Sunday October 2nd, 2022 9:35PM

Football: Region 7-3A could be a weekly slugfest

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

Region 7-3A wasn't completely gutted after the Georgia High School Association's realignment last year, but it did change the landscape. 

North Hall and two-time region champ Cherokee Bluff moved out. East Forsyth, who played non-region, left as well. 

Pickens and Wesleyan moved in to form the new region with mainstays Dawson County, Gilmer, Lumpkin County, West Hall and White County.

Dawson County came in as the heavy favorite to win the newly aligned region, but after the first five weeks of the season, Lumpkin County and Gilmer are saying look at us. 

The Indians started the season on an unprecedented streak, winning the first four games while averaging 41 points per game and giving up just 8.25. Gilmer is not quite as good but still is averaging close to 30 ppg. 

Of course, there are a few unknowns. Wesleyan, a private school in Norcross, was selected to finish second, and Pickens, who dropped down from Class 4A, was picked fourth. But questions remain about the two newcomers: How good is Pickens? How good is Wesleyan? 

Pickens has struggled in its first four games, giving up 35.25 ppg in a 1-3 start, and Wesleyan, whose first four games included two top-10 teams, also is 1-3.

Nevertheless, no one is overlooking anyone in this region. 

Lumpkin County coach Heath Webb believes the region is a toss-up. 

"You want to start the region 1-0 and have that head-to-head tiebreaker," he said. "That's going to be important in this region because anybody can beat anybody on any given Friday. So, it might get a little messy as far as the standings go, so head to head is going to be a big deal."

The Indians open region play at home against Pickens on Friday. Webb said Pickens's 1-3 record is very deceiving. 

"They've played some good football teams. I got a chance to watch them in person last week, and I was impressed," he said. "They have some playmakers that can really go. They look a lot like us. It looks very even to me. 

Meanwhile, Dawson County's start to the season hasn't been as explosive. The Tigers have struggled to find their identity on offense, averaging 18.5 ppg. 

Dawson County coach Sid Maxwell said the offense is still a work in progress. 

"We're still working on personnel," he said. "We've had four games to evaluate to see where we are and what we need to work on. On offense, we've got a lot of young guys trying to figure things out." 

The Tigers returned the most experience on defense, but it hasn't translated consistently on the field, giving up 30.25 ppg. 

"Defensively, unfortunately at times, we give up the big play," Maxwell said. "We've got to do a better job of eliminating that factor. When we're good, we're good. When we're bad, we're bad on defense. We're still trying to work through consistency and get these young men to do the system and their role. Then go out and make a play." 

The Tigers will open region play at home against West Hall. Maxwell's game plan is simple.
"We've got to take care of the football, play sound defense, and keep improving," he said. 

White County, which was picked to finish third in the region, has been hit with injuries and has struggled against the better opponents over the first five weeks of the season. 

"Our schedule has shown us what we're good at and some of our deficiencies," White County coach Chad Bennett said. "We'll spend this week getting better at what we do. We're trying to get healthy and hope to have some of our kids back. We'll continue to work to get healthy and get back to the fundamentals to give us a chance to win the region."

Although the Warriors are off this week and will open region play on September 30 against Dawson County at home, Bennett wasn't afraid to share his opinion on the region. He believes the region has a lot of parody. 

"After the non-region play, we've got a lot of good football teams in this region," he said. "I think every one of us has a chance to win the title. There's definitely a lot of parody, and it's going to be an interesting seven weeks for sure." 

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