Class 2A blog: What to watch in Round 1

Friday kick’s off the playoffs, and there’s no shortage of intriguing matchups for Round 1. So, let’s dive in.

For playoff predictions, go here. For the playoffs preview edition of The Class 2A Blogcast, go here.

Credit: Courtesy of GHSA

Credit: Courtesy of GHSA

In the upper-left quadrant, the No. 8 Northeast Raiders (7-3) can’t overlook the Cook Hornets (5-5). This game will determine if the Raiders were simply looking ahead to the playoffs, or if last week’s eye-opening loss to Lamar County was a sign of a downward trend.

As noted Tuesday, the Raiders had already clinched the No. 2 seed, so the game didn’t matter to them, and Lamar County was playing for an outside shot at the No. 4 seed. Still, the Raiders were 27-point favorites and didn’t rest their starters. The Raiders advanced to the second round last year and if they win Friday, it will be the first time they’ve advanced in consecutive seasons since 2001-02.

The Raiders come in as 14-point favorites over the Hornets, a team that has shown the capability to compete with a team like Northeast. On Sept. 3, Cook beat 1A Public’s then-No. 5 Pelham 24-20 on the road. However, Cook also lost 25-21 to Berrien for the Rebels’ only region win.

The Raiders will have to account for Cook’s Jamarion Walker.

Said Friday Night Football Radio Show host Chris Beckham, “Jamarion Walker is the reason they can be competitive. He’s a fantastic running back. ...He’s the all-time leading rusher in school history and he can break one pretty quickly. We’ve seen him do that, but they’re going to need a lot of him.”

The Hornets have reached the playoffs ever year since 2000, last advancing in 2019.

The game projected to be the closest in 2A for Round 1 is the Columbia Eagles (7-3) at Elbert County Blue Devils (5-4). The Blue Devils are favored by a touchdown.

The Blue Devils are led by junior Quan Moss, who has 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns on 189 carries. Their most impressive win came on the road against 1A Public’s Lincoln County, 28-16, and they also played Haralson County close, losing 26-21 on Oct. 1.

The Eagles came within four points of the No. 1 seed, losing 36-32 to South Atlanta in the regular season finale last week, with that game serving as the Region 6 championship. The Eagles are led on offense by Elijah Morgan and Royce Tolbert, both juniors. Morgan is 68 of 131 passing for 1,042 yards and ten touchdowns to five interceptions, and has three more touchdowns on the ground. Tolbert has 13 touchdowns and 834 yards on just 82 carries. Sophomore Jaden Baugh has four touchdowns and 423 yards on 21 receptions.

On defense, Marquez Harris has 19.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss. His sack total is second in the state to Creekside’s Javeon Miller (20 sacks).

The Eagles last won a playoff game in 1997. Elbert County last advanced in 2017.

In the lower-left quadrant is 2A’s only matchup between two ranked teams, with the No. 4 Fitzgerald Purple (8-2) Hurricane hosting the No. 9 Dodge County Indians (7-3) — a rematch from Sept. 10, when the Cane won 15-6 on the road. The Cane are just eight-point favorites. For more on that game, see the GHSF Daily’s preview of the top 10 Round 1 matchups from around the state.

The top-seeded Fannin County Rebels (9-1) are just an eight-point favorite over the Bremen Blue Devils (5-5). The Blue Devils have a top-10 win over 1A Private’s then-No. 7 Landmark Christian, 14-12, in their opener. They played 1A Public’s No. 10 Bowdon close the next week, losing 32-28. They were also competitive in losses to 1A Private’s Darlington (40-33) and Heard County (25-23).

The Rebels have just one loss, 32-0 to Sonoraville on the road, in a game that was scheduled at the last minute. The reason this game is projected to be close is the Rebels are lacking in strength of schedule. They’ve yet to play a ranked opponent and only two opponents, Sonoraville (6-4) and Dade County (7-3), have winning records.

Last year the Rebels won a playoff game for the first time since 1995 and they’ve never advanced in consecutive seasons. Bremen reached the quarterfinals last year and has advanced in each of the last three years.

The Lovett Lions (7-3) are 14-point favorites over the the Union County Panthers (3-6). While the Lions should win at home, the Panthers are coming off an incredible come-from-behind 49-48 victory over 3A’s Gilmer last week. The Panthers scored 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win in overtime. FetchYourNews has details.

This is the fourth-straight year the Panthers are in the playoffs and they last advanced in 2019 — the lone playoff win for a program that began in 1957. The Lions have been in the playoffs every year since 2002 and have advanced in eight of the last nine seasons, including last year.

The upper-right quadrant isn’t projected to be very competitive. South Atlanta (9-1) is 27-point favorites over Banks County (2-7), Callaway (7-2) is 23-point favorites over Pepperell (5-5), and Bleckley County (10-0) is 31-point favorites over Early County (4-5).

The closest projected game is between the Westside Patriots (8-2) and Vidalia Indians (3-7), with the Patriots as 10-point favorites. The Patriots are seeking their first playoff win since 2002. They qualified last year for the first time since 2014. The Indians have reached the playoffs every year since 2012 but haven’t advanced since 2016.

In the lower-right quadrant, the Jeff Davis Yellow Jackets (9-1) are 15-point favorites over the Jefferson County Warriors. The Jackets are looking to advance in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1989-90. The Warriors have reached the playoffs every year since 2002 and have advanced every year since 2013.

The top-ranked Rabun County Wildcats (9-1) beat Pace Academy 47-14 at home on Aug. 28 and are favored by 41 when they host the Knights (6-4) this time around.

The Heard County Braves (5-5) are a 15-point favorite over the Dade County (7-3) Wolverines. Seniors who played all four years for the Braves were freshman on the 2018 championship team. They’ve reached the playoffs every year since 2005. The Wolverines are in the playoffs for the first time since 2015 and they’re looking to advance for the first time since 2010.

Below are Maxwell’s Projections for all 16 first-round games in 2A. For projections for all first round games, go here.

Bleckley Co. vs. Early Co. -31

Callaway vs. Pepperell -23

Elbert Co. vs. Columbia -7

Fannin Co. vs. Bremen -8

Fitzgerald vs. Dodge Co. -8

Haralson Co. vs. Chattooga -35

Heard Co. at Dade Co. -17

Jeff Davis vs. Jefferson Co. -15

Lovett vs. Union Co. -14

Northeast vs. Cook -14

Putnam Co. vs. East Laurens -27

Rabun Co. vs. Pace Academy -41

South Atlanta vs. Banks Co. -27

Swainsboro vs. Laney -26

Thomasville vs. Washington Co. -17

Westside, Augusta vs. Vidalia -10

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