Maxwell’s projection: Bleckley County by 6
Notes: A win by the Royals will clinch them their first region title in program history. Last year, the Golden Hawks were the Royals’ final regular season game after Southwest Covid-cancelled on them a week later. The Royals’ loss marked a two-game skid that saw them back into the playoffs shockingly as a No. 4 seed — they were in first place and ranked No. 4 just two weeks prior. They would make a furious run to the quarterfinals, where they lost in overtime to Rabun County. Despite losing a number of key starters — most notably quarterback Dominic Sasser and lineman Amarius Mims — the Royals haven’t missed a beat. Jahvon Butler leads the offense with 933 yards and 10 touchdowns on 166 carries. The Golden Hawks are coming of a 44-0 shutout of Southwest, which ended their string of consecutive losses to No. 8 Northeast and 4A’s No. 10 Perry.
Columbia Eagles at Lovett Lions
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Memorial Stadium at Conley-Oakley Field, Atlanta
Records: Columbia is 7-1, 6-0 in Region 6; Lovett is 5-3, 4-2.
Last meeting: Lovett won 38-5 in 2020.
Maxwell’s projection: Columbia by 4
Notes: The Eagles are off to their best start since their last winning season, when they 7-3 in 2014, and a win will give them their most since 2005, when they went 8-3. They are 0-6 in the playoffs since reaching the quarterfinals in 1997. Last season, first-year coach Greg Barnett and the Eagles had too many obstacles to overcome, with DeKalb Schools cancelling fall sports through September and KIPP forfeiting against them. That left the Eagles with just six regular season games and a 3-3 finish. Now, they’re two wins away from their first region title since 1981. Royce Tolbert leads the Eagles in rushing with 656 yards and 10 touchdowns on 59 carries, followed by Roland Edwin (500-3-66). Elijah Morgan is 45-of-86 passing for 702 yards and 10 touchdowns to three interceptions and has rushed 30 times for 239 yards and two scores. All three players are juniors. If the Lions don’t win, they’ll need help from Pace Academy to avoid fourth place.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Lovett’s place in last season’s region standings.
Swainsboro Tigers at Jeff Davis Yellow Jackets
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, The Pinelands, Hazlehurst
Records, rankings: Swainsboro is 5-2, 2-0 in Region 2 and unranked; Jeff Davis is 8-0, 3-0 and No. 5.
Last meeting: Jeff Davis won 15-7 in 2020.
Maxwell’s projection: Jeff Davis by 2
Notes: Swainsboro is by far the Yellow Jackets’ toughest challenge of their final two games, with Jeff Davis’ finale against East Laurens (0-7, 0-3). That means a Jackets win tonight all-but clinches their first 10-0 season since 1990, and their first region title since 1997. A win tonight would also match last year’s win total, when they finished 9-2 and notched their first playoff win since 1997. The Jackets control the game on the ground with senior Aahiyus Allen (632 yards and eight touchdowns on 57 carries) and sophomore Kiyon Dotson (622-10-59). The Tigers won their first two region games over East Laurens and Bacon County by a combined 104-0, and they’re giving up an average of 10.4 points for the season. The Jackets are giving up just 4.6 points a game — best in 2A. However, the Jackets have yet to play a ranked team, and have played just one team with a winning record — 3A’s Tattnall County (5-2).
Haralson County Rebels at Heard County Braves
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Staples Stadium, Franklin.
Records, rankings: Haralson County is 7-1, 2-0 in Region 5; Heard County is 4-3, 1-0.
Last meeting: Heard County won 26-12 in 2020.
Watch the game: NFHS Network
Maxwell’s projection: Haralson County by 12
Notes: Last year, the Braves served as a roadblock in the Rebels’ quest for a first-ever region title, winning as the No. 4-ranked team. The Rebels have won their first two region games over No. 5 Callaway (42-14) and Temple (49-14) by nearly identical scores. Senior Clay Hyatt leads the offense and had 729 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 82 carries heading into last week’s game against Temple. The Braves started strong at 3-0, climbing into the rankings at No. 10 after beating 1A Public’s No. 7 Manchester, but then they lost three in a row to Darlington, 4A’s No. 6 Cedartown and Central-Carrollton. They moved back into the win column with a 49-20 win over Temple on Oct. 8 and have been on bye since. Senior Isaiah O’Neal leads the Braves with 532 yards and seven touchdowns on 71 pass attempts.
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