Class AAA blog: Three region champions will emerge in regular season’s final week

Three Class AAA region champions will be crowned Friday during the final weekend of the regular season.

Regions 2, 3 and 4 have yet to be clinched, and three games – No. 1 Peach County vs. Westside-Macon, No. 3 Pierce County at Liberty County and No. 9 Jenkins vs. Benedictine – are the focus of the weekend.

Top-ranked Peach County is 5-0 in region play and can lose to Westside (4-1 in 4-AAA) and still win the region title if Peach scores more than 47 points. That's part of the region tiebreaker, according to Westside coach Sheddrick "Spoon’" Risper.

But the Trojans are the favorite. Peach last lost to Westside in 2006 and 2007 before winning seven consecutive games, including a 28-12 victory last season. Peach has 17 region titles and is trying for its fourth in a row. Since 2009, the Trojans have won seven titles, and since 2003, it has won 11. Westside, which has three region championships, is trying for its first since winning the 2-AAAA title in 2012.

The Trojans feature a balanced offense, averaging 187 rushing and 163 receiving yards. Through eight games, quarterback Jaydon Gibson passed for 1,465 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 259 yards and five touchdowns. Noah Whittington is the feature back who has run for 414 yards and 12 touchdowns through eight games. Since entering region play, Peach is outscoring opponents 296-48 with two shutouts – Pike County 38-0 and Rutland 75-0. It beat Jackson 49-14 last week.

The Seminoles are coming off a 41-14 victory against Pike County last week, and since entering region play, it has lost one game -- 34-31 to Jackson on Oct. 11. Westside averages 248 receiving and 126 rushing yards. Quarterback Victor Dixon Jr. is 153-of-232 passing for 2,175 yards and 25 touchdowns with five interceptions. He also leads in rushing touchdowns with eight on 84 carries for 230 yards. Junior Vansean Jackson has 99 carries for 575 yards and six touchdowns. Senior Jaylon Barden has caught 14 touchdown passes. Barden has 55 catches for 1,094 yards for an average of 121.6 receiving yards. Junior Quamae Adkins has 30 catches for 380 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Marquis Thomas has 37 catches for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Jehlen Cannady has 14 receptions for 233 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Takendre Coats has 13 receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns. 

Region 2: When Liberty County plays at home against No. 3 Pierce County on Friday, it has a shot at its third region title since winning back-to-back championships in 2016-17. Pierce County has four region titles – 1995, 2011, 2012 and last season. The teams have met five times, and Pierce holds a 3-2 advantage, including a 29-26 victory last season. Liberty beat Pierce in 2016, 56-46, and 2017, 41-14. The Bears are coming off a 23-14 victory against No. 9 Appling County, and Liberty is riding momentum from a 51-16 victory against Brantley County.

Pierce favors the run, averaging 219 rushing yards and 115 passing yards. Junior quarterback Jermaine Brewton is 60-of-98 passing for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns with three interceptions. Sophomore Luke Bennett has nine catches for 225 yards and four touchdowns. D.J. Bell has 10 catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns. Quavien Bell and Deon Bell each have one touchdown catch.

L.J. Newton, a junior, is the workhorse of the Pierce County Bears running game with 95 carries for 738 yards and 10 touchdowns. Brewton hsd 74 carries for 339 yards and four touchdowns. Quavien Bell has 40 carries for 339 yards and five touchdowns. Danarius Johnson has 24 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Bennett has 23 carries for 132 yards and four touchdowns. Deon and D.J. Bell each have two rushing touchdowns. Trevor Thoele, Haden Smith and Luke Echols each have one rushing touchdown.

Liberty County relies on a steady running game, averaging 271 rushing yards and 143 receiving yards. Senior Markel Johnson leads the running game with 96 carries for 658 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sophomore Marques Johnson has 26 carries for 264 yards and four touchdowns. Senior quarterback Dionte Bowens has 42 carries for 362 yards and three touchdowns. Senior L.D. Mack has three carries for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Nicholas Bennett and Daniel Robinson each have one rushing touchdown.

Bowens is 52-of-95 passing for 997 yards and 15 touchdowns, with two interceptions. He has passed to six players for touchdowns, and Mack leads with 11 catches for 285 yards and six touchdowns. Senior Anthony Parker has 12 catches for 213 yards and three touchdowns. Bennett has 15 catches for 227 yards and three touchdowns. Meon McLeod, Marques Johnson and Markel Johnson each have one touchdown catch.

Region 3: Jenkins and Benedictine have met 52 times -- the first meeting in 1957 -- and Benedictine owns a 42-10 margin in the series. Both programs are 7-0 in the region this season. Benedictine won last year’s game 21-7 in the first meeting since 2011. Jenkins is coming off a 63-0 victory against Groves; the Cadets defeated Beach 50-43 last week. Jenkins has three region titles – 1966, 2016 and 2017. Benedictine, which rejoined Class AAA after the 2017 season, has 12 region titles, including four consecutive from 2015-2018. The Cadets won state championships in 2014 and 2016 in Class AA.

Jenkins averages more rushing it does passing -- 208 rushing and 129 receiving. Junior quarterback Patrick Blake is 74-of-121 passing for 1,123 yards and 15 touchdowns with two interceptions. Senior Kyree McLean has 16 catches for 311 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior Ronald Cooper III has eight catches for 135 yards and three touchdowns. Seniors Darius Bush and Kian Gary each have two touchdown receptions. Juniors Rayqwon Allen and Jameal Smith each have one touchdown reception.

Jenkins is led by Junior Damozzio Harris, who has 102 carries for 1,047 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. Senior Donavin Hall has 32 carries for 263 yards and five touchdowns. Five players have one rushing touchdown.

Benedictine favors the run, averaging 216 rushing and 138 receiving yards. Sophomore quarterback Holden Geriner is 89-of-177 passing for 1,155 yards and 12 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Eight players have rushed for touchdowns for the Cadets, and four players – James Epps, Kejuan Macon, Leshon Brooks Jr. and Justin Thomas – combine for 29 of the 34 rushing touchdowns. Epps has 58 carries for 402 yards and nine touchdowns. Mack has 35 carries for 342 yards and seven touchdowns. Brooks Jr. has 83 carries for 646 yards and seven touchdowns. Thomas has 42 carries for 287 yards and six touchdowns. Geriner has rushed 14 times for 26 yards and two touchdowns. Clark McKinney Jr., Kameron Edge and Jordan Bean each have one rushing touchdown.

The receivers are led by senior Gavin Stewart, younger brother of former Georgia Tech receiver Brad Stewart. He has 20 catches for 382 yards and seven touchdowns. Junior Trent Broadnax has 38 catches for 495 yards with four touchdowns. Epps, Brooks Jr., Thomas and Mack each have one touchdown reception.

Class AAA Top-10 schedule

1. Peach County (8-1, 5-0) faces Westside-Macon in the Region 4 championship game*.

2. Cedar Grove (7-2, 5-0) faces Stone Mountain in a Region 5 game.

3. Pierce County (9-0, 4-0) travels to Liberty County for the Region 2 championship game*.

4. Greater Atlanta Christian (8-1, 5-0) travels to Fannin County in Region 7 game

5. Crisp County (7-3, 3-0) off. Will host the Region 3 No. 4 seed in the first round of the playoffs next week.

6. Lovett (7-2, 4-1) hosts Westminster in a Region 5 game to determine the No. 2/3 seeds from the region.

7. Jefferson (8-1, 6-0) off. Will face the Region 6 No. 4 seed in the first round of the playoffs next week.

8. Appling County (7-2, 3-1) hosts Tattnall County in a Region 2 game.

9. Jenkins (8-1, 7-0) vs. Benedictine for the Region 3 championship game*.

10. North Murray (8-1, 7-0) hosts Sonoraville in a Region 6 game.

* - Region Championship games.

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