Jul. 15—North Cobb, Marietta and Harrison have the three hardest schedules among local football teams for the 2022 season.
The winning percentage of the teams on North Cobb's schedule is more than .640, and the Warriors open the season with a six game stretch — against Westlake, Buford, Marietta, Northside-Warner Robins, Milton and Walton — in which the percentage jumps to .765.
Buford won the Class AAAAA state title last year, Milton played for the Class AAAAAAA title, Walton was a semifinalist and Northside-Warner Robins and Westlake each made the quarterfinals.
The difficult schedule is a byproduct of North Cobb having won two straight region titles, and coaches knowing the amount of talent the team will return this season.
"I mean you're successful the year before or two years before, and you've got one of the top quarterbacks in the country, a lot of people don't want to play you," North Cobb coach Shane Queen said, "so, unless you're playing the Colquitts, the Bufords, the Westlakes and the Miltons, it's hard to find football games. But, at the same time, we are going to turn it into a positive and we're going to be ready for our region schedule once we get there."
North Cobb's region schedule will begin with Walton and also includes Kennesaw Mountain, which moved back up into Class AAAAAAA after going 10-2 in Class AAAAAA and winning the first region title in program history last year.
For Marietta, the difficulty of its schedules has become commonplace under coach Richard Morgan, who has often said the Blue Devils use the non-region schedule as a primer for the most important parts of the season.
"It's iron versus iron," Morgan said before the 2021 season. "There is nothing different the way we scheduled at all. We're just trying to play a schedule that will allow us to be playing our best football when we reach the playoffs."
In the past, Marietta has scheduled teams from outside Georgia, but not this year — though it would be difficult to find much better opponents than the Blue Devils did in-state as Marietta will face Grayson (No. 22 in MaxPreps' preseason top 100), Roswell, North Cobb (68) and Buford (11). They also have a stretch in which they play North Cobb, Walton and Buford in consecutive weeks.
Harrison did not load up on nationally ranked opponents, but it did find a bunch of high-quality teams to put the Hoyas to the test. Five of their six non-region games are against teams that went 8-3 or better in 2021 — Kennesaw Mountain, South Paulding (8-3), South Forsyth (8-3), Denmark (8-3) and Pebblebrook (9-2). It is a schedule that should get the Hoyas ready for McEachern and Marietta when the calendar turns to region play.
Other notes from the local team's 2022 schedules:
—Walton will open the season against state quarterfinalists Mill Creek and Brookwood. The game against Brookwood is a rematch of last year's quarterfinals, in which the Raiders beat the Broncos 52-35. Also, Walton will find out exactly where it sits in Region 5AAAAAAA play as it opens the region schedule with North Cobb and Kennesaw Mountain the first two weeks of October.
—Pope will open the season with a bye, then will host River Ridge and travel to east Cobb neighbors Kell and Walton, which means the first month of the season will see the Greyhounds traveling a total of 11 miles.
—As part of the new-look Region 2AAAAAAA, Campbell will close the season with East Coweta, Pebblebrook, Carrollton and Westlake, who a combined record of 38-11 (.776) in 2021.
—Hillgrove will play six road games, including four of its last five. The Hawks will also play three of their four Region 3AAAAAAA games away from home.
—McEachern will play only three true road games. Of the Indians' six home games, three are Region 3AAAAAAA matchups.
—All of the county's private schools will be playing schedules made up of opponents they have not seen before. Mount Paran Christian and North Cobb Christian moved up to Class AA, Whitefield Academy remained in a completely revamped Class A and Walker will be playing a non-region schedule.
MDJ sports writers Matthew Welch, Banji Bamidele and Lily Brody contributed to this report.