Class AA - Region 3 Football Preview

2005 Football Preview
Class AA - Region 3

Once again the state's largest region should be among the most competitive in any classification. The 14-school group is divided into East and West subregions with the top four teams from each meeting on October 28th in a region playoff to see who advances to the state tournament.

In the East, Screven County hopes to find their way back to the top. The Gamecocks enjoyed an outstanding region record of 21-1 in 2001-2003 before slipping to 3-4 in 2004. Keys to success for Coach Mark Daniel's team would be a lucky four-leaf clover to help overcome the rash of injuries and for the offense to step up. Last season in their losses to region foes, the Gamecocks scored 54 points -- about 10 points a game.

The Toombs County Bulldogs, under the direction of Coach Mark Stroud, had a successful season in many ways in 2004. However, as they discovered last year in losing to Swainsboro in the region playoff, a 5-2 record and second place finish in the East is not necessarily enough to get you into the playoffs in this hyper-tough region. This year will more of the same, a good season, but losses to the super teams of 3AA will keep the Bulldogs at home in the playoffs.

Enjoying their most successful season in quite a while, the Savannah Christian Raiders made the first round of the state playoffs in 2004. While they were shutout by a talented Brooks County team, making the playoffs out of Region 3 is no small accomplishment. Coach Donald Chumley, who takes over for the retiring 50-year coaching veteran Jack Miller, will be pleased that he does not have to face one of the elite teams of the West and that could help them jockey up the standings if they take care of business and some younger players take over for departing senior stalwarts.

Coach Jack Glanton and the Tattnall County Battle Creek Warriors could move up a notch if they can avoid getting bit by the upset bug. The loss to Southeast Bulloch last season prevented the Warriors from having a winning season and getting a better seed in the region playoff.

The Metter Tigers go into the season looking for a QB to replace the record-setting Zach Stanford. The Tigers have a long history of outstanding signal callers and will need someone to step to the front. Coach Shane Dular, whose Tigers really struggled on defense against the region's top teams despite the presence of outstanding linebacker Jordan Bland, will be looking forward to a smaller region in 2006. They may use this season to build for that.

At Southeast Bulloch, the Yellow Jackets will see little improvement from this past season when they went 2-5 in region play. While they do avoid the top teams of 3-AA West, there is still plenty to for the Jackets to be concerned about. Head Coach Ron Flott will seek to shore up his team on both sides of the ball.

The Claxton Tigers have won a single region game the last two seasons. Coach Jay Cravey's team will be hard pressed to better that in 2005, but wins against Southeast Bulloch and/or Metter would give them Tigers some hope when they move down to Class A in 2006.

In the West, the Dublin Fighting Irish have all the ingredients for a state title in 2005. All they have to do is get out of the toughest region in the state unscathed and their Irish eyes will be looking past the Dome, where they fell this last year in a thriller to Buford 28-24, all the way to the title game. Quarterback Ben Cochran, running back Brian Wilcher, and wide receiver Brandon Taylor will be the big guns for Coach Roger Holmes along with a host of other returning contributors.

The Vidalia Indians have the talent to defend their region crown, but a slightly tougher schedule and a head coaching change may be the difference. That is not to take away anything from Jason McBride and his staff, but to win the toughest region in the state will be a tall order. The Indians will return a ton of talent highlighted by a veteran offensive line anchored by Billy Shiver and Jacob Hightower. Running back Raefeal Roundtree will have plenty of success toting the mail for the Indians.

In Dodge County, the Indians will look to try to break into the top two of the region with plenty of returning talent. Coach Greg Robinson will see the return of Ross Smith as the signal caller for the Indians. A September 23rd matchup against Swainsboro will likely have region playoff seeding implications.

The Swainsboro Tigers were happy with their season but not with the way they fell at Charlton 41-7 in the second round of the playoffs to end the 2004 campaign. The Tigers lost a lot of talent and senior leadership off the 2004 team and the schedule is brutal. Consecutive games against Statesboro, Vidalia, Dublin and Dodge County is not for the faint of heart. The coaching staff is hoping that the younger player s can step up and give them the same results as last year on defense hopefully a few more points on offense. Last season the Tigers did not give up more than twenty to any region foe. However, thee consecutive games of scoring twelve resulted in three losses.

Former head coach Fred Priest left East Laurens in early May and will enter the 2005 season with new coach Vic Thigpen in charge. The Falcons will be hard pressed to enter the top of the region this year and will look forward to 2006 when they move to 4-AA, which should be a more balanced region.

Coach John Kenny's West Laurens Raiders will move up to Region 4-AAA-B in 2005 and may actually find the going easier in the higher classification because they only won a single game last season in 3-AA. The Raiders will be led by wide receiver Morocko Blash.

The Bleckley Royals hired Sam Barrs to come out of retirement and get the Royals to a competitive level. It will be hard to get the results needed in the first season, but Bleckley will be in a slightly friendlier region in 2006.

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