Much is to be determined about the newly established eight-team Region 7AAAAAA, but whether there will be competition for the top spot is not one of them.
Two teams — Johns Creek and Riverwood — enter as defending region champions and are early favorites to compete for another. Johns Creek swept last year’s Region 7AAAAAA, while Riverwood did the same for Region 6AAAAA.
Creekview, River Ridge and Sequoyah join Riverwood as the four newcomers in the region, while north Fulton rivals Centennial, Chattahoochee and Cambridge have shared the region with Johns Creek since 2016.
Previously competing in the same region as powerhouse programs Allatoona, Harrison and Dalton, Sequoyah coach James Teter has first-hand experience of what a competitive region looks like. If anything, he feels the new region will provide more competition with a more level playing field from top to bottom.
“There were a lot of years — other than two years ago when we were really, really good — where everybody felt like we were fighting for fourth (place),” Teter said. “At least now, you feel like you have an opportunity.”
Riverwood coach Robert Edwards — the former Georgia star and NFL running back — has drastically improved the program since arriving in 2018. Edwards enters this season with a 19-4 record with the Raiders, as he continues to change the teams expectations since going 2-8 in 2017.
At Johns Creek, much of the same can be said about coach Matt Helmerich, who is entering his fifth season is responsible for all three of the Gladiator program’s region championships.
“Those two teams have to be at the top of the (region),” Creekview coach Trevor Williams said.
If it does end up becoming a two-team race for the top spot, it should not be by much.
Creekview will be led offensively by dual-threat quarterback Brody Rhodes for the third straight season. The Grizzlies are also returning three starters on the offensive line, which has Williams eager to see how this year’s team shapes out.
“The guys that I’m really, really excited about are the offensive linemen that we’ve been able to hold on to,” Williams said. “We’re going to go as they go. They’re the heartbeat of our football team.”
Sequoyah fell victim to multiple injuries early last season — including four starting offensive linemen in just two weeks — and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years. Senior running back Jaden Mitchell and safety Jack Blackman returning to lead the offense and defense is enough reason to anticipate a turnaround.
Centennial is employing its third coach in as many seasons with Sean O’Sullivan, who is faced with the task of getting the Knights back into the playoffs after a 0-10 season in 2019.