After being separated by sub regions since 2016, Christian Heritage, Darlington, Mount Paran Christian, North Cobb Christian and Walker make up the newly formed Region 7A Private.
While the region only consists of five teams, expect it to be highly competitive. Christian Heritage, Darlington, Mount Paran Christian and North Cobb Christian all finished with a winning record last season.
“I mean, (everyone) is so committed to football,” North Cobb Christian head coach Mark Hollars said. “Everyone has a loyal fan base. ... I think everybody respects one another and respects the way they go about running their programs.”
After finishing last season with a 4-6 record, Walker is beginning a new era with head coach Michael Gunn.
Before serving as offensive coordinator for the past seven years at Collins Hill and Clarke-Central, Gunn spent 23 years as head coach at Athens Academy. The Spartans went 194-72-1 during that time with 20 playoff appearances.
However, Gunn hasn’t had an ideal start as the Wolverines head coach. He is still uncertain about how his team will look heading into the season.
“I was having to get a lot of information from my coaching staff and from Zoom meetings with the seniors as well as finish my job at Clarke Central,” Gunn said. “That was making the transition a bit tougher.”
Christian Heritage, Noth Cobb Christian and Darlington have shared the same sub-region since2016, and have experienced close contests during that time.
North Cobb Christian has multiple players returning on all three levels of the defense. The offense is in a similar situation, even though Hollars is trotting out his third different quarterback in as many years.
“We know that this is a strong senior class coming up,” Hollars said. “There’s a lot of kids in this class who’ve seen time on Friday nights.”
Darlington won its sub-region championship last season, but the Tigers will need to replace multiple impact players.
Offensively, replacing last seasons Region 6-A/A Player of the Year Griffin Brewster at quarterback and Lineman of the Year Tate Ratledge warrants the most attention. Brewster threw for 1,646 yards and 16 touchdowns with only three interceptions last season after an ACL injury his junior season.
Multiple other first-team all-region selections are also departing for Darlington, beginning with Kolin Rogers at running back, Tysen Dougherty on the offensive line and Trystin Wright at wide receiver.
Hollars said that the program with arguably the most talent returning is Christian Heritage, who finished 9-2 last season. But he believes there isn’t much separating the Lions from everyone else.
“Most of the teams in this region have a good core nucleus of kids returning,” Hollars said. “This region is wide open.”