Maxwell’s projection: Lovett by 5
Notes: Both of these private schools have challenged themselves by playing tough non-region private schools, and Friday will mark a continuation of that. The Paladins, new to 2A from the now-defunct 1A Private, lost 21-18 to Mount Pisgah in the Kell Classic, beat Trinity Christian 23-19 a week later and lost 35-28 to St. Francis on Sept. 9 before heading into their bye. The Lions, who were in 2A the past two years but now compete in 4A, started 0-2 with losses to Westminster (14-0) and GAC (23-19) before beating Pace Academy 30-20, then McDonough 13-3 last week. McDonough of 4A is the only public school among either team’s competition so far this year. Whereas the Lions are traditionally a run-heavy offense under longtime coach Mike Muschamp, the Paladins are balanced on offense this year with second-year coach Tim McFarlin, attempting 43 passes while running the ball 59 times. Senior Caleb McMickle, committed to Houston, is 24 of 43 for 333 yards and three touchdowns to no interceptions, and Nick Persiano leas the Paladins in rushing with 93 yards on 25 carries. Junior Josh Milhollin has 14 receptions for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Kyle Elphick leads the team with 29 tackles and an interception, and senior Samuel Albee has a team-high five sacks for 28 yards lost.
Commerce at Banks County Leopards
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Leopard Stadium, Homer
Records, rankings: Commerce is 2-2 and unranked in 1A Division I, Banks County is 4-0 and unranked in 2A.
Last meeting: Commerce won 10-0 in 2021.
Watch the game: NFHS Network
Maxwell’s projection: Banks County by 4
Notes: The last time the the Leopards started 4-0 was 1991, when they won their first 6 games but finished 7-3 and missed the playoffs. They also lost to Commerce that year, and the Leopards have dominated this off-again, on-again rivalry of schools 15 minutes apart that began in 1970, leading the all-time series 32-2. The Leopards’ wins over Commerce came in 1990 and 1992. Today’s Leopards, under fifth-year coach Jay Reid, are off to a much better start than the teams that went 5-25 the previous three seasons. They’ve beaten Johnson (41-20), Oglethorpe County (21-14), Franklin County (43-6) and George Walton (33-0). Those teams are a combined 4-14. The Leopards are a run-heavy team led by senior Andrew Shockley, who accounts for 83 of the team’s 157 carries and has rushed for 775 yards and 11 touchdowns. Aaron Scott has 255 yards and five touchdowns on just 23 carries, and he leads the team with five receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Cam Cooper has a team-high 23 tackles, followed by junior Robert Walker (22). Walker also has a team-high two sacks. Commerce has beaten South Carolina’s Southside Christian (21-17) and Lincoln County (28-12), and lost to North Carolina’s Murphy (15-14) and Hebron Christian (48-34).
Berrien Rebels at Worth County Rams
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Worth County Stadium, Sylvester
Records, rankings: Berrien is 3-1, 0-0 in Region 1-2A and unranked; Worth County is 4-0, 0-0 and unranked.
Last meeting: Worth County won 31-7 in 2021.
Watch the game: NFHS Network
Maxwell’s projection: Worth County by 10
Notes: Under first-year coach Jeff Hammond, the Rams are 4-0 for the first time since 1999, when they finished 9-3 and advanced to the second round. The last time they were 5-0 was 1989, when they finished 14-1, two years removed from their only state title, when they won 3A in 1987. The Rams beat Turner County (22-6), Mitchell County (16-14), Upson-Lee (56-33) and Central-Macon (32-7). Those teams are a combined 3-15. The last time the Rebels beat the Rams was 1965, and they’re 0-7-1 since. When the Rams beat them 42-30 in 2020 as part of their Region 1 schedule, that marked the first time these teams, located 50 miles apart, had played since 1979. The Rams are led by senior dual-threat quarterback Chip Cooper, who is 50-for-90 passing for 586 yards and five touchdowns to zero interceptions and has 231 yards and five touchdowns on 49 carries. Freshman Kaden Chester has a team-high 347 yards on 64 carries. Cooper’s top receivers are senior Parker Weaver (17 catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns) and sophomore D’ontae Fulton (16-160-2). Senior Quinton Cole has a team-high 35 tackles, and junior Andrew Dixon has 3.5 sacks. Berrien dropped their opener 19-18 to Clinch County, then won three straight against Atkinson County (41-19), Bacon County (34-14) and Lanier County (14-10) before heading into their bye last week. Senior quarterback Gavin Woods is 26-for-40 for 450 yards and five touchdowns to an interception, and junior Demar Riley has 341 yards and five touchdowns on 780 carries. Senior Ashton Gutierrez leads the team with 43 tackles, followed by junior safety Josiah Davis (36), who leads the team with two sacks. Davis, at 6-foot, 170 pounds, has an offer from Tennessee.
References: GHSFHA.org, MaxPreps