Region 5-AAAA has a new look this season, but one thing has remained the same.
Sandy Creek and Carrollton, two of the state’s best programs in recent years, will likely once again be the teams to beat in the region.
The four holdovers are Troup, Sandy Creek, Carrollton and Fayette County.
The two newcomers are Whitewater and Woodward Academy.
The region’s top four teams will make the state playoffs, and Troup finished third in the region a year ago.
Sandy Creek won the region a year ago and advanced to the state quarterfinals where it lost to eventual state champion Griffin.
Carrollton, meanwhile, finished second in the region, and it lost to Griffin in the state-championship game.
Here’s a look at the six teams in the region, beginning with the Troup Tigers.
Outside of the big two of Sandy Creek and Carrollton last year, Troup was the best of the rest.
Troup ended up going 5-2 in the region to finish third, and it lost to Gilmer County in the first round of the state playoffs.
As Troup looks to return to the playoffs, it will rely on an experienced offense that includes a third-year starting quarterback in Will Smith, a veteran offensive line anchored by Mercer-bound Mitch Mathes, an explosive running back in Dre Towns, and a talented wide receiver in Tremayne Tolbert.
Troup was hit harder by graduation on defense, but it does have some talented players back on that side of the ball, including defensive backs Vanquez Bonner and Saye Sanders.
The Trojans have a new head coach, but the expectations will be as high as always.
With the departure of Rayvan Teague, Ed Dudley has taken over as the Carrollton head coach.
Dudley brings an impressive resume to Carrollton.
In 22 seasons as a head coach, Dudley has a 183-75 record.
Dudley was the head coach at Ware County the past four seasons, and he led that team to a combined 44 wins, and the Gators lost to Gainesville in the 2012 state-championship game.
Dudley takes over a program accustomed to competing for state championships, and this year will be no exception.
The Trojans were an explosive offensive team a year ago averaging 43 points per game, and they figure to be hard to stop again this year with running back Jarvis Terrell leading the way.
The Trojans also have veteran offensive linemen Cole Glommen and Jonathan Robinson returning.
Carrollton’s defense was stingy last season, allowing 17 points per game, and a lot of those points came after the starters had left the game.
The Trojans will be led on defense by linebacker Scott Martin and defensive lineman Kristopher Lain.
The Tigers had a dismal 2013 season.
They beat Columbus 34-6 win, but that was their only win as they posted a 1-9 record.
The Tigers haven’t won more than three games in a season since 2007, and they’ve won a combined three games the past two years.
The Tigers are a veteran team this season as they look to rediscover the winning formula.
The Tigers have seven starters back on defense, and seven back on offense as well.
That includes quarterback Daveion Nash, as well as running back Montrell Kelley and wide receiver Desmond Fletcher.
Those players helped the Tigers average 23 points per game a year ago.
The Tigers were dismal on defense last season, allowing 36 points a game, and they’ll rely on the veterans to help turn that around.
Under head coach Chip Walker, the Patriots have been on a remarkable run in recent years.
Since 2008, the Patriots are 77-4-1, and they’ve won three state championships.
The Patriots lost in the quarterfinals last year because they had the misfortune of running into Griffin, although it was a close game.
The Patriots figure to be a prime championship contender again this season with some enormously gifted players returning, including game-breaking running back Eric Swinney.
Swinney, who has verbally committed to Ole Miss, is one of the state’s best running backs.
Delvin Weems, who teams with Swinney to create one of the state’s best running-back tandems, is also back.
Quarterback Kobie Lain will run an offense that averaged 44 points per game a year ago.
Sandy Creek’s defense was just as dominant last year, giving up just nine points per game, and many of the players responsible for that success are back, including defensive backs Will Harper and Javon Jackson, as well as defensive lineman Javonte Lain.
One of the newcomers to the region, Whitewater won seven games and made the playoffs in Class AAAAA last year.
The Wildcats are an experienced team, and they’ll be led by quarterback Jay Ashley.
Ashley is a threat running or throwing the ball, and he helped the team average 27 points per game last season.
Ashley has some veteran receivers to throw the ball to.
Whitewater’s defense, which surrendered nearly 20 points per game last fall, will be anchored by defensive lineman Jordan Chapman.
The War Eagles make the move up a classification after playing in Class AAA a year ago.
The War Eagles enjoyed a strong season, going 9-3 and making it to the second round of the state playoffs where they lost to Buford.
The Eagles figure to be a strong playoff contender this season under head coach John Hunt.
A defense that was stingy a year ago returns a lot of players, including defensive back Arrington Farrar, one of the state’s top defensive backs.
Farrar has verbally committed to Stanford.
Woodward’s offense averaged 30 points per game a year ago, and quarterback Jes Sutherland is set to take over after serving as a backup a year ago.
Sutherland got some valuable playing time in the playoff game against Buford with starter Terry Googer out with an injury.
Sutherland will likely hand the ball off often to running back Elijah Holyfield, son of former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield.
OF NOTE: Preview stories on the regions Callaway and LaGrange are in ran last week. Check out www.lagrangenews.com for those stories.