R3 #2 North Cobb at R4 #1 Roswell
To quote WWF wrestling legend Ric Flair, “To be the man you must be the man.” Sporting a perfect record the Hornets are as good as they come and hungry to avenge the 2015 loss to Colquitt County in the championship game. The Warriors are no slouches either having dropped two, one to region 3 top seed McEachern. This will be the only quarterfinals matchup not featuring two #1 seeds.
R1 #1 Lowndes at R2 #1 Westlake
The question of the day, how will the Lions stop the Vikings dynamic quarterback Michael Barrett. The senior has rushed for 1031 yards and thrown for 2232 yards. Barrett is not the only option for the Vikings. Travis Tisdale and J.D. Lee have combined for nearly 1300 yards on the ground. Three Vikings receivers have over 500 yards. Beating Lowndes is not impossible. Colquitt County and Valdosta accomplished the task. Valdosta did it with defense early in the year. Parkview came close losing by one point.
R8 #1 Grayson at R1 #1 Colquitt County
The farther you go in the season the better the teams get. This could easily be a state title game. Both Grayson and Colquitt have state titles. Only the Packers are two-time defending state champs. After dropping its first four contests, the Packers demolished all of their remaining opponents. Grayson, like their opponent, has ventured outside of the state to play nationally ranked competition. The one-loss suffered by the Rams was to IMG Academy which may or may not be a collegiate prep school. Against playoff opponents, Grayson has wins over region 3 #1 seeded McEachern, which by the way was the last game that was decided by fewer than three touchdowns.
R6 #1 Mill Creek at R3 #1 McEachern
If football is your guilty pleasure than this game will satisfy it. The Hawks of Mill Creek ran the table after beating Colquitt County in the season opener. Head coach Shannon Jarvis has a senior led team that can score on both sides of the ball. And then there is talent-rich McEachern. Florida State-commit Bailey Hockman, one of the best quarterbacks in the state, leads a talented cadre of offensive players against the Hawks. But the Indians have had a couple of games (Westlake and North Cobb) where they struggled to put distance between them and their opponents. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will have the advantage on Friday night.
R4 #1 Tucker at R5 #1 Mays
Two years ago Mays lost its bid to be the first City of Atlanta public school to win the State Championship since Southwest Wolves defeated Americus 21-7 in 1973. Mays High is also the first City of Atlanta public school to reach the state finals since the Brown HS Jaguars played Pepperell in the 1990 AA championship game. The Raiders, like most of the top seeds, mowed through regional play, although Creekside did give them fits. Tucker has two state titles after finally getting past the semi-finals hump. How good are the Tigers? They defeated Colquitt County 21-20 in Moultrie. That speaks volumes.
R1 #2 Northside-Warner Robins at R2 #1 Glynn Academy
The Eagles lost two in the region (Valdosta and Houston Co) but the schools’ three state titles speaks to its winning pedigree. Glynn Academy dropped its’ first game to AA Benedictine 24-7. A finalist in 2015, the Terrors fell to eventual champion Allatoona 10-6. The Terrors have a big-time recruit in Miami-commit quarterback Deejay Dallas.
R4 #3 Stephenson at R1 #1 Valdosta
Getting by perennial contender Valdosta won’t be easy for the Stephenson Jaguars. Stephenson hasn’t been to the quarterfinals since 2012 when they were shutout by Ware County 14-0. The Jaguars made it past the quarterfinals in 2005 eventually losing in the round to eventual AAAA state champion Lowndes 14-0. Valdosta is a perennial for a reason and its pedigree is well known. In the season opener, the Wildcats gave county rival Lowndes the biggest whipping of the season. The one blemish on the Wildcats record came at the hands of Colquitt County.
R1 #4 Coffee at R6 #1 Dalton
At 6-5, the fourth-seeded Coffee Trojans are the surprise team of the playoffs. They have put in their dues against quality competition but they will have their hands full with the undefeated Catamounts. Dalton hasn’t been past the second round since 2005 when they lost to Griffin 14-28. Their last appearance in the Finals was a forgettable 51-13 manhandling by a bruising Statesboro squad.
R3 #2 Griffin at R4 #1 Stockbridge
Except for a hiccup against Starr’s Mill, the Bears have been clicking on all cylinders. Griffin’s seniors were cubs on the 2013 state champion team and they have a tough task in the undefeated Tigers. Stockbridge had one close game this season and that was against AAAAAA region 5 #1 seed Mays.
R2 #1 Ware County at R7 #1 Rome
The only losses on the Gators schedule this season were to schools in higher classifications, AAAAAAA Region #1 seed Lowndes, AAAAAA Region 1 #2 seedNorthside-Warner Robins, and AAAAAA Region 2 #1 seed Glynn Academy. Ware loss to Glynn Academy in the 2015 semifinals All three schools have advanced to the quarterfinals. Only one of Rome’s losses came to a larger classification school -Harrison. The Hoyas were bounced from the playoffs last week by Tucker.
R7 #2 Carrollton at R8 #1 Buford
Once again the Wolves are the team to beat. The Wolves have won 3 state titles in the last 4 years and 10 in the last 14. Buford was denied a fourth consecutive title by Cartersville. Carrollton hopes to keep that streak alive. The Trojans last won a state title in 1998. If they hope to unseat the top seed Carrollton will need to follow the lead of AAAAAAA Region 4 top-seeded Roswell Hornets. The Hornets were the only team to beat the Wolves this season so far. Buford has averaged a three-touchdown margin in all but one of its wins.
R7 #3 Kell at R4 #2 Woodland-Stockbridge
Losses to AAAAAA region 1 top-seed Valdosta and county rival Stockbridge are the only blemishes on the Wolfpack’s schedule. They will get a formidable opponent in Kell. The Longhorns dropped two during the season, one to AAAAAAA Lassiter and one to Carrollton.
R5 #1 Cartersville at R4 #1 Woodward Academy
Woodward no longer has Buford to contend with in reaching the Dome. This year they have to get by the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes who beat the Wolves 10-0 to win the 2015 AAAA state title.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Cartersville has the 2018 #1 prospect Trevor Lawrence at quarterback. The War Eagles are unheralded but they are quite capable of scoring in bunches. Senior quarterback Ryan Glover has thrown for over 2,800 yards and 35 touchdowns. He has a number of weapons at his disposal that includes running backs Jalen Polk and Tahj Gary, wide receivers Josh Johnson and Sultan Shabazz. Defensively, the War Eagles swarm to the ball. Led by senior defensive end Zack Quarterman who has 42 tackles and 2 sacks. They will need to just that to keep pace with the high-scoring Purple Hurricanes who have scored 50+ points five times this season.
R7 #1 Blessed Trinity at R2 #1 Mary Persons
It has been 36 years since Mary Persons won its state title. The 10-2 Bulldogs last appeared in the championship game in 1993 and the quarterfinals in 1997. Four-star recruit Malik Herring will anchor the defense and quarterback Caleb Spier will lead the offense. 2015 state-runnerup Blessed Trinity has climbed closer to the summit over the last three seasons going from region champ to semi-finalist before eventually landing in the finals. The Titans are well-coached, disciplined, and experienced. Their only two losses were against New Jersey’s #3 ranked St. Peter’s Prep and Tennessee’s #5 ranked The McCallie School.
R8 #1 Jefferson at R1 #1 Cairo
The Syrupmakers are back in the mix again. Cairo has three state titles under its belt and is the top seed in region 1 with a 10-1 record. Only two teams have scored more than two touchdowns on the Syrupmakers defense. Jefferson won its last title in 2012 when this current group was in middle school. Their only loss is to Thomson a potential semifinal opponent.
R2 #3 Spalding at R3 #1 Thomson
Playoff veteran Thomson Bulldogs are looking to add to their five state championships. At 11-0, this squad could be more explosive than the 2002 championship team that blew away Thomas County Central 42-27. After losing three in a row, the Jaguars righted the ship and rolled into the playoffs. The play of quarterback Naricuss Driver will be key for Spalding. He will need help to out-quick the speedy Bulldogs.
R4 #1 Peach County at R5 #1 Westminster
Defending state champ Westminster dropped its first two games of the season and then went undefeated the rest of the way. The Wildcats have scored 40+ points in nine games this season including the first two rounds of the playoffs. Running back Zay Malcome is the straw that stirs the drink for the Wildcats. The 5 foot 5-inch senior scored five touchdowns against North Hall. Expect three-time state champion Peach County (11-1) to bring the fight to the Wildcats. The Trojans have reached the playoffs 15 consecutive years (2002-2016). Quarterback Antonio Gilbert and receiver Kearis Jackson will provide the scoring punch for the offense.
R2 #1 Liberty County at R7 #1 Greater Atlanta Christian
The Spartans have come close to winning a state title twice (2014, 2015). They lost to eventual champion Pace in the 2015 AA semifinals a year after finishing as runner-up to Benedictine. The () Spartans have not lost to an opponent in the state and have a win over potential semi-final opponent Westminster. Liberty County dropped its only game to AAAAA Effingham County by a point. The tandem of quarterback Jaalon Frazier and UGA-commit Richard LeCounte will pave the way for the Panthers.
R2 #2 Pierce County at R1 #1 Crisp County
Former Cougar and now head coach Shelton Felton leads undefeated Crisp County to what could be the school’s best season since 1995. Cordele hasn’t had much to cheer about this late in the season since the Cougars reached the Dome against Cedar Shoals in the AAA semifinals. Defensive end Markaviest ” the Big Cat” Bryant anchors the defense in the same way Felton did as a linebacker on the 95 team. The offense will be led by quarterback Patrick “Nino” Felton, wide receivers Brandon Dowdell and TJ Ming, and running back Jammie Robinson. The 2016 edition of the Pierce County Bears is making history as the first team from the school to reach the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. Senior quarterback Stanton Bennett IV and senior running back LaFallen Taylor move the chains for the offense. Bennett is a pass first dual threat that threw for over 3500 yards this season, 37 touchdowns, and only 6 interceptions.
R5 #2 Cedar Grove at R6 #1 Calhoun
Watch for those Saints. Cedar Grove is in the hunt again since falling to Westminster in the 2015 AAA semifinals. Senior quarterback Jelani Woods runs an offense that features a three-headed rushing attack in running backs Tre’ Shaw, Korey Hernandez, and Grant Walker. They run behind UGA commits 340-pound linemen Justin Shaffer and Netori Johnson. If Cedar Grove manages to make it to the finals, they could face their nemesis Westminster who already bested the Saints earlier this year 42-21. On the other side of the football, is Calhoun who was 6 points shy last season of consecutive trips to the AAA finals. The Yellow Jackets have three state titles, the last two coming in 2011 and 2014. Baylon Spector runs the show now that Kaelen Riley has moved on to the collegiate level. Neither of the two teams that inflicted losses on Calhoun are looming in the other brackets.
R5 #1 Callaway at R4 #1 Screven County
It has been 14 years since the Gamecocks last hoisted a championship trophy. Head coach Ron Duncan has put together a team that has gone 31-5 over the past three seasons. But the playoffs haven’t been kind to Screven County who haven’t been able to get beyond the second round the past three years. The Gamecocks have one loss this season but it came from out of state opponent Bluffton HS, South Carolina in the Erk Russell Classic. Junior quarterback Armani Bunbury has thrown for 1253 yards, 17 touchdowns. Half of Bunbury’s passing yards can be attributed to junior wide receiver Tyquan Johnson. Callaway is searching for its first state title with a flashlight in the daytime. The Cavaliers are the forgotten third wheel in Troupe County football lore. This season they went undefeated with demonstrative wins over every opponent. Their last appearance in the playoffs ended in a second round defeat to Sandy Creek. Senior defensive end Keegan Woods anchors the defense.
R7 #1 Pepperell at R2 #1 Benedictine
Benedictine takes no prisoners regardless of classification. The Cadets won their first state title two years ago defeating GAC 45-21. At 12-0, Benedictine has wins over AAAA St. Pius and AAAAAA region 2 #1 seed Glynn Academy. Senior running back John Wesley Kennedy, III leads the Cadets ground attack with 842 yards and 13 touchdowns. Backfield-mate junior quarterback Nick Iannone has thrown one interception this season compared to 18 touchdown passes. Benedictine’s defense is one of the best in the state. They held Glynn Academy’s star quarterback Deejay Dallas to 16 yards. In the middle of that defense leading the charge is middle linebacker Chris Harris, Jr. The 230-pounder has 82 tackles this season. Pepperell, the top seed out of region 7, hasn’t made it out of the first round since 2008 when they lost to Fitzgerald. The 9-1-1 Dragons defense has held opponents to less than two touchdowns nine times over the season. Junior Trevor Thomas quarterbacks the Dragons offense.
R8 #1 Rabun County at R1 #1 Fitzgerald
Since 2000 when Robby Pruitt (Coffee County) headed up the Purple Hurricanes, Fitzgerald has been one of the winningest high school teams in the state without a state title in that time span. You would have to go all the way back to 1948 to find a state championship trophy. Over that span, the Purple Hurricanes have only missed winning ten or more games three times and have appeared in the playoffs each year. Fitzgerald has been the best man in 2000 when they lost to Swainsboro and last year when they lost to Pace 42-21.
R7 #3 Chattooga at R6 #1 Hapeville Charter
If there is a Cinderfella in the playoffs it has to be the Hornets of Hapeville Charter. In only their fourth varsity year of football, the team without a practice field is two games away from the Dome. During the summer, the players work out on a small area of grass between the school parking lot, a water equipment supply company, and I-85. One year removed from the tiny school’s first above .500 record, head coach Winston Gordon has the pump primed for a historic run. All three of the Hornets losses were to high classification schools with big time programs (Greater Atlanta Christian, Cartersville, and Pace). The secondary is the strength of the Hornets defense where cornerbacks Christopher Smith and UGA-commit William Poole hold down opposing receivers. The Indians of Chattooga High School made history by reaching the quarterfinals for the first time. Pepperell is the only team still in the playoffs with a win over the Indians. Twins Isaiah and Isaac Foster provide the spark for the offense from their running back and quarterback positions. Isaiah has rushed for 1,504 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season.
Class A Public
#8 Manchester at #1 Macon County
Macon County and Manchester both have championship trophies in their respective trophy cases that were won one year apart. The Bulldogs went 15-0 on their run to the title in 1996. The Blue Devils went 14-1 in theirs. This season the top-seeded Macon County Bulldogs (9-2) have yet to lose to a single-A opponent. They have throttled the competition in the region by 40 points or better including a 54-13 dusting of the Blue Devils. Bulldogs quarterback K’Hari Lane is a beast in the stats and standing on the field. At 6-foot 2 and 220-pounds, Lane is an imposing figure that has thrown for over 3,000 yards, 47 touchdowns and 1 interception. Nicknamed the Red Rifle, Lane is a mobile pass-first quarterback with a bevy of weapons at his disposal like wide receiver Trey Brown (18 TDs) and thousand yard rusher running back Jared Daniels. Linebacker Kentarius Felton keeps opposing offenses in check. Manchester is not without weapons of their own. Tre Gamble and Ashton Bell do most of the heavy lifting. Kalil Brawner returned a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown in a regular season game.
#21 Irwin County at #4 Emanuel County Institute
The ECI Bulldogs won two single-A state titles five years apart (2007 and 2012) after a 77-year drought. Last year, they lost to Irwin County in the semis by four points 15-19. This year they are undefeated and looking for another piece of hardware and some get back on the 7-4 Indians. Both teams feature explosive offenses. Jeremiah Ashley and D.J. Lundy provide the energy out of the backfield for the Indians. Lundy, a freshman, also helps anchor the defense from his middle linebacker position. Ashley, the senior, plays next to Lundy on the outside and sets the edge. ECI is led on offense by 2,000-yard passer quarterback Rhett Gay. Casey Gamble and Zach Carruth are stalwarts for the defense.
#7 Commerce at #2 Clinch County
Winning championships is old hat to six-time winner Clinch County (1988, 1991, 2002, 2004, 2010, 2015). In each of those years, the Panthers were either undefeated or had a single loss on their record. They only have one loss this year (11-1) with most of their victories at a scoring margin greater than three touchdowns. 220-pound sophomore running back/linebacker Trezman Marshall affects the game on both sides of the ball. Jervonta Johnson and Jerrod Jones man the secondary for the Panthers. This is the rubber match for the Panthers and Tigers. Each team has knocked the other out of the playoffs in consecutive years (2014, 2015). Commerce, who won its last state title in 2000, is led by senior running back Cole Chancey and Jefferson transfer quarterback Lane Sorrow on offense.
#6 McIntosh County at #14 Greene County
Fourteenth-ranked Greene County pulled out a wild game against #3 Pelham to reach the quarters. This is the closest they have been since losing to Charlton County in the 2005 semifinals. Senior tailback Devin Wynn is the motor for the Tigers bus. The UGA recruit rushed for 300 yards and six touchdowns against Pelham. McIntosh has rolled all season long except for a loss to bracket-mate Clinch County and Single A private school quarterfinalist Calvary Day. The Buccaneers, like most of the playoff teams, can score in bunches. Junior Major Robinson guides the Bucs offense having thrown for over 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Class A Private
#8 Wesleyan at #1 Eagle’s Landing Christian
Defending champion ELCA is about as dominant a program as can be found. They square off against a Wesleyan squad that is no stranger to knocking off goliaths. In 2008, the Wolves knocked off a heavily favored Emmanuel County Institute team that featured Washaun Ealey one of the state’s top running backs.
#5 Tattnall Square at #4 Calvary Day
Three consecutive quarterfinal appearances have the Trojans chomping at the bit. In order to advance, they must go through the undefeated Calvary Day Cavaliers. The winner gets either ELCA or Wesleyan.
#7 Landmark Christian at #2 Prince Avenue Christian
The War Eagles struggled last week but managed to pull out a win over the Darlington School. Landmark is having one of its best seasons so far at 9-1. It’s been five years since their last appearance in the state championship game. Prince Avenue Christian knocked Landmark out in the semifinals in 2012. The undefeated Wolverines simply crushed every one of their opponents by +21 points except its rivals from Athens Christian who they eeked out a 7-0 win.
#6 Mt. Paran at #3 Fellowship Christian
A couple of years have passed since the Eagles reached the semis. When they did it resulted in a state title. The single loss on the Eagles record is courtesy of Friday’s opponent Fellowship Christian. The undefeated Paladins have rolled over the opponents on their schedule with the exception of Mt. Paran. This is the Paladins first playoffs in the program’s short history.
Joey Logano won the Can-Am 500 in Phoenix on Sunday, securing his place in the Championship battle of four drivers at Homestead.
Phoenix International Raceway hosted the next to final race of the season for the Sprint Cup Series. At stake this year were 2 remaining spots to race for a Championship the following week in Miami.
Jimmy Johnson, and Carl Edwards had already secured their respective places in the final round by virtue of wins.
On Friday, it was Alex Bowman who set the tone for the weekend. Making the most of his opportunity to fill in for Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr, the 23 year old Tucson, AZ native drove the No. 88 Chevrolet to P1 in qualifying. When asked how it felt to win his first career pole at his home track, he responded, “It’s amazing! We weren’t really that strong in practice. I don’t really know where that came from. I just can’t thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports enough.
Joey Logano came into the weekend knowing he needed a strong finish to move on. It took 12 additional laps due to late wrecks, but he was able to manage great restarts and hold on for the win. The victory gave him his first win at the one mile desert oval in the Sprint Cup Series.
It was also the second career Sprint Cup win at PIR for car owner Roger Penske.
Heading into the final race weekend it will be Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Logano, and Busch who get to race for the 2016 NASCAR Championship. Strategies will vary for the four teams as they not only race for a win, but also have to be mindful of the 3 other contenders because the Championship will go to the driver finishing the face in the highest position.
For the first time in 3 years, Kevin Harvick, or Cactus Kevin, as he’s been called, will not race for a Championship. He needed a win to make it to the final four.
Can-Am 500 weekend photos:
Big plays. That was the narrative as Utah handed ASU its fourth loss in a row 49-26.
It was senior night at Sun Devil Stadium and the Sun Devils had nearly two weeks to prepare for the match-up against the number 15 ranked Utes.
Coming off a much needed bye week, ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins was finally healthy enough to return to the starting lineup after battling ankle and shoulder injuries. The sophomore QB has a much better grasp of Coach Todd Graham’s system than does Freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole.
The Sun Devils controlled what was an ugly 1st quarter for both teams. They jumped out to an early 13-0 lead and had the 48,000 “blacked out” Sun Devil faithful rocking in the stands.
However, after the sluggish start, Utah quarterback Troy Williams found his groove. And despite ASU having one of the most aggressive defenses in the PAC-12, the Utah offense started to impose its will in the second quarter.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham dialed up the big plays early in the period and Williams connected with Raelon Singleton for a 64-yard touchdown to cut into the Arizona State lead. After ASU regained the advantage, Williams would also guide an 82-yard scoring drive putting his team up 21-20 at halftime.
Coach Graham’s defensive unit played well at times, but had fundamental lapses that led to long sustained drives for the Utes throughout the game.
Defensively, the Utes took advantage ASU’s depleted offensive line, recording 11 sacks, and 22 tackles for a loss.
To cap things off, Utah’s Joe Williams scored late in the fourth quarter on a 40 yard rushing play to push the lead to 49-26.
Coach Graham was obviously emotional after the defeat. “I am just really disappointed, especially for our seniors,” he said. “It was their last game here, and we just self-destructed.”
ASU had dominated this series at home. The win was the first since the mid 1970’s for the squad from Salt Lake City.