There’s one week left in the regular season before Class AAA field will be trimmed for the state playoffs.
Crisp, Cedar Grove, North Murray, Greater Atlanta Christian and Jefferson have earned No. 1 seeds for the state playoffs, which begin the following Friday and Saturday and continue until the title game Dec. 14 at 1 p.m. at Georgia State Stadium in Atlanta.
So let’s look again at the status of the three undecided regions, then peek at the playoff bracket’s quadrants and speculate on noteworthy matchups:
Region 2: No. 3 Pierce County will play an unranked Liberty County team for the region title. I reported in my last blog that the Region 3 tie-breaker would be head-to-head which was incorrect. The tie-breaker would come be success vs. out-of-region opponents and if Liberty wins, it’s the champion. The No. 1 seed from 2-AAA will join Greater Atlanta Christian, 7-AAA’s No. 1-seed, in the bottom-left quadrant of the playoff bracket.
Region 3: Jenkins and Benedictine are at the top of the region with 7-0 records, and the winner of Friday’s game will carry the No. 1 seed into the playoffs. The No. 1 seed from the Savannah region will face the "at large" team in the bottom-right quadrant in the first round.
Region 4: Top-ranked Peach County and Westside-Macon will meet Friday to determine the 4-AAA champion. To avoid a tie-breaker scenario, Peach County must win. If Westside pulls the upset, three teams – Westside, Peach and Jackson – will be tied at the top. Region 4’s No. 1 seed will join No. 2 Cedar Grove, the 5-AAA No. 1 seed, in the top-left quadrant.
Assuming it carries the No. 1 seed from 3-AAA, Peach and No. 2 Cedar Grove are the clear favorites in this quadrant. As pointed out earlier, the 6-AAA No. 2 seed -- likely Calhoun -- also joins the group. Much can be said about Peach possibly facing Calhoun in the second round before playing Cedar Grove in the quarterfinals. That would set up a replay of the last two state championship games in back-to-back weeks, and it would eliminate at least one of the best teams in the class after three rounds.
No. 4 Greater Atlanta Christian is the decided No. 1 seed in this quadrant, and the Spartans will face the No. 4 seed from Region 5, likely Pace Academy, in the first round. The 2-AAA No. 1 seed will be decided this week between Liberty County and Pierce County.
No. 5 Crisp County and No. 7 Jefferson are the No. 1 seeds in this quadrant, and both are favorites to make quarterfinal appearances. But 7-AAA No. 2 Dawson County vs. Crisp and 2-AAA No. 2 Liberty/Appling vs. Jefferson could cause trouble in the second round. If there’s an upset to be had in this quadrant, it’s likely to come from either of these potential second-round matchups.
No. 10 North Murray is the 6-AAA No. 1 seed and the Jenkins-Benedictine winner will be the 3-AAA No. 1. Both are on track to make the quarters. But if there’s a "bracket buster" in this quadrant, it could come from the 5-AAA No. 2 seed, which will be decided Friday when No. 6 Lovett plays Westminster. Assuming one of those teams advance in the first round, it will play Jenkins or Benedictine, which could provide your second-round upset.
Notable: The last time the AAA state championship was won by anything other than a No. 1 seed was in 2016-17 when Cedar Grove, the 5-AAA No. 2, beat Greater Atlanta Christian in the title game. In 2015-16, Westminster defeated Blessed Trinity 38-31 as the No. 3 seed from Region 5 to take the championship.
Class AAA Top 10
1. Peach County (8-1)
2. Cedar Grove (7-2)
3. Pierce County (9-0)
4. Greater Atlanta Christian (8-1)
5. Crisp County (7-3)
6. Lovett (7-2)
7. Jefferson (8-1)
8. Appling County (7-2)
9. Jenkins (8-1)
10. North Murray (8-1)
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