Pace Academy Knights at Lovett Lions
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Memorial Stadium at Conley-Oakley Field, Atlanta
Records, rankings: Pace Academy is 2-2, 1-1 in Region 6 and unranked; Lovett is 3-1, 3-0 and No. 4.
Last meeting: Lovett won 21-14 in 2019.
Watch the game: Lovett Network
Maxwell’s projection: Lovett by 17
Notes: This series between Buckhead rivals located three miles apart began in 2014, with all meetings being region contests. The series is knotted at 3. Though Knights are coming off a 22-14 upset loss to the unranked South Atlanta Hornets, which knocked them from the rankings and into third place in Region 6, they’d have shot a three-way tie atop the standings with a win, as the Knights would have beaten the Lions, and the Lions have already beat the Hornets, 37-12 on Oct. 2. For that three-way tie to hold, all three teams would need to win out. Also, Columbia has a 2-0 region record but have yet to play Lovett, Pace Academy or South Atlanta. For the Knights to have a chance against Lovett, they’ll need their high-profile recruits to perform to their capabilities. That includes ’22 4-star quarterback MJ Morris (21 Power 5 offers), ’21 4-star receiver Jayden Thomas (committed to Notre Dame) and ’22 3-star defensive tackle Xavier Agostino (Virginia Tech offer). The Knights will also need to put up points, which they’ve struggled to do. Aside from a 55-0 win over McNair (0-2 and 0-10 last season), the Knights are averaging just 10.3 points a game. That includes holding GAC, the No. 5 team in 3A, to a season-low 10 points. The Lions' defense, on the other hand, are giving up an average of just seven points. Lions junior linebacker Stevie Bracey, who holds offers from Buffalo, Coastal Carolina and Princeton, is a preseason all-state selection.
Cook Hornets at Worth County Rams
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Worth County Stadium, Sylvester
Records, rankings: Cook is 3-2, 0-0 in Region 1 and No. 10; Worth County is 3-2, 0-0 and unranked.
Last meeting: Cook won 35-31 in 2019
Watch the game: NFHS Network
Maxwell’s projection: Cook by 8
Notes: The Hornets, led by second-year coach Jamie Rogers, entered the rankings this week after beating 1A Public defending champs and then-No. 4 Irwin County, 21-20, narrowly losing to 1A Public’s top-ranked Brooks County, 25-20, and then outscoring 1A Public’s Randolph-Clay and 3A’s Brantley County by a combined score of 82-37. The Hornets finished 4-8 last year in Rogers' first season, which included a 7-6 win against Windsor Forest in the first round of the 3A state playoffs. The Hornets last had a winning season in 2015. The Rams also appear to be on the rise with first-year coach Phillip Ironside, who comes to the program after a successful tenure at Hillgrove. They’ve already surpassed their win total from last year’s 2-8 season, with their most notable victory thus far a 34-30 win over 1A Public’s then-No. 8 Mitchell County, which was the first of three consecutive wins for the Rams. However, they are coming off a 47-0 loss to 7A’s unranked Tift County. Both the Hornets and Rams come to Region 1 from 3A, where they were also in Region 1. This will be the region opener for both teams and the fifth year in a row they’ve met as region opponents. Cook has won the last three meetings and eight of the last nine meetings, with the Rams last winning 37-30 in 2016. The Hornets lead the all-time series 17-15. This year’s matchup has playoff implications, as the loser could be the odd man out with Fitzgerald, Thomasville and Early County all fielding solid, ranked teams.
Fannin County Rebels at Pepperell Dragons
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dragon Stadium, Lindale
Records, rankings: Fannin County is 4-0, 1-0 in Region 7 and unranked; Pepperell is 2-3, 1-0 and unranked
Last meeting: Pepperell won 41-7 in 1989.
Maxwell’s projection: Pepperell by 1
Notes: This is the first time these teams, located 86 miles apart, will meet as region rivals and just the third they’ve faced off — they played a two-game home-and-away series to end the 1980s, with the Dragons winning both. This game could have region champion implications, though Coosa, Chattooga and Model could also have a say. The Dragons are off to a slow start — they’ve already matched their loss total from last season’s 9-3 finish — as they continue to adjust from the loss of their starting quarterback, Gage Moses, who was injured in the preseason and could be out for the year. They won their region opener last week, 41-14, over Dade County. They last won a region title in 2016, when they went 10-2 and reached the 2A quarterfinals. The Rebels are 4-0 for the first time since 1995 and are hoping to win a region title for the first time since 2007, when they won 8-2A. In 1995, they won their first 12 games and reached the quarterfinals but are 0-6 in the playoffs since. Chad Cheathem is in his third season with the Rebels and guided them to a 6-5 finish last year, good for their first winning season since 2010.
Early County Bobcats at Thomasville Bulldogs
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Veterans Memorial Stadium, Thomasville
Records, rankings: Early County is 3-0, 0-0 in Region 1 and No. 5; Thomasville is 2-3, 0-0 and No. 8.
Last meeting: Thomasville won 20-10 in 2019.
Watch the game: NFHS Network
Maxwell’s projection: Thomasville by 17
Notes: The Bulldogs have dominated this series, which began in 1996, leading 15-5. The two have met as region opponents every year dating back to 2004, with the Bulldogs going 12-4 in that span. The Bobcats last beat Thomasville in 2015, which was the last season before Zach Grage took over the Bulldogs. Thomasville finished 1-8 in 2015 for the fewest wins in a program history that dates back to 1914. Both teams open region play coming off a bye week. Though the Bulldogs have a losing record, all of their losses have come to ranked teams — 1A Public’s top-ranked Brooks County, 4A’s then-No. 7 Bainbridge and 3A’s No. 4 Oconee County. They won their other two games against rivals Thomas County Central and Cairo by a combined score of 64-14. The Bobcats are enjoying their best start and highest ranking since 2007 when they won their first six games and reached No. 4. (Note: I had previously, incorrectly reported that the last time the Bobcats were ranked was 1980 — that error has been corrected in those blog posts.) In the Bobcats' last game, they edged 4A’s Westover 21-20. If anything, the Bobcats should be more than well-rested for this game, having played just once since Sept. 11 — a 35-21 win over Pelham. They were forced to shut down the program for two weeks at the urging of a region director who insisted that any player who came in contact with a player from an opposing team with a confirmed COVID-19 had to quarantine. That’s what happened when it was later discovered that a Pelham player was COVID-19 positive and 31 Bobcats were on the field at different times when he was.
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