ATLANTA - Best region
Playoff results can provide the ultimate measure of a region’s strength, and by that standard 7-AAAAAA and 6-AAA came out of the first weekend looking good as the only two regions to go 4-0. Defending state champion Norcross, Collins Hill, top-ranked North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge rolled over their 5-AAAAAA opponents by an average of 31.5 points. Region 6-AAA teams Blessed Trinity, Woodward Academy, St. Pius and Cedar Grove got a little more competition from 8-AAA, but only fourth-seeded Cedar Grove’s 22-14 victory over sixth-ranked Elbert County was closer than 10 points.
The first round was free of major upsets as the No. 1 seeds compiled a 37-3 record. Two of the three region champions that lost (Lassiter, Dalton) were underdogs, according to the computer Maxwell Ratings, and the other (Elbert County) was just a four-point favorite. According to Maxwell, the most surprising team to win was Richmond Hill, which was a 22-point underdog. But even in that case, Richmond Hill was a 9-1 team playing at home against a Thomas County Central team that was missing its quarterback, Adam Choice, who suffered a shoulder injury in the regular-season finale.
Carver of Columbus, ranked fourth in Class AAA, avoided what would have been the upset of the year when it beat B.E.S.T. Academy 38-32 in three overtimes. B.E.S.T., which trailed 20-7 with less than eight minutes to play, had two great chances to win but was let down by the kicking game. After B.E.S.T. tied the score 20-20 with 47 seconds left, Carver blocked the potential game-winning extra point. Then, after tying the game 32-32 in the second OT, the Eagles missed another extra-point attempt that would have kept Carver out of the second round for the first time since 2005. B.E.S.T. Academy, coached by Joshua Moore, played a full varsity schedule this season for just the second time.
More great escapes
Lovejoy’s hopes of reaching a third consecutive state championship game almost ended at the hands of Marietta, but the Wildcats saved themselves with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Quintarius Neely to Preston Williams on the final play of the game for a 27-23 victory. Marietta upset Lowndes in the first round last season. … Cartersville, ranked No. 2 in Class AAA, advanced to the second round with a 28-26 victory when West Hall missed a 41-yard field goal in the final seconds. “I’m willing to bet you that everybody in the state thought they were going to run us out of this building by 50 points,” West Hall coach Tony Lotti told the Gainesville Times.
Seven schools made their first state-playoff appearances, and three advanced to the second round. South Paulding handled Sequoyah 48-21, Lanier beat Carver of Atlanta 26-7, and Veterans advanced with a 36-15 victory over Locust Grove, another first-time playoff team. The playoff rookies that lost were Sonoraville (58-0 vs. Buford), B.E.S.T. Academy (38-32 vs. Carver of Columbus) and McIntosh (31-21 vs. Northside of Warner Robins). McIntosh, which opened in 1982, led the eighth-ranked Eagles 21-14 with less than five minutes to play but was outscored 17-0 the rest of the way.
No trouble for No. 1
The five teams that entered Friday’s games ranked No. 1 in their classifications had no problems in the first round. North Gwinnett, Tucker, Sandy Creek, Buford and Lamar County won by an average of 41.2 points. The closest game was North Gwinnett’s 34-10 victory at Milton. Tucker got off to a slow start but eventually pulled away for a 35-7 victory over Heritage of Conyers. Eagle’s Landing Christian, the No. 1 team in Class A, begins postseason play in the private-school bracket this week when it faces Athens Christian. Last year, Class AAAAAA No. 1 Lassiter lost in the first round to Brookwood.
Scoring in Georgia high school football continues to rise, even at playoff time. Nineteen teams scored at least 50 points in their first-round games, including six that topped the 60-point mark. Two of the games – Monroe Area’s 68-39 victory over Banneker and Ringgold’s 55-54 victory over North Hall – were among the six highest-scoring games of the season. Other teams with at least 60 points included Sandy Creek (63), Benedictine (63), Callaway (62), Burke County (61) and North Cobb (60). Last year, only 14 teams in the first round and 22 teams overall scored at least 50 points in a game.
There are some great matchups in store for the second weekend of the postseason, highlighted by a Class AAAAAA schedule that includes three matchups of top-10 teams – No. 1 North Gwinnett at No. 4 Archer, No. 8 Hillgrove at No. 2 Camden County, and No. 3 Colquitt County at No. 10 North Cobb. Other top-10 matchups are Northside at Ware County and South Paulding at Gainesville in AAAAA; Statesboro at Griffin, Stockbridge at Westover and Carrollton at Monroe Area in AAAA; Woodward Academy at Buford in AAA; and Jefferson at Heard County and GAC at Calhoun in AA. And the Class A playoff get under way next weekend.
Produced by Georgia High School Football Daily, a free e-mail newsletter. To join the mailing list, click here.