Perhaps the most important lesson learned by any of the coaches in Region 5AAAAAA on Friday was just how tough the competition will be.
Three county teams — Cherokee, Etowah, and Woodstock — compete in the region, which also features such perennial Cobb and north Fulton powers as Lassiter, Walton and Milton.
Although it’s just one game into the region portion of the season, there have already been a few surprises. The biggest being how competitive the region is from top to bottom.
Etowah (4-0, 1-0), Milton (4-0, 1-0), Lassiter (2-2, 1-0) and Walton (2-2, 1-0) won their openers. Meanwhile, Woodstock (1-3, 0-1) gave Walton a good scare, and Lassiter only escaped Cherokee (2-2, 0-1) after a missed extra-point attempt in the final seconds.
Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said he wasn’t surprised after seeing the scores from Friday night.
“I thought, last year, Milton, Lassiter and Walton were the heavy favorites, and everybody else was fighting to get the fourth seed,” Shaw said. “This year, in our region, you have to come to play every single week. It doesn’t get any easier. Every game is going to be a good one.”
Woodstock coach Brent Budde felt much the same way.
“I thought about it the other day and actually talked to Rocky (Hidalgo) from Walton about it (Friday) night,” Budde said. “Even five years ago, there were going to be teams on your schedule that you knew you could beat, but I don’t think that’s the case in our region anymore. Every team is well-coached. They all have enough talent to beat you on any given night and I think that’s what makes for an obviously tough region. You are going to be in for a battle every Friday night.”
Shaw isn’t surprised that his team was able to challenge Lassiter.
“We figured this was going to be our year after playing a lot of young kids last year and working hard in the weight room,” Shaw said. “I’m really proud of our kids, especially after falling behind like we did.”
The Warriors weren’t just close to beating Lassiter. In many ways, they dug the hole for themselves by turning the ball over frequently.
“I stopped counting at five turnovers,” Shaw said. “I haven’t watched the film yet, so I don’t know what we ended up with, but imagine what the score would have been if we had not had five turnovers. We’re at the point where we are trying to get over that hump and win those games instead of just playing them close.”
The schedule won’t get any easier for Cherokee. Next up are games against Walton, Woodstock and Etowah.
Woodstock found itself leading Walton midway through the game. Even in the fourth quarter, the Wolverines had a chance to take the lead.
“It’s like everything else,” Budde said. “We put up 40 points, but we still made a ton of mistakes and missed a ton of plays that we should make. Even when you put up 40 points, there are still a lot of things that we need to obviously clean up still.”
Etowah, one of just two unbeaten teams in the region, has already equaled its win total from 2012, when it went 4-6.
While coach Dave Svehla didn’t go as far as to say his team could be in the hunt for the region title, Budde did.
“Etowah is playing some great football right now,” he said. “They could win the region title.”
Svehla said that’s a little too far off for him to think about, but it’s certainly among the team’s goals. Right now, however, he’s simply focusing on what’s next — Roswell.
“Every game counts here,” Svehla said. “You can’t go looking past
As for the county’s other three teams, they have a few more weeks to tune up before the subregion play begins. Sequoyah (2-1) won a Region 7AAAAA crossover with Riverwood, while Creekview (1-2) fell to Kell.
River Ridge (1-3) picked up its first win of the season by shutting out LaFayette in a Region 7AAAA crossover. The Knights scored more points in the game than they had in any other this season.