Friday Night football: Creekview free safety Cale Williams (8) forces Harrison running back James Ziglor III (1) out of bounds at the endzone early in the first half of Friday's game at Harrison. (Daniel Varnado/Special)

Class AAAAAA blog: Lee Co., Stephenson win titles; playoff field set

Two region championships and the eight remaining unclaimed playoff berths in Class AAAAAA were secured on a last Friday night of the high school football regular season that went mostly as expected. 

- Two-time defending state champion Lee County clinched its third consecutive Region 1 title by beating Coffee 35-17. Coffee could have claimed the region title with a victory (it would have won the tiebreaker in a resulting three-way tie with Lee County and Valdosta) but settled for the No. 3 seed. Another Region 1 game of note was Houston County’s 21-16 victory over Northside-Warner Robins that put the Bears in the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Northside finished 3-7, its worst record since 1991, which is also the last time the Eagles failed to make the playoffs. Northside was the state runner-up last year despite a 5-5 regular-season record. 

- Stephenson got a 12-yard touchdown run from Deondre Jackson with 10 seconds remaining to beat Tucker 13-7 and claim the Region 4 title for the second consecutive season. Tucker had tied the game 7-7 about five minutes earlier when it recovered a blocked punt in the end zone. Tucker, which would have been the region champion with a victory, fell into a tie with Morrow for second place but took the No. 3 seed because it lost to the Mustangs 19-14 on Oct. 11. Tucker will open the playoffs at Region 2 runner-up Glynn Academy, its first road game in the first round of the playoffs since 2012. Stephenson will be at home against Bradwell Institute. 

- Eighth-ranked Lanier avoided what would have been the biggest upset of the night when it rallied for a 41-38 victory over Gainesville in the game that decided the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in Region 8. Lanier had been projected as an 11-point favorite by the computer Maxwell Ratings. Tyler Washington scored the game-winner on a 74-yard pass from Andrew Blackford with 1:23 remaining. “That’s the most anxious I’ve ever been with the ball in the air,” Washington told Alan Cole for the Gwinnett Daily Post. “I was thinking, 'Oh man, I hope I don’t drop this.’” Washington finished with 226 yards receiving and touchdowns of 80, 46 and 74 yards. A loss would have been costly, as it would’ve sent the Longhorns to No. 7 Allatoona for its first-round playoff game. Instead, Lanier will be at home to face Sprayberry. 

High School Sports

- Twenty-four Class AAAAAA teams had clinched playoff berths heading into Friday night’s games. The eight teams claiming the final spots were Houston County (Region 1 No. 4), Heritage-Conyers (Region 3 No. 2), Greenbrier (Region 3 No. 4), Morrow (Region 4 No. 2), Alexander (Region 5 No. 4), Sprayberry (Region 6 No. 3), Dalton (Region 6 No. 4) and North Atlanta (Region 7 No. 3). Surprisingly, none of the regions had three-way ties for any of the playoff spots, meaning that no tiebreakers had to go any further than head-to-head results. 

- In all, 12 teams made the playoffs that didn’t reach the postseason last year. None has had a longer wait to get back than North Atlanta. The Warriors beat Chattahoochee 42-35 Friday to clinch the No. 3 seed in Region 7 and will play in the postseason for the first time since 1996. Morrow had waited almost as long. The Mustangs beat M.L. King on Friday to earn the No. 2 seed from Region 4 and will make their first trip to the playoffs since 1998. Other teams that missed the playoffs in 2018 but made it back this year (along with the year of their last playoff appearance) are Sprayberry (2011) M.L. King (2013), Houston County (2015), Northview (2015), South Paulding (2015), Alexander (2017), Brunswick (2017), Dalton (2017) Heritage (2017) and Winder-Barrow (2017). 

- According to the GHSA Web site late Friday night, here are the first-round matchups: 

(R8 #3) Gainesville at (R6 #2) Allatoona 

(R2 #4) Bradwell Institute at (R4 #1) Stephenson 

(R1 #3) Coffee at (R3 #2) Heritage-Conyers 

(R7 #4) Northview at (R5 #1) Mays 

(R6 #3) Sprayberry at (R8 #2) Lanier 

(R4 #4) M.L. King at (R2 #1) Richmond Hill 

(R3 #3) Lakeside-Evans at (R1 #2) Valdosta 

(R5 #4) Alexander at (R7 #1) Johns Creek 

(R4 #3) Tucker at (R2 #2) Glynn Academy 

(R6 #4) Dalton at (R8 #1) Dacula 

(R5 #3) Creekside at (R7 #2) Alpharetta 

(R3 #4) Greenbrier at (R1 #1) Lee County 

(R2 #3) Brunswick at (R4 #2) Morrow 

(R8 #4) Winder-Barrow at (R6 #1) Harrison 

(R7 #3) North Atlanta at (R5 #2) South Paulding 

(R1 #4) Houston County at (R3 #1) Evans

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