AA blog: Pace Academy pulls another upset; top four teams set for quarterfinal showdowns

And, as predicted, things got unpredictable in the second round. Four lower-seeded teams won Friday night, including No. 4 seed Pace Academy outgunning Jefferson County, 57-50 in perhaps the most surprising – and thrilling – outcome of night.

But first off, how about Lovett?

I don’t know if I got swept up in Macon County’s end-of-season momentum or if I just wasn’t giving enough credit to coach Mike Muschamp and the defending state champs, but the Lions made a big, loud statement with a 42-8 win over the Bulldogs on Friday.

That Lovett won isn’t surprising. The Lions are their typical hard-nosed, well-disciplined selves with a true gamer at quarterback in Willie Candler. That they won by such a wide margin over a team as talented as Macon County? Can’t say I expected that.

Candler and running back Jay Harris each had a pair of touchdown runs in the win, as the Lions led 21-0 at halftime and 42-0 before Macon County got on the board.

Lovett has now scored 98 points in its two playoff wins and heads into a big showdown with Benedictine playing perhaps its best football of the season.

Full, updated bracket available here.

Keeping the Pace

Talking with Pace Academy coach Chris Slade earlier this week, it was clear he's not surprised by his team's late-season run. He was calling for a playoff bid back when the Knights were sitting at 2-5, so a first round win last week didn't come as a shock to the Pace Academy contingent.

Whether or not he expected a trip to the quarterfinals, I can’t say. But I feel pretty sure not many others around the state saw this coming.

The Knights and Jefferson County exchanged three touchdowns in the final minute Friday night, with Pace Academy's Kevin Johnson supplying the game-winner on a 25-yard pass to Deon Jackson with seven seconds remaining. Johnson threw for 396 yards with five TD passes and one touchdown run. That makes nine touchdown passes and two more scoring runs in the playoffs for the four-year starter.

The Knights have now recorded a season-high point total in back-to-back weeks, defeating Region 5-AAA champ Bowdon 49-28 last Friday for the first playoff win in program history.

It only gets tougher next week, which is expected this time of year. The Knights will travel to Fitzgerald to face a Purple Hurricanes team that defeated Model 48-14 on Friday and has scored at least 42 points in six straight games.

Heard County back in quarterfinals

Duranta Dunson ran for over 150 yards and was backed up by a stout effort from the Heard County defense Friday night, as the Braves defeated Region 3-AA champ Screven County 28-6.

The point total was a season-low for the Gamecocks, who had just 97 yards of total offense, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Heard County, which started the season 1-4 and last made the quarterfinals in 1990, will host Brooks County next week.

Showdowns set

No. 3 Lovett at No. 4 Benedictine

No. 2 Vidalia at No. 1 GAC

A week before the semifinals, the teams who finished the regular season occupying the top four spots in the AA rankings will square off.

Benedictine dispatched of Rabun County 42-9 on Friday, and for the second week in a row, it was the Cadets' running game that did the heavy lifting, led by 214 yards on 14 carries from sophomore John Kennedy.

GAC got a scare for a half against Lamar County before pulling away in the second half for a 48-20 win, while Vidalia won 45-14 over Coosa behind a big night from sophomore RB/LB Nate McBride.

Friday’s scores

Heard County 28, Screven County 6

Brooks County 21, Washington-Wilkes 14

Lovett 42, Macon County 8

Benedictine 42, Rabun County 9

GAC 48, Lamar County 20

Vidalia 45, Coosa 14

Pace Academy 57, Jefferson County 50

Fitzgerald 48, Model 14

Next week’s games

Brooks County at Heard County

Lovett at Benedictine

Vidalia at GAC

Pace Academy at Fitzgerald

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And my bracket is starting to bleed...

ajc.com

Credit: Brent Holloway

Credit: Brent Holloway