Upsets are what make high school football interesting. They're also what shape a season. Here are several games that made might've turned heads this year, or shown us the road to come, or made us realize it's not 2017 anymore.
*Milton 21, Archer 19: Archer was full of major Division I prospects and ranked No. 3 in preseason after a 12-1 quarterfinal finish in 2017. Milton was unranked and under the radar, but the Eagles swooped into the top 10 for the first time since 2014 with this victory. No one realized on Aug. 17 that this matchup on the undercard of the Corky Kell Classic featured a couple of future final-four teams in Class AAAAAAA.
*Pelham 41, Macon County 0: Pelham broke a 29-game losing streak against top-10 opponents. Macon County, a Class A public-school quarterfinalist a year ago and ranked No. 5, was projected as a 23-point favorite by the computer Maxwell Ratings. Pelham had lost seven straight in the series, including 41-28 in the 2017 playoffs. Pelham would score 545 points in the regular season alone and finish 12-1 and reach the Class A public-school semifinals, its best season in history.
*Pace Academy 17, Eagle's Landing Christian 16: ELCA's 37-game winning streak, tied for the eighth-longest in state history, was ended by a Pace Academy team that was projected as a 20-point underdog by Maxwell. Pace had lost all four previous meetings with ELCA, played between 2008 and 2013, by an average score of 45-4. ELCA would rebound to win its next 12 games and now is playing for a fourth consecutive Class A title next week. Pace lost the following week to Monroe Area.
*Berkmar 44, Cross Keys 0: Berkmar snapped a 47-game losing streak that was the fifth-longest in state history. Berkmar also was a 40-point favorite, so call it a mercy killing, and a relief, for a team that hadn't won since beating Shiloh 29-14 in 2013. The Patriots' 44 points were more than they scored during the entire 2015 (42) or 2017 (39) seasons. Cross Keys has just four victories since the start of the 2011 season. Berkmar went on to beat Clarkston and Lakeside of Atlanta.
*Peach County 27, Northside (Warner Robins) 24: Peach County got its first victory against the Eagles since 1997, ending an eight-game losing streak that dated to 1997, although the teams hadn't met since 2005. Northside was a six-point favorite. Both teams will be playing for championships next week, Peach in AAA, and Northside in AAAAA despite a 5-5 regular season.
*Monroe Area 36, Pace Academy 15: Monroe Area announced its presence as a factor in Class AAA with a victory over Pace Academy, which was projected as an 11-point favorite. Monroe Area moved into the rankings at No. 6, its highest since 2013, and peaked at No. 3. The Purple Hurricanes finished 12-1.
*Rockmart 33, Heard County 0: Heard County, ranked No. 3, was blown out by the No. 8 team. The game was over at halftime, literally. Trailing 33-0 with three injured starters, Heard chose to pack up and leave rather than endure more lightning delays in a hopeless cause. Neither has lost since. The two will play for the Class AA championship next week.
*Christian Heritage 30, Mount Zion (Carroll) 22: Christian Heritage, a Dalton school that played its first football game in 2010, became 4-0 for the first time after knocking off a Mount Zion team that was ranked No. 3 in the Class A public-school division and projected as a 24-point favorite. The Lions, 3-17 over the past two seasons, had never beaten a ranked team in nine previous tries. They would finish the season 7-4.
*Warren County 28, Lincoln County 21: Warren County ended a 43-game losing streak against Lincoln County, the longest streak by a team against one opponent in state history. It was the Screaming Devils' first win in the series since 1971, the season before Larry Campbell became Lincoln's head coach. Lincoln was projected as a 29-point favorite. Warren finished 5-5. Lincoln was 4-6 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1973. That had been the longest streak of playoff appearances in state history.
*Wheeler 37, Roswell 36: Wheeler improved to 5-0 and moved into the top 10 for the first time since 1993 after beating a fifth-ranked Roswell team that was a 17-point favorite and coming off a 22-20 upset of then-No. 3 Milton. Roswell would win five straight from here and take the Region 4-AAAAAAA title. Wheeler would lose four of its last five games and miss the playoffs. The Maxwell Ratings count this as the most inexplicable upset of the year and would give Roswell an 89.1 percent chance of winning if they played again.
*Cedar Shoals 17, Clarke Central 7: Cedar Shoals ended a 10-game losing streak against Athens rival Clarke Central, which was a 12-point favorite. But it was a good year for both teams and Athens football in general. Cedar and Clarke advanced in the playoffs in the same season for the first time since 1995. Clarke, in fact, made the quarterfinals. And on the same night when Cedar and Clarke played, nearby Athens Academy beat Prince Avenue Christian in a game between top-five Class A private-school teams. They'd meet again in the state semifinals. Athens Academy is playing ELCA next week for the title.
*Forsyth Central 24, North Forsyth 20: Forsyth Central improved to 5-1, its best start since the 1997 team won its first nine games of the season, by winning its Region 5-AAAAAAA opener against North Forsyth, which was projected as a 15-point favorite. Forsyth Central went 0-10 last season, when it was beaten by North Forsyth 58-0. Forsyth Central would finish 6-5 and join a list of 28 teams since 1996 to make the state playoffs after a winless season.
*Eastside 38, Woodward Academy 31: Eastside overcame a 24-7 halftime deficit and took a 38-31 lead on Jeffery Haynes' 68-yard interception return with 1:20 left. The victory against the two-time defending Region 4-AAAA champion put Eastside in position for its first region title since 2009 and best finish in history at 12-1. The loss knocked Woodward out of the top 10 for the first time since 2013.
*Hillgrove 31, McEachern 21: Hillgrove was an unranked question mark despite being 5-0 and a defending region champion, in large part because of heavy graduation losses on offense from its 2017 team. The victory over McEachern, ranked No. 7 and a four-point favorite, propelled the Hawks to a 10-0 regular season and another region title. Hillgrove went on to reach the quarterfinals, losing 20-19 to state finalist Milton, and finished with a school-best 12-1 record.
*Creekside 49, Mays 48: Creekside, an 0-10 team a year ago, picked off two-time defending region champion Mays, a nine-point favorite. Creekside later would win a showdown with fourth-ranked Douglas County 24-23 and become the first team since Adairsville in 2000 to win a region after a winless season. Creekside, given just a 1.53 percent chance of making the playoffs in preseason, would finish 8-4 and lose in the second round in another wild game to Sequoyah 50-49.
*Baldwin 30, Burke County 7: Baldwin started the year 0-5 (against teams with a combined record of 33-8), but wound up in the playoffs as a No. 1 seed. The Braves clinched the Region 3-AAAA championship with this win against Burke, which was ranked No. 9 and came in as an eight-point favorite. Baldwin went on to win its first region title since 2009 and made the quarterfinals.
*Roswell 32, Walton 31: Roswell took the driver's seat in 4-AAAAAAA after getting a late two-point conversion to upset then-No. 2 Walton, which was a 15-point favorite. The Hornets clinched the region title with a win against Woodstock the next week. Walton's loss left just three unbeaten teams in the highest class - Colquitt County, Parkview and Hillgrove.
*Swainsboro 15, Vidalia 8: Unranked Swainsboro ended a six-game losing streak against five-point favorite and seventh-ranked Vidalia and took first place in 2-AA. Swainsboro would go on to clinch its first region title since 2010, win its first playoff game since 2009 and finish 9-3.
*Dutchtown 21, Stockbridge 14: In a game between Henry County rivals, Dutchtown ended Stockbridge's 29-game winning streak in region play and moved to within one victory of its first region title. Dutchtown would go 12-1, beaten by defending champion Rome in the AAAAA quarterfinals. Stockbridge would reach the semifinals and lose in the final minute to Bainbridge 20-19.
*Heard County 13, Callaway 10: Written off by some after early blowout losses to Hapeville Charter and Rockmart, Heard County redeemed itself with this victory over second-ranked Callaway in a game that decided the Region 5-AA title. Heard now carries an 11-game winning streak into next week's Class AA title game against Rockmart.
*Pickens 31, Ridgeland 10: Pickens clinched its first region title in 62 seasons of varsity football with this victory over the 10th-ranked Panthers. Pickens would finish 11-1.
*Riverside Military 20, Commerce 19: Riverside Military's victory against Class A public No. 3 Commerce was its first ever against a top-10 opponent in the GHSA. The Eagles had been 0-22 in such games, and Commerce was a 33-point favorite. Two weeks later, Riverside would beat 21-point favorite George Walton Academy in the first round of the Class A private-school playoffs.
*North Cobb Christian 35, Darlington 21: North Cobb Christian's victory against Darlington (No. 9 in Class A private) was its second against a top-10 team this season. Trion was the other, on Sept. 14. The Eagles had never beaten a ranked opponent until this season. North Cobb Christian would make the playoffs for the first time in its 12 years of varsity football and made the quarterfinals as a 2 million-to-1 shot, based on Maxwell's preseason projections.
*Stephenson 30, Tucker 24: Stephenson won its first region title since 2015, and only its second in 10 years, in Region 4-AAAAAA. Tucker had won 25 consecutive region games and entered this game ranked No. 3. But both DeKalb County powers were ousted in the first round by the avalanche of Region 1-AAAAAA opponents.
*Greene County 35, Tattnall Square 20: Greene County won its first region title since 2005 when the Tigers defeated Tattnall in the 7-A championship game. This came in the first season back for coach Larry Milligan, who had led Greene to its '05 title before a nine-year absence.
*Bainbridge 40, Jones County 13: Bainbridge claimed the first of four playoff victories over ranked opponents in Class AAAAA. Jones County, ranked No. 8, was a nine-point favorite over the Bearcats, who entered 5-5. Bainbridge would go on to beat No. 5 Wayne County, No. 2 Buford and No. 6 Stockbridge and will play No. 3 Warner Robins in the title game next week.
*East Coweta 28, Marietta 26: Marietta was a 27-point favorite over the 3-7 Indians, but Maxwell didn't take into account injuries, which sidelined all-state players Harrison Bailey and Ramel Keyton. And East Coweta was playing well and almost upended Tift County the next week but fell 24-17.
*Loganville 14, Southwest DeKalb 13: Only 4-6 in the regular season, the Red Devils shocked undefeated Southwest DeKalb. Loganville was among eight teams to beat region champions in the opening round. The others were Tift County, Bradwell Institute, Coffee, Harrison, New Hampstead, East Paulding and Pike County. Only three region champions lost in the 2017 first round.
*Hebron Christian 20, Mount Paran Christian 10: Though Mount Paran was ranked ninth and Hebron was 5-5, the Maxwell Ratings had Hebron as a four-point favorite. That's because Hebron's five losses came against ranked teams, including current state finalists Clinch County and Athens Academy. Only one loss was greater than 10 points. It was Hebron's first-ever playoff win. Others winning a state-playoff game for the first time this week were Creekview (AAAAAA), New Hampstead (AAAAA) and Pickens (AAAA).
*Callaway 31, Hapeville Charter 13: Hapeville Charter became the first No. 1-ranked team or defending champion to bow out of the playoffs. Hapeville hadn't lost to a Class AA opponent in two years.
*Bainbridge 23, Buford 20: By most measures, this is the upset of the 2017 season. Bainbridge ended Buford's 35-game winning streak in home playoff games and 11-year streak of making the semifinals or better. Both were state records. Bainbridge was unranked and 7-5 after a 5-5 regular-season. Buford was favored by 14 points.
*Lowndes 20, Grayson 15: Lowndes exorcised some painful losses with this one. A year ago, the Vikings were 11-0 and No. 1 when they were upset by McEachern. And in 2008, they were No. 1 and 12-0 when upset by Grayson. On that same field 10 years later, Lowndes - in a major rebuilding year - beat the preseason No. 1 team, one that fielded a record 12 major Division I commits who were seniors.
*Colquitt County 45, North Gwinnett 0: If there was ever much doubt, Colquitt County made it clear that the road to the Class AAAAAAA championship went through Moultrie. The Packers avenged their 19-17 loss to North Gwinnett in last year's final, handing the defending champions their most-lopsided loss since 1994 (57-0 vs. Tucker). Colquitt County came in as a 25-point favorite but almost doubled that.
*Warner Robins 45, Rome 28: The Demons won a rematch of a game they lost 38-0 a year before. Rome was nationally ranked and sporting a 40-game winning streak. Warner Robins is one victory from its first state title since 2004.
*Peach County 22, Calhoun 7: Peach defeated the No. 1-ranked defending champions in a rematch of the game Calhoun won 10-6 last year for the state title. Peach was so distraught by last year's loss, and a disputed call, that the community pitched in for championship rings for the players. Now, Peach is one victory from an undisputed honor in the Class AAA final against Cedar Grove.
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