Class 2A blog: Round 2 preview

Projections forecast lopsided outcomes for most games

With each passing round of the playoffs, the idea is the competition becomes tougher, the games closer. However when it comes to Round 2 of the 2A tournament, Maxwell’s projections forecast double-digit victories in all games but one.

The Cook Hornets, the No. 2 seed from Region 1, travels to play the Region 4 champion Thomson Bulldogs in a game the Bulldogs are projected to win by six.

If these games stay true to their projections, there won’t be much suspense. However, precedence tells us the games are determined on the field and that often times, the results are far different than what the computers say is statistically most likely.

Credit: GHSA.net

Credit: GHSA.net

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Maxwell’s projections:

  • Fitzgerald vs. Putnam Co. -24
  • Rockmart vs. North Cobb Christian -21

Rockmart is a three-touchdown favorite over North Cobb Christian. Last week, NCC beat Columbia 14-6 as 3-point favorites. The Jackets are back in 2A after two seasons in 3A, and with a win they’ll return to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2018, when they went 14-1 and finished as 2A’s runners-up.

The Jackets will look to dominate on the ground, where they’ve carried the ball 351 times for 3,231 yards and 47 touchdowns. Five players have at least five rushing touchdowns, led by senior Cam Ferguson, who has 10 to go with 726 yards on 67 carries. Junior Brent Washington has nine touchdowns and 430 yards on 55 carries, and junior JD Davis and senior JoJo Haynes each have seven rushing touchdowns.

NCC is led by senior quarterback Matty Go, who is 58-for-102 passing for 988 yards and 10 touchdowns to three interceptions. Senior Jacob Cruz is his leading receiver with 24 catches for 481 yards and five touchdowns. Senior Jaden Coates is the team’s leading rusher with 724 yards and five touchdowns on 87 carries. Cruz also leads the defense with 90 tackles, 14.5 for loss. Sam Ayegunle has 8.5 sacks. NCC has reached the quarterfinals one other time, in 2018 as members of 1A.

Fitzgerald and Putnam County both reached the quarterfinals last year. The heavily-favored Cane will return there for the fourth time in five years, seventh in the last nine, and 12th in the last 15. You get the idea — they’re used to making deep playoff runs. Before last season, the War Eagles hadn’t reached the quarterfinals since 1996.

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Maxwell’s projections:

  • Fellowship Christian vs. ELCA -14
  • Pierce Co. vs. Berrien -24

The most relevant storyline in this quadrant is ELCA putting its streak of 12 consecutive quarterfinals appearances on the line. All of the Eagles’ deep playoff runs during the streak came in Class 1A. Standing in their way is another 1A transplant in the Paladins with a quarterfinals streak of their own at four.

Both teams reached the semis last year, with FCS losing to Prince Avenue and ELCA losing to Trinity Christian. ELCA has plenty of next-level talent — the Eagles have seven seniors committed to D-I schools — but are adjusting to a first-year coach, whereas FCS is in Year 2 under four-time state championship coach Tim McFarlin and might be further along as a program.

Berrien will look to continue its improbable run as the tournament’s lone No. 4 seed but will face great odds against the Bears, who are one hiccup loss to Appling County, which came in a game moved from its originally-scheduled date, from being 11-0. Whereas the Rebels won their first playoff game in more than 30 years, the Bears have advanced every year since 2016, reaching the semis last year and winning 3A the year before. Since their founding in 1954, the Rebels have reached the quarterfinals once, in 1991, and have never been further.

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Maxwell’s projections:

  • Appling Co. vs. Northeast -18
  • Callaway vs. Fannin Co. -13

The Raiders are looking for back-to-back quarterfinals appearances after having never been that far in the program’s 52-year history. The Pirates would make it three straight quarterfinals appearances with a win after reaching the semis last year in coach Jordan Mullis’ first season, and the quarters in 2020. Don’t be surprised if this game is much closer than projected because the Raiders are 1-1 against ranked teams this year, beating 3A’s No. 2 Carver 26-8, and losing to top-ranked Fitzgerald 28-27.

The Raiders must slow a Pirates offense averaging 53.5 points their last two games, including 65 scored in Round 1 against Washington County.

Though Fannin County is a double-digit underdog, they’ve proven over the past three years, under coach Chad Cheatham, that they will be competitive in the postseason. This is the third season in a row the Rebels have advanced. Further, Callaway has shown a tendency to play down to the level of competition in some cases where they’re the more talented team. This game could be close

There are other cases, however, where the Cavs steamroll the competition no matter how good it may be. They started 0-3 and haven’t lost since. This would be the seventh consecutive quarterfinals appearance for the Cavs, who reached the semis last year as a follow up to their 2020 championship.

The Rebels are looking for their third quarterfinals appearance, with the others coming in 1995 and 2020. They’ve never been further.

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Maxwell’s projections:

  • South Atlanta vs. Union Co. -21
  • Thomson vs. Cook -6

The Hornets and Panthers meet in a rematch from the first round of the 2019 2A playoffs, which the Panthers won 19-15 for their first-ever playoff win. That prevented the Hornets from winning their first-ever playoff game. The Hornets would advance the following year, and they reached the quarterfinals last season, making this the third season in a row they’ve advanced.

The Hornets have scored at least 30 points in all of their games this season, averaging 44.3 points, while their defense is allowing an average of just 14.5 points. The good news for the Panthers is they can put up points too, averaging 30 points. Whether they can stop Keyjuan Brown is a different story, as well as a riddle no other team has figured out.

Though the Panthers have just one state playoff win since their 1957 founding, they reached the quarterfinals twice, in 1972 and 1973, by winning regional games.

Thomson and Cook are projected to deliver Round 2′s marquee matchup. Both teams can score — Thomson averages 42 points, Cook averages 36 — but Thomson’s defense is what stands out and should make the difference. The Bulldogs are allowing just 7.27 points a game and have won their last three games over Glenn Hills, Westside and Round 1 opponent Tattnall County a combined 139-0.

This would be Thomson’s second quarterfinals appearance in a row after they reached the 3A quarters last year. Cook is looking for its first quarterfinals appearance since 2010.