Gone are Carver, Columbus and Callaway, while Bremen, Bowdon and Chattahoochee County move up from Class A under reclassification, making it a nine-team region instead of eight from the past two years. Heard County and Temple remain as two Region 5-AA playoff teams from last year, while Bremen and Bowdon each reached the postseason out of Region 6-A.
For Bowdon and Bremen, they will be familiar with each other along with Temple and Heard County, but not much will be known about the southern schools.
"There's some unknowns in Manchester and all those schools down south in Columbus — Kendrick, Spencer and Jordan — then Chattahoochee County. We don't know much about them. We do know those Columbus schools have some athletes that can play for them, but they've had it pretty tough the last couple years, as far as winning ball games," Bowdon coach Dwight Hochstetler said.
For Temple, Bremen and Bowdon, it will be a reunion of sorts back from when Temple competed in Class A. But just because the teams are local and familiar isn't necessarily a positive for the Tigers. In 12 meetings with each team, Temple is 0-12 against Bowdon and just 2-10 against Bremen, with the wins coming in 1995 and 1997.
"We feel like it's going to be a lot more localized and bring back a lot of those rivalries we had when we were in single-A. With that, there are also some challenges for us as a program," Temple coach Seth Rogers said. "What you lose in Callaway and Carver in athleticism, you make up for with some dadgum good coaches in [Bremen's] Ricky Tolleson and Dwight Hochstetler. It will be a new region, but some of the old."
Tolleson noted that even though the Bremen-Bowdon rivalry would have continued even if they were in different classes or different regions, it makes it a little more special to stay in the same region.
"Bowdon has always been our big rival, and it's good that we are in the same region to continue playing. If we weren't in the same region, we would still be playing," Tolleson said. "Locally, with Bowdon and Temple and Bremen and Heard, we've all played each other."
After playing exclusively in Class A, Bowdon will have to make the leap and play some bigger schools in the area. But there will be familiar faces for the Red Devils in Bremen, Temple and Heard County — as well as non-region games against Woodland (Ala.) and Haralson County — bringing consistency to the schedule.
"It will be a challenge being in Class A for forever and moving up to AA. We're just thankful we're in a region with a lot of opponents that are really our rivals like Bremen, finally going to get to play Temple again, then we've been playing Heard County on and off," Hochstetler said.
Temple played Bremen every year from 1994 to 2005, and this year's Nov. 2 meeting will be the first since then. Temple and Bowdon faced off from 1994 to 2005 and then again in 2008 and 2009. They will meet this year on Oct. 12.
Bremen is coming off its fourth trip to the Class A state quarterfinals in school history and has made the playoffs every season under Tolleson. While the move up a classification will be a challenge, Tolleson believes the tradition at Bremen will carry them through.
"We live on tradition and heart and work ethic and any time you believe in those factors, the program has a tendency to carry on. We've never played in AA and it's going to be a giant step for us. The only one of those schools we played last year was Bowdon and they were Class A like us. Our program is always a work-in-progress. We try to work hard from middle school through the JV program all the way up to the high school. Tradition is important at this school and expectations are always high," Tolleson said.
The true questions for the region will be if Bremen and Bowdon can continue their success from Class A at the Class AA level and if Temple can continue its playoff aspirations with teams they have historically struggled against.
"We've got our work cut out for us. To play in Week 11, you have to beat some good football teams and have a little luck. We've got to get the monkey off our back with Bremen and Bowdon," Rogers said. "We're going to have to do some things that haven't been done at our school to obtain our goals. We're working hard to do that and hopefully the hard work will all pay off."
Overall, Bowdon is excited about the opportunity — and challenge — of moving up to Class AA.
"We know a few of them, that's a plus. Then sometimes it's good playing someone you've never played before and don't know much about. We'll see them on film and all that good stuff before we play them. Our fans are excited about it. Playing AA ball, every week is going to be a challenge for us," Hochstetler said.