Two public vs. private match ups are weekend's best

Here is a look at some of the top games this weekend, including two big time public vs private matchups:

No. 8 (Public) Bowdon (3-1, 1-0 in Region 6, Div. A) at No. 6 (Private) Darlington (3-1, 1-0).  (Preview courtesy of Georgia High School Football Daily.) This game will be a measure of the relative strengths of public and private schools in Class A. Both are ranked No. 6 in the computer Maxwell Ratings. Maxwell rates the private school as being stronger at each corresponding spot in the top 10 by an average of about 4.5 points. This is the first time these two have played when both were ranked by the AJC. Darlington has won five straight in a series that it leads 11-7. Darlington passes only about eight times per game. The offense is built around RB Tijai Whatley, who has rushed for 592 yards and eight touchdowns on 72 carries. Another key player is RB/CB Elijah McCoy, who has 403 all-purpose yards and three interceptions. Bowdon's lone loss was against Class AAAA Troup 28-27. Bowdon averages 189.5 yards rushing and 91.0 passing per game. Aaron Beasley has rushed for a team-leading 475 yards. Tay Sheppard, who ran for 1,400 yards last season, has 208 yards rushing and 175 receiving on just 30 touches. Cason Parmer and Dylan Raymond split time at quarterback. Darlington won the last meeting, 18-7 last season.

No. 6 (Public) Lincoln County (2-0-1) at No. 7 (Private) Stratford Academy (2-1). (Preview courtesy of Georgia High School Football Daily) Lincoln County (No. 6) is the highest-rated public school in Region 7, and Stratford Academy (No. 7) is the highest-rated private school, so this could be a preview of the region championship game. Lincoln County has won 33 region titles in its history, most recently in 2012. Stratford Academy has not won a region title since moving from the GISA in 2014. Lincoln County's defense has been outstanding, allowing just 132.7 yards and 4.7 points per game. The Red Devils' offense is led by QB Javon Reid, who has rushed for 182 yards and three TDs on 39 carries and is 14-for-29 passing for 179 yards. Quay Hartfield is the leading rusher with 186 yards and three TDs on 20 carries. Both went over 100 yards against McCormick, S.C., in the opener. Stratford Academy runs the ball about 90 percent of the time, sharing the workload among a number of backs. Kasey Sanders (28), Ames Jamison (19) and Carter Griffin (19) have the most carries, but nobody has a 100-yard game. QB Noah Hill attempts less than five passes per game. Lincoln County won the last meeting, 21-20 in 2014.

Mount Vernon Presbyterian (4-0, 1-0 in Region 5) at No. 3 (Private) Landmark Christian (4-0, 1-0). This is the first big test for MVP, off to its best start in school history. Though undefeated, the combined record of the Mustangs' first four opponents is 1-15. But MVP has more talent than in past seasons, specifically seniors Marquez Bembry and Ahmir Lee, both of whom are Division I prospects. In fact, Bembry, one of the top two-way players in the region, has committed to Tennessee. Meanwhile, Landmark is Landmark. The War Eagles are one of the front runners to dethrone Eagle's Landing Christian Academy for the region crown, which they have won for six consecutive seasons. Landmark last won the region championship in 2007. As usual, the War Eagles rely on a tough disciplined defense and a power running game on offense. Both are led this season by senior RB/LB Lofton Tidwell, a pre-season all-state selection. Though MVP has closed the gap in each of the previous four games against Landmark, the War Eagles have still dominated in the series, winning all four by a combined score of 222-70, including 28-30 last season.

No. 7 (Public) Manchester (4-0. 1-0 in Region 4, Division A) at No. 10 (Public) Marion County (3-1, 1-0). Even though these schools are in the Columbus area, they have only faced each other twice previously. Manchester won both games, 33-0 in 2006 and 22-15 in 2007. But this was before Mike Swaney changed the fortunes of the Marion County program when he took over in 2010. Swaney is gone (retired) but the Eagles have continued to soar. Prior to last week's disappointing loss to Class AA Lamar County (27-0), Marion County had outscored its first three opponents by a combined score of 131-28. Manchester, which dropped down from Class AA, has steamrolled its first four opponents by a combined score of 149-30. Both teams get it done mostly on the ground. The Blue Devils are led by the Gamble brothers, Tre and Denizio, who combined for 190 yards rushing and three touchdowns last week in a 28-12 win over Class AA Jordan. Marion is paced by Travon Matthews, who had 94 yards rushing on 18 carries in the loss to Lamar.

Other games of note:

No. 1 (Public) Commerce (3-0, 2-0 in Region 8) at Athens Christian (1-2, 2-0)

Turner County (2-2, 1-0 in Region 2) at Charlton County (1-2, 1-0)

Irwin County (1-3, 0-1 in Region 2) at Telfair County (1-2, 0-1)