The regular season is history. Ten weeks of play was needed to eliminate 22 teams from competition. The remaining 32 and now assigned to their starting spot and preparing for the march to Mercedes-Benz for the state championship.
Here’s some analysis of the brackets as the Class AAAAA playoffs begin.
Upper left quadrant
Favorite: It’s hard to pick against No. 2-ranked Buford to emerge from this bracket. The Wolves open against a young Miller Grove team and will likely face No. 9 Kell in the second round.
Best first-round game: Bainbridge played a very difficult non-region schedule and is tested and ready. But the Bears will have their hands full at home against No. 8 Jones County, which lost only to No. 4 Dutchtown and No. 6 Stockbridge.
Best player in the bracket: You might not even notice him because Buford scores so many points and your eyes are drawn to the ball. But the Wolves are getting those yards because of the offensive line, which is led by Harry Miller (6-4, 300), who has committed to Ohio State.
Best player you may have never heard of: Bainbridge defensive end Roman Harrison (6-2, 240) is a guy capable of getting after the quarterback and stopping the run. The Tennessee commit has the potential to dominate.
Lower left quadrant
Favorite: This bracket is probably more open than the other three. There are no truly dominant teams among the eight, but rather numerous teams that could fight their way through to the semifinals. No. 7 Southwest DeKalb is the only unbeaten, but the Panthers have staggered down the stretch.
Best first-round game: No. 10 Carrollton visits Riverwood in a game that should keep the scoreboard operator busy. There are likely to be a bunch of points scored in this year.
Second-best first-round game: Veterans has had a breakthrough season under coach Milan Turner, but is walking into a fierce foe in Stockbridge, a team that accustomed to the tough grind and intensity of the playoffs.
Best player in the bracket: The defense at Southwest DeKalb has been first-rate all season. Linebacker Jamel Starks, who is also a key piece of the running game, is a hard-hitting playmaker. He’s currently leaning toward Nebraska.
Best player you may have never heard of: Riverwood running back Reese White has rushed for 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has benefited from being around first-year Raiders coach Robert Edwards, who knows a thing or two about running the ball.
Top right quadrant
Favorite: Two-time defending state champion Rome brings a 3-7game winning streak into the playoffs. The Wolves aren’t likely to work up a sweat until the state quarterfinals.
Best first-round game: None of these games are exactly compelling. The one with the potential to be the closest is Lithonia at Cedar Shoals. It should be a battle between the Cedar Shoals offense, which has produced 125 points over the last three weeks against a Lithonia defense that had been good until it allowed 37 to Arabia Mountain last week.
Best player in the bracket: Rome running back Jamious Griffin has rushed for 2,024 yards, a number that would likely have been twice that many had he played four quarters of each game. Griffin will be the heavy favorite to be the classification’s player of the year if the Wolves can three-peat.
Best player you may have never heard of: The defense has Dutchtown has been one of the state’s best units all season. Inside linebacker Kevon Glenn (6-1, 220) has been a big reason and has been known to sling the school’s ceremonial sledgehammer.
Lower right quadrant
Favorite: Warner Robins remains the team to beat, as the Demons try to return to the state title game. Warner Robins has the most productive offense in this portion of the bracket and opens against Locust Grove, which enjoys playing high scoring games.
Best first-round game: Banneker has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. The Trojans have gone from back-to-back winless seasons to a region championship in four years. Banneker will get a stern test from East Paulding, which has won four straight, owns a victory over No. 9 Kell and gave away a chance to beat No. 10 Carrollton.
Best players in the bracket: Warner Robins quarterback Dylan Fromm and receiver Marcayll Jones make up the best throw-and-catch combo in the state. Fromm has thrown for 3,087 yards and 34 touchdowns and Jones has 72 receptions for 1,494 yards.
Best player you may have never heard of: Clarke Central’s Jonathan Sewell is a dependable, productive running back with good speed and power. Sewell (5-10, 185) is leaning toward staying home to play at Georgia.
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