Sports events are based on the premise that teams compete on a level playing field, an athletic fairness doctrine of sorts.
Then you have high-school football teams in Region 3-AAAA, where the playing field is the equivalent of a gridiron roller-coaster.
Prep competition isn't really fair, because some squads have more players and better athletes than others, but the setup in the 11-team region is suspect.
When the 3-AAAA alignment was set two years ago, region football coaches drew names out of a hat to pare down their team's schedules, keeping eight region games and two nonregion games.
That led to a decidedly uneven playing field in Region 3-AAAA.
The Butler Bulldogs aren't complaining. The Dogs don't have to play region opponents Statesboro and Thomson. Statesboro was unbeaten and claimed a state title two years ago, and Thomson duplicated that feat in 2002.
Greenbrier coach Mickey Derrick, on the other hand, had a poor draw.
"The two teams we dropped (Baldwin and Glenn Hills) hadn't won a game the previous year," Derrick said.
Lakeside fared slightly better in the convoluted round-robin schedule. The Panthers do not play Jones County or Statesboro.
"Greenbrier's got some monsters on its region schedule," Lakeside coach Randy Hill said.
The real region monsters, Statesboro and Thomson, may not be as dangerous this season. "Both of them have lost this season, so at least they can be beaten," said Derrick, who tapped Hephzibah as a team to watch in the region in 2003.
Thomson won the region last year, Statesboro placed second, and Baldwin and Burke County rounded out the top four slots. The top four finishers secured trips to the Class AAAA state playoffs.
Butler may be moving up the ladder this season under first-year coach Galen Phillips. The Bulldogs are 3-0, and without Statesboro and Thomson lurking, the Dogs could sneak into the playoffs.
Lakeside beat Greenbrier in the region opener for both squads last week, so the Panthers at least hold the tiebreaker over the Pack.
"Winning our first region game puts us in the driver's seat to make the state playoffs," Hill said.
In other region action, Butler beat Baldwin, Thomson trounced Cross Creek, Jones County blanked Burke County, and Statesboro knocked off Hephzibah.
With Glenn Hills and Lakeside also at 1-0, there are six squads atop the region standings; but considering the unbalanced schedule, you can't say their records are "identical."
This much can be said for Region 3-AAAA - the race for a top-four finish, and a state playoff berth, is going to become heated as the season moves on.
"From here on out, every game is crucial in the region," Derrick said. "We've got to play every week like it's our last football game."
The Wolfpack travels to play Butler this Friday night, while Lakeside is at home against Thomson.
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