After exploring every option for the 11-team region, the majority of the coaches agreed that the teams would split into sub-regions and finish the regular season schedule with a region play-in game.
Once that was established, it was then decided that the top team from one subregion would play the No. 4 team from the other subregion while the No. 2 seeds would face the No. 3-seeds teams.
The winner plays on and the loser goes home, regardless of a team’s record in the regular season.
“It’s the top four in each subregion, and that ranks you according to your record,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “(Our version of the play-in game is) our way of making sure the four best teams win. That’s the way to do it. The other side of that is that you can be 9-0 and lose. If you have bad weather, injuries, things can change.”
Barring any upsets Friday, the play-in schedule in Region 7AAAAA would look like this: defending region champion Kell would be the No. 1 seed from the southern subregion and it would host No. 4 Cambridge from the northern subregion. No. 2 Riverwood would host No. 3 Northview. No. 3 Pope would travel to No. 2 Sequoyah, and the winner of Friday’s game between Sprayberry and Osborne would be the No. 4 seed heading to Creekview.
One of the other options the coaches explored was playing a straight region schedule, like Allatoona is doing in Region 5AAAAA. But Kell was committed to opening the season at the Corky Kell Classic in the Georgia Dome, and the Cherokee County teams in the northern subregion wanted the ability to play other county rivals.
“The ideal situation is to do what the Paulding County schools and Allatoona do and settle it on the field,” Pope coach Matt Kemper said. “That’s not how it worked out. I told the kids Monday that the playoffs start a week early. We must win in this situation.”
The third option was playing region play-in games where the No. 1 seed from one sub-region would play the No. 1 seed from the other. That would determine a true region champion and the top two playoff seeds from the region.
The other two playoff spots would be determined by the No. 2 seeds hosting the No. 3 seeds from the opposite subregion. The winners would claim the No. 3 and 4 playoff seeds from the region. The one drawback to that would be if one sub-region was significantly weaker than the other, a weaker team would play on and a stronger team would not.
“That got voted down,” Cook said. “That would mean the four best teams wouldn’t go if you have one side that’s bad and one side that’s real strong.”
Sprayberry was the big beneficiary of that scenario in 2011 when Kell, Pope and Osborne were with them as a part of Region 5AAAA. The Yellow Jackets were the No. 4 seed and defeated No. 1-seed Chapel Hill to advance to the state playoffs.
That season, all four 5AAAA (N) teams moved on, with three of the four games being decided by two touchdowns or more.