The Georgia high school football playoffs are down to 64 teams playing for eight state championships. Here’s a primer on the best teams, players and games in the quarterfinals.
Newcomers: Madison County, North Murray and Hebron Christian are in the quarters for the first time in history. Madison County had never won a state playoff game until this season, and now the Raiders have won two.
Regulars: Buford has reached the quarterfinals for a state-record 20th straight time. Others with streaks of five seasons or longer are Eagle’s Landing Christian (10), Blessed Trinity (seven), Irwin County (seven), Cedar Grove (five), Clinch County (five) and Rabun County (five).
Missing: Calhoun had reached the quarters 11 straight times, Colquitt 10 straight and Prince Avenue eight straight. All three were beaten last week. Also eliminated were 2018 state champion Milton of Class AAAAAAA and No. 1-ranked Rockmart of AA.
Teams to beat: Rockmart’s exit with a stunning 41-3 loss to Brooks County makes AA even more wide open. The other No. 1 teams remain – Lowndes (AAAAAAA), Dacula (AAAAAA), Carrollton (AAAAA), Cartersville (AAAA), Peach County (AAA), Athens Academy (A private) and Irwin County (A public). Dacula and Athens Academy have never won state titles.
Top players: Five of the AJC’s Super 11 are still playing. They are Sergio Allen of Peach County, Will Anderson of Dutchtown, Harrison Bailey and Arik Gilbert of Marietta and Tank Bigsby of Callaway. Half of the consensus top 40 senior prospects remain active.
Cinderellas: Madison County entered the AAAA playoffs with a 4-6 record and no previous state-playoff victories in its 62 seasons of varsity football. After two road wins, the Red Raiders are now headed to No. 5 Sandy Creek. ... Mount Paran Christian, a Class A private-school team, beat 32-point favorite Darlington 16-13 last week after beating eight-point favorite Aquinas 29-27 the week before. The Eagles are playing at No. 2-ranked Holy Innocents’, a 39-point favorite. ... Douglass won a road playoff game last week for the first time since 1975 and reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 1995, when future NFL star Jamal Lewis was an Astro. Douglass is at No. 3 Callaway in AA. ... Warren County, the GHSA’s fourth-smallest football-playing school with 159 students, has won consecutive road games, one against eighth-ranked Bowdon. The Screaming Devils now face defending Class A public champion Clinch County.
Best quarterfinal game: No. 1 Peach County faces No. 2 Cedar Grove on the road in a rematch of the 2018 Class AAA championship game won by Cedar Grove 14-13 on a fourth-down TD pass in the final seconds. Peach County is a one-point favorite, according to the computer Maxwell ratings.
Other top games: No. 2 Woodward Academy plays at No. 1 Cartersville in AAAA. Each has Division I-committed quarterbacks – Woodward’s Mike Wright (Central Florida) and Cartersville’s Tee Webb (Louisville). ... Defending AAAAAA champion Lee County is home to No. 1-ranked Dacula. Lee has won 12 straight playoff games. ....Four-time defending champ ELCA is on the road to No. 1-ranked Athens Academy in a rematch of the past two Class A private-school title games, each won by ELCA. ELCA got here with a riveting 62-57 victory over Prince Avenue Christian last week.
Best region: Region 1-AAAAAAA has sent all four of its playoff qualifiers to the quarterfinals for the second straight season. No region has put four teams in the semifinals, but Lee County, Valdosta and Coffee are favored to win again, according to the Maxwell Ratings, while fourth-place Houston County is a 14-point underdog at Harrison. One of this region's teams has won AAAAAA the past three seasons.
Road trip: North Murray of Chatsworth in northwest Georgia is traveling to the coast to face Jenkins at Savannah Memorial Stadium. That’s 346 road miles, according to Google Maps. The next-longest trip Friday is Rabun County’s 328-mile trek to Thomasville. Rabun County High School is closer to Louisville, Ky., than Thomasville. The shortest road trip this week is only 8.9 miles. That’s a game between county rivals Pelham and Mitchell County.
What’s next: As a result of the GHSA’s universal coin toss on Tuesday, the team placed higher on the bracket will be the home team for next week’s semifinals if both teams are equal seeds and meet GHSA seating requirements to host a semifinal. Otherwise, the higher seed plays at home. The finals are Dec. 13-14 at Georgia State.
Maxwell Ratings: Below are the projected margins of victory for each game according to the computer Maxwell Ratings. They are based on the evidence of scores this season.
Lowndes vs Grayson -20
Marietta vs Mill Creek -5
McEachern vs North Gwinnett -2
Parkview vs Archer -11
Coffee at Allatoona -5
Harrison vs Houston County -14
Lee County vs Dacula -3
Valdosta at Richmond Hill -26
Buford at Carrollton -1
Dutchtown at Starr's Mill -10
Jones County vs Griffin -1
Warner Robins vs Clarke Central -18
Blessed Trinity vs West Laurens -7
Cartersville vs Woodward Academy -1
Marist at Oconee County -6
Sandy Creek vs Madison County -31
Greater Atlanta Christian vs Hart County -5
Jefferson at Crisp County -4
Jenkins vs North Murray -5
Peach County at Cedar Grove -1
Brooks County at Metter -12
Callaway vs Douglass -16
Hapeville Charter at Dublin -7
Rabun County at Thomasville -17
Athens Academy vs Eagle's Landing Christian -4
Fellowship Christian vs Hebron Christian -10
Holy Innocents’ vs Mount Paran Christian -39
Wesleyan vs Savannah Christian -16
Clinch County vs Warren County -32
Irwin County vs Manchester -33
Lincoln County at Marion County -4
Mitchell County vs Pelham -6
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