R1#2 Cairo (7-3) at R7#1 Cedartown (9-1)
Cairo has won five-straight games and led New Hampstead 33-24 until a late Phoenix touchdown brought the final score to 33-31. The Syrupmakers’ offense features a bevy of receivers, including 6-foot-3 target Tyree Kelly and Kamaree Perry—who hauled in a 61-yard touchdown in the team’s season finale win over Westover. Junior Amarion Byrden can go off in the backfield and potentially have a 15-to-20 carry load if head coach Steve DeVoursney and staff call his number. As for Cedartown, the Bulldogs run the Wing-T offensively and have used that system to rack up a 9-1 record and earn the No. 4 ranking in Class 4A. The Bulldogs led 42-0 at the half and closed out a 55-14 win over Hampton in the first round. By the end of the game, Cedartown had 428 rushing yards off 39 team carries (11 ypc) and seven rushing touchdowns—including three by junior Harlem Diamond. On the year, Cedartown is averaging 323.1 rushing yards per game and has 43 rushing scores to go with the team’s seven passing touchdowns. Defensively, Cedartown is also outstanding. Junior Eli Barrow has a team-high 99 tackles and senior Demario Sims is leading with 14 of the team’s 37 sacks.
R8#3 Flowery Branch (8-3) at R4#1 Perry (10-1)
Flowery Branch’s David Renard threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Fetterman with 30 seconds left for a 33-28 first-round victory over Mays. Renard finished the game with 171 yards passing and also rushed for 114 yards. His experience proved to be crucial as he led the 70-yard, two-minute drive after Mays had taken a 28-27 lead with less than three minutes left and his 22-yard run on a fourth-and-11 play saved the season for the Falcons. Miles Ivey is a talented junior running back and Jaheim Hayes leads the receiving corps with sophomore Seth Larson. Region 4 champion Perry advanced to the second round for the third consecutive season with a 31-12 win over Hardaway. Armar Gordon was 12-of-21 passing for 118 yards, giving him 2,573 for the season. The Panthers reached the 10-win mark for the first time in school history. Perry has produced 10 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles and has blocked six punts this season while giving up just 9.91 ppg. Offensively, Perry’s production is fueled through the air with Daequan Wright (11) and Dakarai Anderson (5) leading the way with 16 of the team’s 28 touchdown receptions.
R2#3 LaGrange (9-2) at R6#1 Marist (9-1)
LaGrange scored its first shutout since 2014 in its 19-0 first round win over Baldwin and held the Braves to minus-8 yards in the second half. The Grangers also had four interceptions in the victory. Offensively, dual-threat quarterback Tae Snead had 119 yards and a touchdown rushing and passed for 113 yards. His teammate A.J. Tucker ran for 100 yards and a touchdown off 21 carries. Defending champion and No. 1-ranked Marist is in the second round for the 23rd time in 26 seasons after beating Cedar Shoals 49-7. Andrew Mannelly ran for 94 yards and a touchdown, Quinn Gooding had three rushing touchdowns, and Billy Roche scored on a fumble recovery. LaGrange has lost six straight games against No. 1-ranked opponents dating to a 16-7 win over Peach County in 2003. A Marist victory would result in the War Eagle’s ninth double-digit win season over the last 10 years. This will be the first-ever meeting between the programs.
R5#2 Luella (8-3) at R3#1 Benedictine (9-2)
Luella, which opened in 2003, picked up its first-ever playoff victory and set a school record for wins in a season when it defeated Heritage of Ringgold 20-13. An interception by Mychal Metcalfe set up a 17-yard touchdown pass from Destin Ingram to Markelo Green late in the third quarter that broke a 13-13 tie. Second-year coach Craig Coleman is 14-8 in two years at school that had had only one winning season in its history. The Lions will face a Benedictine team that is averaging 54.3 during its nine-game winning streak and the program has won 10-straight first-round games. Justin Thomas, a UGA baseball signee, had two touchdowns and two interceptions in the first half and finished with 151 yards rushing in a 59-0 victory over Thomas County Central last week. He had 1,780 all-purpose yards in the regular season. Quarterback Holden Geriner has thrown 21 touchdowns this year with only two interceptions and Zaquan Bryan is the top target with 64 catches for 905 yards and seven touchdowns. Defensively, Holden Sapp led the team with five interceptions and 77 tackles during the regular season. Sophomore Bryce Baker finished the regular season with with 73 tackles and 6-foot-4 senior Bryce Kromenhoek had a team-leading 5.5 sacks to go with his 57 tackles.
R4#3 Spalding (8-2) at R8#1 North Oconee (8-3)
Spalding won a playoff game for the first time in five years and did it on a rainy Thursday night 10-3 victory over Troup. The Jaguars turned two Troup turnovers into a first-quarter field goal and a third-quarter touchdown run by Jordan Jester that was the game-winner. Spalding was 1-9 in 2020 and got on the map this season when it toppled then No. 3 ranked Perry 31-26 on the road. North Oconee beat Miller Grove 56-21 for its seventh consecutive victory after a 1-3 start and is in the second round for the fourth consecutive season. Dominic Elder rushed for 135 yards and scored three touchdowns, and Ryland Laturell scoring on a fumble return. The Titans, region champions for the first time since 2012, led 49-7 midway through the third quarter. North Oconee’s only losses this season came to Oconee County (35-28), Cambridge (21-19) and Benedictine (48-17) and they have adapted when quarterback Max Wilson got sidelined by bringing in Louden Schnake. Khalil Barnes, Rodrick Finch and Elder form an outstanding backfield combo.
R7#2 Northwest Whitfield (8-3) at R1#1 Bainbridge (8-3)
Northwest Whitfield’s Adrian Reyes scored on a 2-yard run with 13 seconds remaining for a 36-33 first-round victory over Fayette County. The Bruins are in the second round for the second straight season—which is a first in school history. Quarterback Owen Brooker passed for 2,460 yards in the regular season and kept the winning drive alive when he converted a fourth-and-2 at the Fayette County 8-yard line with 33 seconds left. Bainbridge, a semifinalist last year, beat Islands 42-0 for its seventh consecutive victory after a 1-3 start (the win was a forfeit by Valdosta). Bo Smith passed for 188 yards and four touchdowns, giving him 1,715 and 18 for the season. Kennan Phillips ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns, and Deyon Bouie had 124 receiving yards on three catches, all of which went for scores. The Bearcats held Islands to 82 total yards. This will be the first-ever meeting between the programs and the Bruins will have to travel 330 miles south to faceoff with the Bearcats.