Class AA blog: What to watch in Week 9

Pepperell Dragons at Rockmart Yellow Jackets*

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, The Rock, Rockmart

Records, rankings: Pepperell is 5-1 overall, 3-0 in Region 7 and unranked; Rockmart is 6-0, 3-0 and No. 1.

Last meeting: Rockmart won 40-10 in 2018.

Maxwell's projection: Rockmart by 28

Notes: These are the only teams without a loss in the region. Pepperell won the region title in 2016. Rockmart has won the past two and can win a third straight for the first time since 1954-57. There are no other opponents with winning records on Rockmart's schedule. Rockmart dominated Pepperell in the most recent matchup, leading 34-0 at halftime. Pepperell has improved its defense. It is allowing 9.5 points per game, fifth-fewest in AA. Defensive end Tyler Loggins (nine sacks, seven other tackles for losses) and free safety Josh Ross (38 solo tackles) lead a senior-dominated unit. The top rusher is a freshman, D.J. Rogers (416 yards). Payton Rhoades (429 yards receiving, five touchdowns) is the team's primary offensive threat. Rockmart's top playmakers are quarterback Javin Whatley (762 yards rushing with 16 touchdowns, 844 passing with seven touchdowns) and preseason all-state receiver Juke Boozer (343 yards receiving). Rockmart ranks third in scoring offense (44.6) and fourth in scoring defense (8.7).

*Courtesy of GHSF Daily

Allatoona Buccaneers vs. Hapeville Charter Hornets

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, The Doghouse (Tri-Cities), East Point

Records, rankings: Allatoona is 4-2 and ranked No. 7 in AAAAAA; Hapeville Charter is 5-1 and No. 2 in AA.

Last meeting: Allatoona won 23-14 in 2018.

Maxwell's projection: Allatoona by 1

Notes: In last year's thriller, the Bucs snapped the Hornets' 19-game win streak, which included the 2017 AA title, by scoring 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for a come-from-behind win at home. This year's matchup —which serves as a home game for the Hornets — could be another close one. The Hornets are on a tear after losing their season opener to the AAA defending state champion Cedar Grove Saints, 26-16. Since then, they've won five in a row and have outscored defending AA champions Heard County and region opponents Therrell, McNair, Douglass and South Atlanta by a combined 261-26. That includes a program record in points scored when they beat McNair 71-0 on Sept. 27. The Hornets are loaded with three four-star recruits in senior receiver and South Carolina commit Rico Powers, junior receiver Jaquez Smith (19 offers including Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Georgia) and junior defensive end Zavier Carter (Alabama, Georgia, Miami, Notre Dame, etc.). Senior three-star defensive back Armani Maddox (Kentucky, Maryland, Syracuse) and senior quarterback Jeremy Stephens (Alabama State, Tennessee-Chattanooga) also hold offers. Allatoona is led by quarterback Dante Marshall and receiver Asante Das, both seniors. Three Bucs seniors — linebacker Calvin Rucker, defensive end Eric Carty and running back Alex Wilson — hold offers from Mississippi Valley State.

Thomasville Bulldogs at Fitzgerald Purple Hurricane

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jaycee Stadium, Fitzgerald

Records, rankings: Thomasville is 3-4, 1-0 in 1-AA and unranked; Fitzgerald is 6-1, 1-0 and No. 7.

Last meeting: Fitzgerald won 36-21 win 2018.

Maxwell's projection: Fitzgerald by 10

Notes: After losing the country's No. 1 pro-style quarterback for the class of '22, Chad Mascoe — who transferred to national power IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) — and starting 0-3, this looked to be a Bulldogs program building for the future. However, they flipped the script on their season last week with a stunning 31-20 win over then-No. 8 Brooks County in Thomasville. With a win over the Purple Hurricane, the Bulldogs would be in the driver's seat for their second region title in three seasons. They are led by junior quarterback Ronnie Baker, who has thrown for 1,125 yards and six touchdowns to six interceptions on 100-for-185 passing, and run for 344 yards and three scores on 47 carries. Freshman Ricky Fulton leads the team with 384 yards and five touchdowns on 81 carries, and sophomore Malik Harper has 269 yards and two scores on 69 carries. Junior Ricardo Johnson has 461 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 32 catches, and senior Kevin Cochran has 282 yards and three touchdowns on 29 catches. Senior tight end Payten Singletary has eight offers including Cincinnati, East Carolina and Georgia State, and offensive lineman Grant Conger is a three-star recruit with offers from Cincinnati, Florida Atlantic and Marshall. Sophomore linebacker Ty Anderson anchors the defense with 66 tackles — twice as many as the next defender — and two sacks. The Purple Hurricane's lone loss was to A-Public's No. 2 Irwin County by a score of 35-8 on Aug. 30. They're seeking their first region title since 2016.

Dodge County Indians at Washington County Golden Hawks

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, House of Pain, Sandersville

Records, rankings: Dodge County is 3-4, 2-1 in 3-AA and unranked; Washington County is 4-2, 1-1 and No. 9.

Last meeting: Dodge County won 20-6 in 2018.

Maxwell's projection: Washington County by 4

Notes: Last year's game was moved to a Monday following the effects of Hurricane Michael, and the Indians came out firing, building a 17-0 lead and coasting to victory for back-to-back wins in the series. The Indians lead the all-time series 6-5-1, with the Golden Hawks' last win coming in 2016, which capped a three-game win streak in the series. The Indians are coming off a 35-6 loss to Dublin after winning their first two league games over Southwest and Northeast. The Indians are led by junior running back Daylon Gordon, who has 853 yards and eight touchdowns on 112 carries and holds an offer from Western Kentucky. Junior receiver Mikhail Carr has 343 yards and six touchdowns on 14 catches. Senior Eli Williams leads the defense with 71 tackles — 12 for loss — and senior Jamal Mahan has 3.5 sacks. Senior Nathan Coley has four interceptions. Junior two-way starter Keldrick Beck has three interceptions and a team-high 15 receptions with 211 yards and three scores. The Golden Hawks are looking to rebound from a 21-18 loss last week to Bleckley County. They are led by senior running back Shamarcus Poole, who holds interest from Army.

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