A state title is the biggest prize, but region championships are great gets as well. Here’s a region-by-region look at title hopefuls. Not all of these teams are the favorites in their regions, but they are perhaps the area's best hope in each region.
Region 7-A: Lincoln County
Starting with the 2003 season, Lincoln County is 49-2 against region foes. Basically, this is just another way of saying Larry Campbell wins … a lot. A state-record 459 times, in fact.
Naturally, there will be some new starters – 1,200-yard rusher Craig Jones and lineman Charles Folger are no longer Red Devils – but Mike McIntire could be a force. He rushed for 634 yards and 13 TDs after transferring from Harlem.
Interestingly, one team capable of seizing the region title is Aquinas. You know, the program that hasn’t beaten the Red Devils since 1972. But circle the Oct. 11 game at Aquinas now if you haven’t already. Seriously, pick up that pen and circle the day or find your phone’s calendar; there’s an app for that.
Region 3-AA: Laney
At 6-2 in Region 3-AA for 2011, the Wildcats tied with two other teams at one game behind Dublin. Of the three tied teams, only Laney remains in a region with Dublin, and it’s probably the program most likely to beat the Fighting Irish for the crown, seeing as Laney will be favored in its other five region contests. Offensive leader Leo Myers and defensive star Shaquille Hale are gone, but speedy George Myers has the potential to put up nice numbers.
Region 3-AAA: Washington County
Or Thomson. Or Jefferson County. This region battle will be intense, with the unscathed team earning the all-important No. 1 seed. Of course, they could all go 1-1 against each other and really muddle matters. But if I had to pick one, I’d go with Washington County, which has talented William Walker and Michael Selby back for their senior seasons.
Region 3-AAAA, Subregion B: Burke County
This was easy. The Bears have one of the best coaches in the state, a speedster at QB and are the only county school in the subregion. Non-subregion games against Thomson, Coffee and Statesboro (subregion A) will be greater tests before Burke County inevitably reaches the region title game.
Region 2-AAAAA: Lakeside
The region title is probably going to Northside (Warner Robins) or Warner Robins, but there are playoff bids to grab. The Panthers could be the best challenger out of the four Columbia County schools, with Grovetown not far behind. If the Warriors stay confident after games against Washington County and North Augusta, RB Jamal Cummings and Co. would be tough to beat.
-- Wayne Staats