• Top 10 high school football games of the 1st round of the playoffs

    By: Todd Holcomb, AJC Sports

    Updated:

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Raider Valley, Marietta 

    Records, rankings: Camden County is 7-3, the No. 3 seed from Region 1-AAAAAAA and unranked; Walton is 9-1, the No. 2 seed from 4-AAAAAAA and No. 5. 

    Last meeting: Camden County won 45-14 in 2005. 

    Things to know: Camden County, in its second season under former North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire, is in the playoffs for the first time since 2015, which breaks the Wildcats' longest postseason drought since 1975-76. Formerly a staunch wing-T program, Camden is passing more than ever in Sphire's spread offense. Logan Watson has thrown for 1,714 yards and 17 touchdowns. The leading rusher is a freshman, Jamie Felix, with 506 yards. LB Jalen Davis, the leading tackler, has eight stops for losses in the last five games. Like Camden, Walton likes to pass and averages 267.2 yards through the air. Austin Kirksey, committed to Nevada, has thrown for 1,771 yards despite missing two games and parts of several others. Kendall Alford (52 catches, 859 yards, seven touchdowns) and Dominick Blaylock (46-869-7) are among the best pairs of receivers in the state. Both have more than 1,000 all-purpose yards. LB/DE Trey Middleton has 26 tackles for losses and nine sacks. Walton is 1-2 against South Georgia teams all-time. Camden is 4-4 against Cobb County teams. 

    Winner plays: Pebblebrook/Hillgrove winner 

    North Paulding at Westlake 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Westlake Stadium, College Park 

    Records, rankings: North Paulding is 7-3, the No. 4 seed from Region 3-AAAAAAA and unranked; Westlake is 8-2, the No. 1 seed from 2-AAAAAAA and unranked. 

    Last meeting: Westlake won 41-13 in the first round of the 2014 Class AAAAAA playoffs. 

    Things to know: North Paulding is the No. 4 seed from a region that has five top-20 teams in Class AAAAAAA, according to the computer Maxwell Ratings, which put the Wolfpack at No. 17. Westlake, the only unranked region champion in the class, was beaten by Marietta, another Region 3 team, a year ago in this round, one season after advancing to the semifinals. Westlake historically is better on defense, but not this season. The Lions average 40.1 points per game, the most in school history, but have allowed 30 points in a game four times. Jalyn Williams is 106-of-188 passing for 1,823 yards and 17 touchdowns. Darren Nichols has rushed for 1,027 yards but was injured the past two games, during which Markcus Johnson stepped up with rushing totals of 226 and 102 yards with five touchdowns. Westlake hopes to have Nichols back this week. North Paulding, averaging just 62.2 yards rushing per game, is the most pass-heavy team in the playoffs. Ross Malmgren, a pocket passer, is 207-of-319 for 2,589 yards and 26 touchdowns with only three interceptions. His top receiver is Kellan Autenrieth, who has 715 yards and nine touchdowns. LB Jordan Veneziale, a three-star recruit, has 133 tackles, twice that of his closest teammate. 

    Winner plays: Cherokee/Lowndes winner 

    Tift County at Roswell 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Ray Manus Stadium, Roswell 

    Records, rankings: Tift County is 6-4, the at-large team and unranked; Roswell is 9-1, the No. 1 seed from Region 4-AAAAAAA and No. 6. 

    Last meeting: Roswell won 42-7 in 2009. 

    Things to know: This is the only Class AAAAAAA game this week between teams ranked in at least one poll. Roswell is the consensus No. 7 team while Tift is No. 9 in the computer Maxwell Ratings. Roswell, a state finalist in 2015 and 2016, has bounced back after a 3-8 finish in 2017. The Hornets are a balanced run-pass offense. Ethan Roberts is 110-of-206 passing for 1,852 yards and 19 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Kamonty Jett has rushed for 1,033 yards and twice carried more than 30 times in a game, but was injured and did not play in Roswell's final regular season contest. Jacob Jarett and John Copenhaver have 15 TD receptions between them. Tift is primarily a running team. Mike Jones has rushed for 905 yards. QB Patrick Felton's play is often critical. He threw three TD passes against Parkview and Lowndes, but was 16-of-51 in losses to Colquitt County and Camden County. Both teams have SEC-bound linebackers. Tift's K.D. McDaniel (seven sacks) is committed to Kentucky. Roswell's Tyron Hopper (six TFL, five interceptions) is committed to Florida. But Tift LB Deontae Overstreet (three interceptions, four forced fumbles) and Roswell DB/LB Doneiko Slaughter (eight sacks) also require a close eye. 

    Winner plays: East Coweta/Marietta winner 

    Class AAAAAA 

    Coffee at Stephenson 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, James R. Hallford Stadium, Clarkston 

    Records, rankings: Coffee is 7-3, the No. 4 seed from Region 1-AAAAAA and unranked; Stephenson is 9-1, the No. 1 seed from 4-AAAAAA and No. 4. 

    Last meeting: Coffee won 17-14 in the first round of the 2008 Class AAAAA playoffs. 

    Things to know: Coffee, which lost to Lee County in the state final last year, comes into the game unranked by the AJC but No. 6 in the MaxPreps ratings. Stephenson is No. 4 in the AJC poll but No. 12 according to MaxPreps. The teams have met twice in their histories (the 2006 and 2008 playoffs), with each team winning once. Coffee runs the ball about two-thirds of the time and averages 201.1 yards rushing and 118.3 passing. Josiah Killebrew (81 carries, 555 yards, eight touchdowns) is the third-leading rusher in 1-AAAAAA, and Antonio Dawson (64-426-7) is sixth. Sophomore QB A.J. Wilkerson has passed for 1,059 yards, run for 336 and had a hand in 17 touchdowns. Stephenson is a region champion for the first time since 2015. Donovan Moorer's 39-yard touchdown run with 11 minutes remaining were the winning points in the Jaguars' 30-24 victory over Tucker in the title-clinching game last week. Moorer has run for 522 yards in six games this season. The leading rushers for the Jaguars, who average 285.9 yards on the ground, are Jevon Goff (110-814-9) and Ryan Ingram (112-666-12). QB Joseph Jackson is 40-of-68 passing for 740 yards and eight TDs. 

    Winner plays: Richmond Hill/Greenbrier winner 

    Harrison at Johns Creek 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, The Colosseum, Johns Creek 

    Records, rankings: Harrison is 8-2, the No. 4 seed from Region 6-AAAAAA and No. 6; Johns Creek is 9-1, the No. 1 seed from 7-AAAAAA and No. 7. 

    Last meeting: This is the teams' first meeting. 

    Things to know: This is one of two first-round games in Class AAAAAA matching AJC top-10 opponents (Northside-Tucker is the other). Harrison would have won its second consecutive region title if it had beaten No. 2 Creekview last week, but the Hoyas lost 36-35 in overtime and fell into a tie for second place with Sequoyah and Allatoona and ended up with the No. 4 seed because of the region's point-differential tiebreaker. That was an unfortunate break for Johns Creek, which won the Region 7 title in 2016 but failed to make the playoffs last year. Harrison (35.9 points per game) and Johns Creek (39.2) both rank in the top five in AAAAAA scoring. Harrison's balanced offense averages 167.6 yards rushing and 161.7 passing. QB Gavin Hill is 93-of-174 passing for 1,372 yards and 14 TDs. David Roberts has rushed for 856 yards and 16 TDs on 128 carries. Micah Davis has 363 yards rushing, a team-leading 724 yards receiving and 486 kickoff-return yards. Johns Creek gets about 60 percent of its offense from the passing game. QB Zach Gibson has thrown for 2,477 yards, and Giovanni Dyer has 858 receiving yards. RB Nate Hope averages just under 100 yards per game rushing. 

    Winner plays: Mays/Lanier winner 

    Northside (Warner Robins) at Tucker 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Adams Stadium, Atlanta 

    Records, rankings: Northside is 5-5, the No. 3 seed from Region 1-AAAAAA and No. 5; Tucker is 7-3, the No. 2 seed from 4-AAAAAA and No. 9. 

    Last meeting: Tucker won 28-7 in the second round of the 2017 Class AAAAAA playoffs. 

    Things to know: Northside and Tucker have played each other five times, all in the playoffs since 2007. Tucker has won three of those meetings, including the past two, holding the Eagles to seven points in each of those games. But Northside's offense has improved by almost two touchdowns per game this year, thanks in large part to the continued growth of QB Jadin Daniels. He is 108-of-174 passing for 1,387 yards and 14 touchdowns and leads 1-AAAAAA in rushing with 1,102 yards and 11 TDs. Eric Smith has rushed for 519 yards, and Daniel Neal has 556 receiving yards. Tucker failed to win its region this year for just the third time in nine seasons. The Tigers have allowed 231 points, the third-most in 33 seasons, and more than half came in their three losses (48 vs. Grayson, 40 vs. Buford and 30 vs. Stephenson). LB Lucius Chitty is the leading tackler with 88. Offensively, the Tigers run the ball more than 75 percent of the time and average 271.6 yards rushing and 94.6 passing. Tyler Hughey (79 carries, 785 yards, nine touchdowns) and Donnie Harris (91-769-7) are the leading rushers. QB Travon Ford has thrown for 828 yards and eight TDs. 

    Winner plays: Bradwell Institute/Grovetown winner 

    Class AAAAA 

    Carrollton at Riverwood 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Hoskyn Stadium, Sandy Springs 

    Records, rankings: Carrollton is 8-2, the No. 3 seed from Region 7-AAAAA and No. 10; Riverwood is 8-2, the No. 2 seed from 6-AAAAA and unranked. 

    Last meeting: Carrollton won 28-0 in 1993. 

    Things to know: This game matches one of Georgia's top programs (Carrollton's 672 all-time wins rank seventh in state history) against a Riverwood program that traditionally has struggled but is having one of its best seasons in years under first-year coach Robert Edwards, a former star running back at Georgia. Carrollton is making its 28th playoff appearance in 29 seasons. Riverwood's eight wins are the most since 2001. The Raiders are in the state playoffs for just the fourth time in their 48-year history. Both teams rank in the top five in Class AAAAA scoring (Riverwood at 44.2, Carrollton at 39.8), and both get about 60 percent of their offense from the running game. Carrollton rushes for 232.9 yards per game and passes for 165.2. Brandon Marenco (75 carries, 604 yards, 10 TDs), Trent Lane (67-504-3) and Kodee Brewer (69-482-10) lead the running game. Kashif Taylor is 101-of-164 passing for 1,292 yards and 12 TDs. Riverwood averages 262.1 yards rushing and 159.6 passing. Reese White is one of the leading rushers in AAAAA, with 1,600 yards and 18 TDs on 166 carries. QB Aaron Graham has passed for 1,590 yards and 16 TDs, and Tre Young has 679 receiving yards. 

    Winner plays: Loganville/Southwest DeKalb winner 

    Class AAAA 

    Flowery Branch at Ridgeland 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Bowers and Painter Field, Rossville 

    Records, rankings: Flowery Branch is 8-2, the No. 3 seed from Region 7-AAAA and No. 10; Ridgeland is 7-3, the No. 2 seed from 6-AAAA and No. 10. 

    Last meeting: Flowery Branch won 17-14 in the first round of the 2009 Class AAA playoffs. 

    Things to know: This is the only game between ranked teams in Class AAAA, and one of only four statewide in the first round. Both teams reached the second round last season. Flowery Branch was in AAAAA but dropped down this year because of lower enrollment. The Falcons' losses are to last year's AAAA finalists, Marist and Blessed Trinity. Flowery Branch is strong defensively, ranking sixth in AAAA scoring defense (12.6 points per game) and has allowed as many as 21 points only once, in a 21-20 overtime loss to No. 1 Blessed Trinity. On offense, Elijah Gainey (1,770 yards passing, 18 touchdowns) and Jalin Strown (863 receiving, nine TDs) are among the state's best QB-WR combinations. Ridgeland, under first-year coach Cortney Braswell, is more of a running team, averaging twice as many yards on the ground (218.3). Jordan Blackwell has rushed for 963 yards and 13 touchdowns on 114 carries. QB Tanner Hill has a big arm and good wheels but can be erratic. He's 55-of-111 passing for 922 yards and 12 touchdowns. Terrance Roberts, perhaps the team's best all-around player, has five TD receptions as a slotback and a team-leading 66 tackles, eight for losses, as a strong safety. Ridgeland averages 37.1 points per game, which is seventh-best in AAAA. 

    Winner plays: Stephens County/Cartersville winner 

    Class AAA 

    Westminster at Jefferson 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Memorial Stadium, Jefferson 

    Records, rankings: Westminster is 6-4, the No. 3 seed from Region 5-AAA and No. 10; Jefferson is 8-2, the No. 2 seed from 8-AAA and No. 8. 

    Last meeting: Jefferson won 28-0 in the first round of the 2013 Class AA playoffs. 

    Things to know: Westminster is 10-1 in the first round since 2007, with seven of those victories on the road. The lone defeat came against Jefferson in 2013. Breaking from tradition, Westminster is getting more yards passing than rushing this season. Parks Harber, a Georgia baseball recruit, is 130-of-230 for 1,863 yards and 18 touchdowns. Paul Weathington (828 rushing) and Will Hallmark (341 rushing, 400 receiving) are other offensive weapons. Charlie Ham is an all-state punter/kicker who has put 40 of 43 kickoffs in the end zone and made field goals of 51 and 52 yards. Jefferson averages 269.4 yards rushing per game and only 87.6 passing. Sophomore QB Carter Stephenson, who replaced injured starter and leading rusher Colby Clark in the sixth game, is getting better each week. He's completed 33 of 59 passes for 474 yards and can run. Jefferson's best all-around players are WR/FS Zac Corbin (347 yards rushing, 279 yards receiving, seven touchdowns, 39 tackles) and TE/DE Garmon Randolph (five TD receptions on just 13 catches, six tackles for losses). Jefferson ranks 10th in scoring offense (35.0) and eighth in scoring defense (11.2). Westminster's average score is a less impressive 28.9-20.5, but against the No. 1-ranked schedule in AAA. 

    Winner plays: North Murray/Greater Atlanta Christian winner 

    Class AA 

    Washington County at Vidalia 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, The Reservation, Vidalia 

    Records, rankings: Washington County is 8-2, the No. 3 seed from Region 3-AA and unranked; Vidalia is 9-1, the No. 2 seed from 2-AA and unranked. 

    Last meeting: Washington County won 21-14 in the second round of the 1997 Class AA playoffs. 

    Things to know: The only previous meeting between these teams came in the final year of Washington County's run of three state championships in four seasons. The Golden Hawks' seven-point victory was their only game during that 15-0 season that was decided by fewer than 13 points. Washington County is seventh in AA scoring at 36.7 points per game and scored 46 or more points six times. The Golden Hawks are a run-first team led by Dyquan Bloodsaw, who is among the top five rushers in AA with more than 1,300 yards. He is being recruited as a cornerback and has a reported offer from Charlotte and interest from other Division I schools. Vidalia is almost exclusively a running team, rushing for 3,364 yards and 38 touchdowns on 381 carries while attempting less than five passes per game for a total of 315 yards. Chris Gay (92 carries, 937 yards, 13 TDs) and Nyshun Bell (65-770-5) are the leading rushers and two of four players averaging at least 47.2 yards per game. QB Marc Wardlaw has passed for 295 yards and rushed for 262. Bell (50 total tackles, 3.5 for losses) is the leading tackler for a defense that allows 12.6 points per game, eighth-best in AA. 

    Winner plays: Screven County/Brooks County winner 

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