Class 3A blog: Eight teams, four games, all toss-ups

2020 GHSA football championships at Centre Park Stadium.
2020 GHSA football championships at Centre Park Stadium.

Credit: Adam Krohn

Credit: Adam Krohn

Well, that went fast, didn’t it?

The Class 3A high school football quarterfinals provide four of the best games this season, and any of the teams are capable of winning.

Talk about toss-ups.

Last week’s results -- Crisp over Oconee and Peach over Monroe Area – really threw a proverbial wrench into the gears of any bracket-prediction machine.

So let’s try this prediction thing one more time:

-- Region 5 No. 1-seed Cedar Grove at Region 2 No. 1-seed Crisp County: Miguel Patrick has carried on at Crisp County what Brad Harber started in 2017. And Friday night, Patrick will face his former team, Cedar Grove, in his new home, Cordele, for a chance to take Crisp to the semifinals for the fourth time since 2016.

In 2019, Harber coached Crisp County to the state-title game against Cedar Grove, where Patrick was enjoying success in his first season leading the Saints. Patrick took over the Crisp job after Harber’s departure in the offseason. Cedar Grove’s new coach, John Adams, is trying to mimic Patrick’s 2019 season, when the former Saints coach won a state title in his first season at Ellenwood.

On paper – and in the rankings – Cedar Grove is the better team, but so was Oconee County. On paper.

-- Region 1 No. 2-seed Appling County at Region 4 No. 1-seed Thomson: Appling County is under new head coach Jordan Mullis, who is trying to do what only one coach has done in Appling’s history -- coach a team to the semis in his first season.

Bob Griffith accomplished that feat in 1999. Appling has been to the semifinals one other time, in 2011 under head coach J.T. Pollock. Last season, under head coach Rick Tomberlin, Appling lost 31-13 to Greater Atlanta Christian in the quarterfinals.

The Pirates are coming off a 34-20 victory against Cherokee Bluff in the first round. Michael Youngblood took over the Thomson program in 2018 and has never been to the quarterfinals. He has had postseason success but never advanced past the second round. Thomson beat Ringgold 14-7 in the second round this season and (thus far) no one has beaten the Bulldogs.

-- Region 4 No. 2-seed Burke County at Region 5 No. 2-seed Carver-Atlanta: Eric Parker has coached at Burke since 2007 and wants another championship for the Bears. He won the 2011 3A championship and has been to the quarterfinals four times – 2012, 2013, 2017 and this season – since but never past there.

Burke defeated Stephens County 41-24 in the second round this season. Similarly, Carver-Atlanta head coach Darren Myles has been at Carver since 2005 and has quarterfinal appearances in 2007, 2020 and a semifinal exit in 2017.

--Region 2 No. 2-seed Peach County at Region 1 No. 1-seed Pierce County: Defending-champion Pierce County is the team to beat, and Peach will have a tall task upending the Bears. Ryan Herring took over at Pierce in 2019, when the Bears lost in the second round. Last season, Pierce defeated Oconee County in the title game for the program’s first-ever title.

It’s worth noting that Pierce has not allowed a score since Oct. 22 in a 44-6 victory against Long County. But a momentum-driven Peach County team stands between Herring and a repeat.

Peach pulled off a state-shaking upset of top-ranked Monroe Area on the road in the second round (24-21). The Trojans have made deep playoff runs for the past 30 years, with championships in 2005, 2006 and 2009. Peach lost in the title game in 1992, 1998, 2003, 2011, 2017 and 2018.

Class 3A quarterfinals schedule (predictions in bold)

R5#1 Cedar Grove at R2#1 Crisp County

R1#2 Appling County at R4#1 Thomson

R4#2 Burke County at R5#2 Carver-Atlanta

R2#2 Peach County at R1#1 Pierce County