Class 4A Blog: Region champs play host to second-round challengers

Today’s blog will breakdown the Sweet 16 after a quick recap of what went down in the opening round. Last week’s slate kicked off the postseason with 13 first-ever meetings and saw home teams go a combined 15-1. No. 3 seed North Oconee’s thrilling 41-35 win over Fayette County was the only road victory and it is also worth mentioning that No. 1 seed Cedartown did not play, but advanced after Arabia Mountain forfeited their matchup. In the second-round, four of the eight matchups will be first-ever meetings and each of the eight region champions will look to defend their home turf. Here’s a breakdown of each of the matchups:

R1#2 Cairo @ R3#1 Benedictine

Cairo went up 20-0 in the first half and coasted to a 37-0 win over West Laurens in the first round. Running back Tay Solomon accounted for two rushing scores in the first half and was a major factor in the Syrupmakers fast start. The victory gives Cairo its fifth-straight win heading into kickoff. Benedictine is the No. 4 ranked team in the classification and is coming off a 42-35 win over a talented Troup team in the first round. It was just the second Class 4A opponent that the Cadets have faced this season. One of the major driving forces behind Benedictine’s consistency and success this season has been the outstanding play of junior quarterback Holden Geriner. The 6-foot-3 junior completed 22-of-30 attempts for 302 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Troup. On the year, Geriner has 19 passing touchdowns and just one interceptions. He also has nearly 2,000 yards through the air (1994) and is completing 70.5 percent of his attempts. The two teams last met in 2007 and Cairo emerged victorious in a 42-0 blowout.

R7#2 Northwest Whitfield @ R5#1 Riverdale

Northwest Whitfield rallied back from a 24-13 deficit to score a 28-24 victory over Stephenson in the first round. Now the Bruins are a victory away from earning the program’s first-ever quarterfinal appearance. Standing in the way is a Riverdale team that is coming off its first playoff victory (44-7 Cedar Shoals) since 2001 when head coach Rodney Hackney was serving his first stint at the helm. Like Northwest Whitfield, the Raiders will also be looking to earn their first-ever trip to the quarterfinals. Lastly, this will be the first-ever meeting between the programs.

R6#2 Hapeville Charter @ R8#1 Jefferson

Both teams shutout their opponents in the first round, but the games could not have been any more different. Hapeville Charter advanced with a 6-0 victory over Heritage-Catoosa, whereas No. 2 ranked Jefferson cruised to a 65-0 blowout over Mt. Zion. Jefferson has one of the top rushing attacks in the state, however, when the Dragons decide to throw the ball they do so with incredible efficiency. For example, in Jefferson’s last two games of the regular season, all three of their completed passes went for touchdowns. Jefferson won its first-ever state title in 2012 and Hapeville Charter won its first championship in 2017. This will be the first-ever meeting between the programs.

R4#2 Baldwin @ R2#1 Carver-Columbus

Baldwin quarterback Derrick Lewis connected with Kirtavious Hightower for the game-winning score in last week’s 36-30 win over Thomas County Central. No. 3 ranked Carver-Columbus impressed in their 26-3 win over Jenkins and improved their overall record to 9-0. Quarterback DJ Riles and Jaiden Credle accounted for all four Tigers touchdown in the first-round victory. Carver-Columbus has a 3-1 all-time edge in the series and took the last contest 28-19 when the teams met in 2009.

R8#3 North Oconee @ R7#1 Cedartown

North Oconee is coming off its thrilling 41-35 win over Fayette County, while Cedartown is fresh off an unexpected bye in the first round after Arabia Mountain was forced to forfeit. North Oconee’s offense has averaged 32.2 ppg this season and Cedartown has lit up the scoreboard with a 34.4 ppg average. Defensively, Cedartown has the edge with a 12.1 ppg average to the Titans 26.6 ppg. As for the matchup itself, this will be the first-ever meeting between the programs.

R3#2 Islands @ R1#1 Bainbridge

Islands rallied past Hardaway with 22 unanswered points to score its 22-18 first-round victory. Bainbridge was in control throughout its opener and dispatched Westside-Macon 42-0. The No. 6 ranked Bearcats carry a seven-game winning streak into kickoff and have not lost within the classification this season. This will be the first-ever meeting between the programs.

R2#2 LaGrange @ R4#1 Perry

LaGrange pulled out a hard-fought 30-26 win over New Hampstead in the first round and Perry took care of business with a 30-14 win over Westover. These teams have split their previous two meetings 1-1 and this will be their first time playing since 2007. LaGrange will look to advance past the second round for the first time since 2008 under its first-year head coach Matt Napier. As for Perry, the Panthers are looking to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007.

R8#2 Flowery Branch @ R6#1 Marist

No. 5 Flowery Branch at No. 1 Marist is the lone top 10 matchup on the second-round slate. These two programs occupied the same Region 7 over the past two seasons and Marist took both matchups—defeating the Falcons 27-0 in 2019 and 20-0 in 2018. Marist was a 49-0 winner over Central-Carroll in the first round and Flowery Branch is coming off a strong 40-7 win over Luella. Like their previous two matchups, this will be the third time that both teams were ranked heading into kickoff.