Both #4 Richmond Academy and #10 Baldwin enter Tuesday's opening night of the class AAAA, region 3 schedule riding 5 game winning streaks. But starting league play on a positive note is more important to each team's coach than rankings or streaks.
"I consider region play to be the most important part of the season. So we would like to start on a positive note," said coach Buck Harris of Baldwin, which enters the new year having recently cracked GHSA expert Kyle Sandy's rankings of the class's best ten teams in Georgia.
The Musketeers have spent all seven weeks of the season on Sandy's list, and a 12-3 start recently earned them their highest spot yet. But coach Steve Nobles, whose attention also remains focused on a strong start to league play, reminded me about the only time that rankings truly matter:
"Rankings don't really mean anything until the end of the year... Now if you are the last team standing, then the #1 ranking is meaningful," said Nobles, who led the Musketeers last season to a 21-7 overall record, including a 9-1 sub region run, a runner up finish in the region tournament, and a second round finish in the class AAAAA state tournament.
While Nobles will aim to repeat last season's successful run, Harris is blazing a winning path anew in Milledgeville. The second year coach who spent his two prior seasons leading Laney to two state tournament semifinal finishes transformed the Braves from a 3 win team to a 10 win team in his first season there. And his team has established an 8-4 mark at this season's halfway point. The progress in the win column was expressed nicely in Harris's Facebook post following Baldwin's recent holiday tournament championship game win:
"What a difference a year makes. Last season we finished 7th out of 8 teams, and this year we won the championship. I am so proud of my guys!"
Both coaches know they are entering the portion of the season that will determine whether they will judge the 2016-17 campaign a success. Both teams are on a roll. I can't think of a better way to tip off the new year and class AAAA league play in a region that, as Harris added, is "as tough as they come!"