• Top 10 high school football games this week

    By: Chip Saye Todd Holcomb, AJC Sports

    Updated:

    Archer at Mill Creek

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Markham Field at Mill Creek Community Stadium, Hochston 

    Records, rankings: Archer is 2-0 and No. 3 in Class AAAAAAA; Mill Creek is 2-1 and unranked in AAAAAAA. 

    Last meeting: Archer won 42-0 in 2018. 

    Things to know:These are traditionally strong Gwinnett County programs that finished second in their regions last year and are predicted to do about the same. Archer has won three straight in the series, but only the 2018 game was one-sided. The teams played two nail-biters in 2017. In the 2018 game, Carter Peevy passed for 393 yards and four touchdowns; Semaje Banks rushed for 119 yards and scored four touchdowns; and Mill Creek was shut out for the first time since 2009. Banks graduated, but Peevy (committed to Lenoir-Rhyne) is back. He has thrown for 382 yards and five touchdowns in two easy wins (Tucker 41-7; Spartanburg, S.C. 49-10). Led by N.C. State-committed center Ethan Lane, Archer is strongest in the trenches. Mill Creek is gifted with playmakers. Mill Creek's Chancellor Lee-Parker had 1,284 yards rushing last season and has opened with rushing totals of 156, 116 and 182. Parker Wroble had 1,352 all-purpose yards last season, and he had 133 receiving yards last week in a 30-10 victory over Norcross. 

    Blessed Trinity at Benedictine 

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

    Records, rankings: Blessed Trinity is 2-1 and No. 5 in Class AAAA; Benedictine is 0-1 and No. 7 in AAA. 

    Last meeting: Blessed Trinity won 38-7 in 2018. 

    Things to know: Since 2014, Blessed Trinity and Benedictine are tied for third statewide (and first among private schools) in winning percentage at .900. Blessed Trinity is 67-7-1. Benedictine is 63-7. Each has won two state titles. Both are rebuilding, though neither has lowered expectations. Blessed Trinity's 18-game winning streak ended last week in a 13-10 loss to Woodward Academy. The defense has been fine, but the offense has struggled to pass (13-of-31, no touchdowns, two interceptions). Elijah Green rushed for 156 yards in the opener but hasn't returned to the lineup. Freshman Justice Haynes has rushed for 211 and 153 yards the past two games. Benedictine hasn't played since Aug. 24 when beaten by Burke County 55-42. Junior RB Leshon Brooks rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Sophomore QB Holden Geriner was 13-of-27 passing for 128 yards and a touchdown. But the Cadets are young. Four of the six leading tacklers against Burke were sophomores. The best all-around player is WR/DB/RET Trent Broadnax, a three-sport athlete. The schools have played three times. Blessed Trinity also won in 2010 and 2011. 

    Cedar Grove at McEachern 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Walter H. Cantrell Stadium, Powder Springs 

    Records, rankings: Cedar Grove is 2-1 and No. 2 in Class AAA; McEachern is 2-0 and No. 6 in AAAAAAA. 

    Last meeting: McEachern won 24-17 in 2018. 

    Things to know: Cedar Grove has played two consecutive games against defending champions in the highest classification of other states. The Saints rallied from a 17-7 fourth-quarter deficit to beat Valor Christian of Colorado 27-17 last week, securing the victory on a 100-yard interception return by Tee Denson in the closing seconds. Cedar Grove lost to Central of Phenix City, Ala.., 24-20 on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds left the week before. Junior QB Austin Smith ran for two touchdowns and passed for another against Valor Christian. RB Chavon Wright averaged 114 yards rushing in the first two games of the season. McEachern QB Carlos Del Rio-Wilson (a junior committed to Florida) passed for 245 yards against Cedar Grove last year. He leads an offense that has averaged 47 points in lopsided victories over Brookwood and South Cobb. McEachern's other offensive weapons include wide receivers Dacari Collins (committed to Clemson) and Javon Baker (Alabama) and RB Jordon Simmons (a three-star recruit with 21 FBS offers). 

    Colquitt County at Valdosta 

    When, where: 8 p.m. Friday, Cleveland Field at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium, Valdosta 

    Records, rankings: Colquitt County is 2-0 and No. 2 in Class AAAAAAA; Valdosta is 3-0 and No. 1 in AAAAAA. 

    Last meeting: Colquitt County won 48-13 in 2018. 

    Things to know: Colquitt County has won the past six games in the series, the past five by margins of 21 points or more. In 2018, Colquitt QB Jaycee Harden was 15-of-23 passing for 297 yards and three touchdowns. He's back, and he's coming off a 341-yard, four-TD game against Thomasville. Daijun Edwards, a preseason all-state running back, also returns. He has rushed for 3,571 yards in his career. In the first season under coach Justin Rogers, the Packers have gobbled up North Gwinnett (17-6) and Thomasville (45-3). Although overshadowed a bit nationally by Marietta, the Packers are in the top 30 of three national polls and No. 1 in GHSF Daily's composite Class AAAAAAA rankings. Valdosta enters the game ranked No. 1 in its classification for the first time since the final poll of 2016. Tate Rodemaker, the preseason all-state quarterback, has thrown for 504 yards and 11 touchdowns in two games. Valdosta surrendered more than 400 yards of offense and five TD passes in a 54-34 win over Columbia last week, but the damage occurred mostly after taking a 34-7 lead in the first quarter. 

    Dodge County at Appling County 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jimmy Swain Stadium, Baxley 

    Records, rankings: Dodge County is 1-1 and No. 10 in Class AA; Appling County is 2-0 and No. 9 in AAA. 

    Last meeting: Dodge County won 14-7 in 2018. 

    Things to know: Appling County won seven consecutive games in this series between 1990 and 2013, but Dodge County has won three of the past four, including last year's defensive battle. Dodge County gets about two-thirds of its offense from a running game that's led by junior Daylon Gordon, who rushed for 322 yards and four TDs on 13 carries in a season-opening 49-37 victory over Bradwell Institute. He was held to 47 yards in a 42-28 loss to West Laurens last week, when the Indians had just 86 yards on 29 carries as a team. Dodge County led that game 28-14 early in the fourth quarter but couldn't hold on. Dodge's Keldrick Beck returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Sophomore QB Kade Harpe is 20-of-48 passing for 242 yards and two TDs. Appling County, in its second season under head coach Rick Tomberlin, is 2-0 for the first time since 2011 and has its highest ranking since 2013. The Pirates have run the ball 93 times for 732 yards while attempting just 13 passes. Sharode Roberts, QB Jeremiah Holmes and Keyshawn Walker have more than 100 rushing yards each. All are juniors. Holmes is 5-of-12 passing for 86 yards and a touchdown. 

    Irwin County at Mount Paran Christian 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Catherine Steele Sewell Stadium, Kennesaw 

    Records, rankings: Irwin County is 2-0 and No. 2 in Class A public; Mount Paran Christian is 1-0 and unranked in Class A private. 

    Last meeting: Irwin County won 40-20 in 2018. 

    Things to know: Irwin County's D.J. Lundy rushed for 124 yards and three touchdowns on five carries last year against Mount Paran in a game that wasn't as close as the final score, as Irwin led 40-0 at halftime. Lundy, a three-star recruit with 11 FBS offers, is back for his senior season but has yet to play because of injury. In his absence, however, the Indians have still run for 625 yards in two games. Kam Ward had 125 and Gabriel Benyard had 100 of the team's 400 rushing yards in a 35-8 victory over Fitzgerald two weeks ago. Irwin County coach Buddy Nobles recently received a diagnosis of stage 4, inoperable cancer but plans to continue coaching as much as possible. Mount Paran lost its leading rusher (Jack Allen, 861 yards) and receiver (John Robert Sess, 578 yards) from last year but returns quarterback Niko Vangarelli, who has committed to Princeton. Vangarelli passed for 188 yards, ran for 125 yards and had a hand in six touchdowns in the Eagles' 63-7 season-opening victory against Our Lady of Mercy. Jackson Manning had 83 yards receiving on three catches, all of which went for touchdowns. The starters played only the first half. 

    Kell at Rome 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Barron Stadium, Rome 

    Records, rankings: Kell is 2-0 overall, 0-0 in Region 7-AAAAA and No. 10; Rome is 1-1, 0-0 and No. 7. 

    Last meeting: Rome won 35-6 in 2018. 

    Things to know: This is the fourth consecutive season in which Kell and Rome faced each other to begin Region 7-AAAAA play. Kell won the first one 33-30 on Oct. 9, 2016. Rome did not lose another game until the 2018 semifinals, a winning streak of 40 games that included two state championships. Rome graduated quarterback Knox Kadum (1,633 yards passing, 619 rushing), top rusher Jamious Griffin (2,815 yards) and top receiver Xavier Roberts (1,118). New starting QB Caleb Ellard passed for 144 yards in a season-opening 48-14 loss to Marietta. Ahijah Blackwell and Trey Lawrence have both had 100-yard rushing games. The Wolves had 370 yards of total offense against North Clayton last week in a game it led 49-0 at halftime and won 63-6. Kell's David Mbadinga ran for 109 yards and Corbin LaFrance passed for 162 in a season-opening 17-12 victory over Mays, but the story for the Longhorns this season has been the defense. LB Branson Hall (10 tackles, four for losses, one sack in a 27-0 win over Lassiter last week) leads a unit that has allowed just 331 total yards (53 rushing) and 12 points in two games. 

    Mary Persons at Lovett 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Martin E. Kilpatrick Stadium, Atlanta 

    Records, rankings: Mary Persons is 2-1 and unranked in Class AAAA; Lovett is 2-1 and No. 8 in AAA. 

    Last meeting: Mary Persons won 58-21 in 2018. 

    Things to know: In the 2018 game, Mary Persons QB J.T. Hartage was 13-of-18 passing for a career-high 301 yards. The 58 points were the second-most ever scored against Lovett. Hartage, who threw 47 TD passes in his career, has graduated, along with the two leading rushers, three leading receivers and seven of the top eight tacklers from a senior class that went 45-8 with four region titles. Senior Malikk Harris and freshman Logan Hickman have shared the QB position with mixed results. Elias Harden who has rushed for 318 yards in three close games as Mary Persons has lost to Gainesville 27-21 and beaten Jackson 36-29 and Morrow 29-28. Mary Persons handled those three by a combined 152-29 last season. Lovett impressively beat Greater Atlanta Christian in overtime in the opener, then was blown out 49-0 by Marist. The offense runs through QB Blaine McAllister, a Princeton commit with 577 yards passing. RB Henry Beery is a two-way starter who has 154 yards rushing, 156 receiving and 186 returning kicks. 

    Marietta at Grayson 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Grayson Community Stadium, Grayson 

    Records, rankings: Marietta is 3-0 and No. 1 in Class AAAAAAA; Grayson is 2-0 and No. 5 in AAAAAAA. 

    Last meeting: Grayson won 38-31 in 2018. 

    Things to know: Grayson led Marietta 35-0 early in the third quarter last year but didn't secure the victory until an interception by Jeremiah Smith in the end zone in the final minute. Marietta got five second-half touchdown passes from Harrison Bailey, and the Blue Devils recovered two onside kicks to aid in their comeback. Bailey, a four-star recruit who is committed to Tennessee, is 61-of-99 passing for 882 yards and nine touchdowns in three games. He has the state's highest-rated receiver trio - Arik Gilbert (nation's No. 1 tight end recruit, uncommitted), Ricky White (three-star, Michigan State) and Taji Johnson (three-star, Boston College). Gilbert has 415 yards and three touchdowns on 24 receptions. RB Kimani Vidal (Troy) has rushed for 239 yards on 55 carries. Grayson has talent on offense as well and has averaged 30 points in victories over James Clemens of Alabama and Tucker. QB C.J. Dixon (Illinois) has passed for 487 yards. WR Ryan King (Georgia Tech) caught touchdown passes of 77 and 4 yards against James Clemens. LaFayette Gurvin had 181 yards rushing and 65 receiving last week. Junior RB Phil Mafah (Clemson) has been sidelined with an injury. 

    Westminster at Marist 

    When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Hughes Spalding Stadium 

    Records, rankings: Westminster is 1-2 and No. 10 in Class AAA; Marist is 2-0 and No. 2 in AAAA. 

    Last meeting: Marist won 24-7 in 2018. 

    Things to know: Connor Cigelske rushed for 112 yards and was 8-of-12 passing for 151 in last year's game. The Marist quarterback has rushed for 105 and 125 yards in two games this season and is 15-of-19 passing for 325 yards and four touchdowns. The War Eagles have scored 84 points in the four quarters in which their starters have been fully engaged as Marist led Lovett 42-0 and Canyon Springs (Nev.) 35-8 at halftime. Josh Moore, who had five receptions for 150 yards and two touchdowns in the opener against Lovett, is filling in nicely for WR/DB Kyle Hamilton, now at Notre Dame. Westminster's offense, which lost all-state QB Parks Harber to baseball pursuits this offseason, was missing in the first two games, losses to Woodward Academy (19-0) and Greater Atlanta Christian (19-14). The offensive line took over last week in a 42-14 win over St. Pius as the Wildcats rushed for 360 yards and five touchdowns. Paul Weathington has rushed for 398 yards in three games. The passing game is a work in progress. 

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