What to watch: Round 1

The Class AA playoffs begin Friday. For playoff predictions, go here. For the official GHSA bracket, go here. Below are some games of note in AA for Round 1.

Washington County Golden Hawks at Vidalia Indians*

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, The Reservation, Vidalia

Records, rankings: Washington County is 8-2, the No. 3 seed from Region 3-AA and unranked; Vidalia is 9-1, the No. 2 seed from 2-AA and unranked.

Last meeting: Washington County won 21-14 in the second round of the 1997 Class AA playoffs.

Maxwell’s projection: Washington County by 10

Notes: The only previous meeting between these teams came in the final year of Washington County's run of three state championships in four seasons. The Golden Hawks' seven-point victory was their only game during that 15-0 season that was decided by fewer than 13 points. Washington County is seventh in AA scoring at 36.7 points per game and scored 46 or more points six times. The Golden Hawks are a run-first team led by Dyquan Bloodsaw, who is among the top five rushers in AA with more than 1,300 yards. He is being recruited as a cornerback and has a reported offer from Charlotte and interest from other Division I schools. Vidalia is almost exclusively a running team, rushing for 3,364 yards and 38 touchdowns on 381 carries while attempting less than five passes per game for a total of 315 yards. Chris Gay (92 carries, 937 yards, 13 TDs) and Nyshun Bell (65-770-5) are the leading rushers and two of four players averaging at least 47.2 yards per game. QB Marc Wardlaw has passed for 295 yards and rushed for 262. Bell (50 total tackles, 3.5 for losses) is the leading tackler for a defense that allows 12.6 points per game, eighth-best in AA.

Winner plays: Screven County/Brooks County

Bremen Blue Devils at Union County Panthers

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium, Blairsville

Records, rankings: Bremen is 8-2, the No. 3 seed from Region 5 and No. 7; Union County is 9-1, the No. 2 seed from Region 8 and unranked.

Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.

Maxwell's projection: Bremen by 9

Notes: The Blue Devils emerge from one of the toughest region’s in AA — Region 5 — that includes No.  3 Heard County and No. 4 Callaway. It’s the only region in AA with three teams ranked. Though Maxwell favors them, I have the Panthers pulling off the upset at home. Their only hiccup was in the season finale, a game they lost decidedly to No. 8 Rabun County, 56-28, in the 8-AA championship. But they ripped off nine straight wins before that and are led by junior quarterback, who has 2,695 passing yards — tops in AA — and 23 touchdowns to just four interceptions on 160-of-232 passing (69 percent). The obvious knock on the Panthers is, despite their record, their level of competition isn’t high, save Rabun County. The Blue Devils, on the other hand, beat then-No. 3 Rabun County 13-10 on a field goal as time expired in the season opener, and their two losses came to Callaway and Heard County. Based on how the two played against Rabun County, it would be easy to pick the Blue Devils in this game. However, Rabun County is a different team than the one Bremen beat on Aug. 18 and I doubt if the two played now, the end result would be the same. 

Winner plays: South Atlanta/Rockmart

Early County Bobcats at Jefferson County Warriors

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Warrior Field, Louisville

Records: Early County is 6-4 and the No. 4 seed from Region 1; Jefferson County is 8-2 and the No. 1 seed from Region 4.

Last meeting: Jefferson County won 52-37 in the first round of the 2014 Class AA playoffs.

Maxwell's projection: Jefferson County 1

Notes: If a No. 4 seed is going to upset a 1, perhaps this is a game where it happens. Maxwell only favors the Warriors by a point at home. In all likelihood, the Warriors prevail, which is what I have them doing. They’re 5-0 against the Bobcats dating back to 2008. Four of those meetings were from 2008-11, when both were members of 3-AA. None of their contests have been close. The Warriors began the season as AA’s No. 8 team, but quickly fell out of the rankings never to return after an 0-2 start, when they lost to then-No. 8 Swainsboro and then-No. 9 Washington County. But they’ve ripped off eight straight wins since, all against 4-AA opponents. All wins were also by double digits, outscoring those opponents 337-108. They’re led by senior quarterback Jaden Jenkins, who is committed to Georgia Southern. He’s rushed for 1,467 yards and 24 touchdowns. The Bobcats are in the playoffs despite a 1-3 region record because they play in a five-team 1-AA, where only one team doesn’t qualify for the postseason. Three of their wins were against schools from Alabama, part of a five-game win streak that helped to prop up their first winning record since 2015. They’re led by senior running back Aaron Yarbrough, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards on the season. 

Winner plays: Jeff Davis/Dodge County

Washington Bulldogs at Chattooga Indians

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Little Big Horn Stadium, Summerville

Records: Washington is 7-3 and the No. 3 seed from Region 6; Chattooga is 8-2 and the No. 2 seed from Region 7.

Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.

Maxwell's projection: Chattooga by 6

Notes: As mentioned on Tuesday, the two have no common opponents, lost by double-digits to the only ranked teams they faced, and played well against everyone else. Further, they’re side-by-side in the Maxwell computer-generated rankings for Class AA, with Washington at 19 and Chattooga 20. This game is a toss-up, with the Maxwell favoring the Indians by less than a touchdown. However, I picked the Bulldogs, and should they win, it would be their first postseason victory since 2004. They’ll have the best player on the field — and one of the best players in the state — in Rodricus Fitten, a senior four-star defensive end committed to South Carolina. He had 35 tackles — including a team-high seven for loss — heading into the final week of the regular season. He’ll go up against an Indians rushing attack led by sophomore E.J. Lackey (967 yards, eight touchdowns) and freshman Lashaun Lester (901, 14). Indians senior linebacker Malachi Mack has 61 tackles — 17.5 for loss — including 5.5 sacks and five hurries.

Winner plays: Spencer/Rabun County

*Courtesy of GHSF Daily

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