that the region title will be decided Oct. 30 when Peach County visits the Ed DeFore Sports Complex. But can another team with a big-time recruit sneak into the race?
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TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN
Peach County (10-1 in 2014) enjoyed its 28th straight winning season last year, and there’s every reason to believe the Trojans will make it 29 straight.
The Trojans certainly will have the personnel to be in the mix. Cornerback Tyrique McGhee, who has committed to Georgia, is ranked by ESPN as the 61st-best player in Georgia, while quarterback Robert Allen threw for 1,554 yards last year as a junior.
The top running back (Keyshawn Lowe) and receiver (Saire Davis) from last year are gone, but the No. 2 players in those positions in terms of statistics are back in junior James Jackson (461 rushing yards, five touchdowns) and sophomore Kearis Jackson (278 receiving yards, four touchdowns).
Adding to the Peach County intrigue: Head coach Chad Campbell got his older brother, longtime Middle Georgia head coach Lee Campbell, to join his staff as the defensive coordinator.
The way Westside has reloaded through the years, first under head coach Robert Davis and recently under Spoon Risper, makes the Seminoles a popular choice to contend for the region title despite significant graduation losses. Westside (9-2) brings back No. 2 running back Donta Pate, a junior who ran for 595 yards and five touchdowns, as well as senior receivers Gerimie Mitchell (652 yards, eight touchdowns) and Steve Dolphus (564 yards, six touchdowns). But Jackson, which finished third last year, comes back with defensive tackle Michail Carter, a 6-foot-3, 311-pound senior who is fifth in Georgia and 43rd nationally on the ESPN recruiting list. The Red Devils (7-4) also return most of their skill players.
IN THE HUNT
Like Jackson, Central (5-6) returns many of its skill players from a team that qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2008. Last year’s losses to Peach County and Central weren’t close, but the Chargers took Jackson to double-overtime on the road before losing. ... Rutland and Southwest both finished 3-7, with each picking up a pair of wins against teams from Columbus. ... Kendrick (5-5) was the highest-placing team from Columbus in the region and had a chance to go to the playoffs with a win in the final week with a winner-take-all contest against Central, but Central’s defense stuffed Kendrick in the Chargers’ 14-2 victory.
THREE BIG GAMES
Westside at Jackson, Oct. 2: While an opener against Mary Persons might give Jackson the chance to re-establish itself as a football team to contend with, the Red Devils’ meeting with the Seminoles will be the biggest one in terms of region play. A win over Westside would put Jackson on track for its first home playoff game since 2009. A Westside win, on the other hand, would show that the continued success of the Seminoles’ player development program.
Jackson at Central, Oct. 23 at Henderson Stadium: Simply put, Central will be hungry following last year’s double-overtime loss. Both teams return plenty of talent, so this one could wind up being another thriller.
Peach County at Westside, Oct. 30 at Ed DeFore Sports Complex: No team in Region 2-AAA even came close to Peach County or Westside last year, and everyone knew from the start that this matchup was going to be for the region title. That might not be the case this year, especially with what Jackson is bringing back, but there’s every possibility that this game could again decide the championship.