Boys soccer blog: Nationally ranked teams lead list of favorites as playoffs begin

Teams wanting to win the first state championships and regular playoff stalwarts attempting to retain superiority will begin the journey for boys soccer titles this week.

The first round of the GHSA boys soccer playoffs will begin Wednesday and Friday.

Here’s a look at some of the class-by-class favorites:

Class 7A

All eyes are on top-ranked Harrison. The Hoyas, ranked No. 3 nationally, enter the playoffs undefeated and are heavily favored in their first-round match against Lowndes. A group of six seniors have fueled Harrison’s run through the regular season -- Lee Archer (15 goals), Tyler Vitelli (12 goals), A.J. Daniels (10 goals), Nicholas Perla and Yousef Ibrahim (six goals) and Gavin Caruso (three goals). Eight other players have scored at least once.

Class 6A

Multiple programs ranked in the MaxPreps National Top 15 will face off in 6A. Top-ranked Central Gwinnett (16-0-1) is ranked No. 7 nationally and will be favored against Region 6 No. 4 seed Pope in the first round. Dalton (13-1-3) is ranked No. 2 in the class and No. 11 nationally. The Catamounts will face Centennial in the first round. Lakeside-DeKalb (15-0-1) is ranked No. 3 in the class, No. 9 nationally, and the Vikings will open play against Brunswick.

Class 5A

Top-ranked Woodward (16-1) is ranked No. 10 nationally and will play Coffee in the opening round. Senior Ethan Gill leads Woodward with 28 goals. Senior Cade A. Cahoon has scored 15 goals; freshman Cedric Oglesby has 11 goals, and 13 other players have scored at least one goal for Woodward. No. 2 Johnson-Gainesville is ranked No. 17 nationally and begins the playoffs against Chapel Hill.

Class 4A

Four players for top-ranked Columbus (15-0-1) have combined for 50 goals. The rest of the team has combined for 46 goals. Columbus has numerous players who can make a difference. Much of the Blue Devils’ offensive production comes from senior Michael Wood (15 goals), junior Timaj Lester (15 goals), senior Dante Johnson (10 goals), senior Bridger Jones (10 goals), sophomore Sebastian Bussey (nine goals), sophomore Kaleb Robinson (eight goals), junior Nicolas Buenrostro (seven goals), sophomore Damien Fekete (four goals) and senior John Cady (four goals). Columbus will face Rutland in the first round. No. 2-ranked LaGrange (12-3-2) will begin its playoff journey against Perry. Columbus defeated LaGrange 4-3 on March 23.

Class 3A

Top-ranked Pike County (15-1-2) is led by Matthew Webb, a senior midfielder who has scored 49 goals, has 27 assists and 125 points. He averages 3.1 goals and 1.7 assists per match. The Pirates will face Hephzibah in the first round and could face No. 2-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian in the quarterfinals. GAC (15-3) will face Cherokee Bluff to open the playoffs. No. 3-ranked West Hall (14-3-1) will play Salem in the first round and could piece together a run before possibly meeting GAC or Pike in the semifinals.

Class 2A

Top-ranked Lovett (14-2-1), No. 2 Pace Academy (15-6) are favorites, but No. 3 Gordon Central (12-1) and No. 4 Bremen (12-4-1) should factor. Lovett is led by junior Nick Carrano (26 goals), senior Drew Mauldin (17 goals) and sophomore Burke Volkmann (10 goals). The Lions will play Elbert County in the first round. Pace Academy will begin the playoffs against Riverside Military. Gordon Central will play Haralson County in the opening round, and Bremen will play Pepperell.

Class A Public

Three second-round matchups are already set by virtue of first-round byes. Top-ranked ACE Charter (14-5) enters the playoffs as a favorite and will enjoy a bye in the first round -- and by virtue of another bye – will play Metter in the second round. No. 2-ranked Dalton Academy will play Barrow in the opening round. No. 4 Georgia Military will get a bye and will face Bryan County, the Region 3 No. 4 seed, in the second round. No. 9 Claxton also gets a bye and awaits the victor of the Crawford County-Macon County match.

Class A Private

Top-ranked Atlanta International (14-0-2) is ranked fifth nationally and is led by seniors Mateo Bargagna (20 goals) and Noah Kristensen (17 goals). The Eagles are a clear favorite entering the playoffs and will face North Cobb Christian in the first round. No. 2-ranked Paideia (11-2-2) will play Brookstone in the opening round and could challenge Atlanta International in the quarterfinals.

Follow the link to the boys playoff brackets.