The first four region games in Class AAAA kick off this Friday night in the eight-team Region 1. Before we look at the matchups, here's a quick review of the structure of the region. Cairo, Westover and Americus-Sumter occupied a sub-divided Region 1-AAAA last year. No region in Class AAAA is divided into sub regions this year.
Bainbridge ended up winning the region last year with a perfect 10-0 regular season and Thomas County Central finished second place. Both of those schools are now in Class AAAAA. Five teams; Northside-Columbus, Carver-Columbus, Columbus, Shaw and Hardaway were classed down from Region 1-AAAAA to join the Cairo, Westover and Americus-Sumter in Region 1-AAAA for at least the next two seasons. Carver-Columbus is the only reigning region champion in the field after sweeping its conference opponents last season in AAAAA, including the four schools it was classed down with. Here's a look at the Friday's four region match ups.
Hardaway (2-0) at Cairo (2-1): A combined 1-19 record from 2014-15 prompted Hardaway to search for a new head coach. This past December Hardaway graduate Michael Woolridge was hired to become the program's 15th head football coach. Woolridge spent the past four seasons at Jordan as the team's offensive and defensive coordinator and was an assistant coach at Hardaway from 2008-10. This season, he and the Golden Hawks have opened up a 2-0 start with a 21-14 victory over Troup and a 20-17 win at Harris County. Cairo is 2-1 on the season and rides an impressive 17-14 road win over Bainbridge into the matchup. The Syrupmakers were beat by Bainbridge twice last season, including a 14-6 loss in the final game of the regular season that would've crowned them region champs.
Westover (2-1) at Americus-Sumter (1-2): Westover moved to 2-1 last Friday with a 28-13 win over Dougherty and matched last year's win total in the process. One of the two victories last season came against Americus-Sumter (26-7) and the Patriots have won the past four games against the Panthers. Westover sophomore Jonathan Mock has been a spark for the Patriots' running game, and took 28 carries for 184 yards and three touchdowns last Friday. Mock is averaging 115 rushing yards per game this season to fuel an offense that has put up 259.3 rushing yards per game.
Northside-Columbus (2-1) vs. Carver-Columbus (1-2): Northside-Columbus and Carver-Columbus will square off at Columbus Memorial Stadium as Northside looks for its first-ever win over the Tigers. Carver-Columbus has won all six meetings, although last year's 28-25 final was the first game decided by less than 16 points. The 6-4 record Northside-Columbus posted last year was its first winning season since 2005 (9-3) and the second most wins in school history. Carver-Columbus suffered a 39-13 loss to Douglas County on Sept. 2 that dropped its record to 1-2 and enjoyed a bye week this past Friday. Now, the Tigers look to avoid not only their first-ever loss to Northside, but what would also be their first 1-3 start since 2003 under first-year head coach Dre'Mail King.
Shaw (1-2) vs. Columbus (1-2): Shaw and Columbus will faceoff at Kinnett Stadium this Friday for the 37th meeting in their history. Shaw holds a 23-13 edge in the series and a win would mark 20 straight victories against the Blue Devils. Columbus will need to regain its offensive rhythm after following a 62-21 season opening win over Jordan with a 20-0 loss to Upson-Lee and a seven-point output last Thursday against Callaway (28-7). Shaw is also 1-2 and has also lost to Upson-Lee this season (23-13). After nine consecutive double-digit win seasons from 1999-2007, one state title, two state title appearances and 106 combined victories, Shaw has posted just one winning season since (6-5 in 2012).