Class 4A Blog: Sweet 16 Primer

Westminster HS versus Stephenson HS at James Hallford Stadium, Friday night, October 7, 2022 (Photo Jamie Spaar for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Westminster HS versus Stephenson HS at James Hallford Stadium, Friday night, October 7, 2022 (Photo Jamie Spaar for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Class 4A Playoff action returns to Friday night after having to play its first round games last Saturday. All 10 teams that were in the pre-playoff poll advanced and 14 of 16 home teams earned victories in the first round—with the exception being No. 3 seed Lovett’s 31-24 win over Madison County and No. 3 seed Troup’s 14-10 win over Cairo. There were no top 10 matchpus in the first round, but there will be two ranked showdowns to watch this Friday with No. 7 Perry at No. 3 Bainbridge and No. 10 LaGrange at No. 1 LaGrange. Another key storyline heading into the Sweet 16 will be the six teams that have not yet dropped a game within the classification this season. This includes Bainbridge, Benedictine, Stockbridge, Central-Carroll, North Oconee and Spalding. Bainbridge (9-2) rides an eight-game win-streak after early losses to Class 5A Coffee and Class 6A Thomas County Central, Stockbridge (9-2) dropped early losses to Class 6A Douglas County and Class 7A Colquitt County before winning nine-straight and Benedictine, Central-Carroll, North Oconee and Spalding are all 11-0 on the season.

No. 3 seed Troup held on to a 14-10 win over Cairo in the first round and will now take on undefeated Spalding—which is fresh off a 34-21 win over Wayne County. Spalding’s first round victory saw the Jags score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to storm back from a 21-14 deficit. Additionally, Spalding found a way to win against a Wayne County team that features the No. 1 rusher in Class 4A with Matthew Fuller—who finished the year with 27 touchdowns and 2,086 rushing yards.

Westminster won a playoff game for the first time since 2018 and will have to travel to Stockbridge to take on a Tigers team that cruised to a 48-0 first-round win over North Hall. Jayden “Duke” Scott ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 1,666 yards and 28 TDs for the season. Cobey Thompkins passed for 131 yards and three touchdowns and had 47 yards and a touchdown rushing. The Tigers have outscored their opponents 447-56 since opening the season with losses against undefeated, higher-classification teams Colquitt County and Douglas County.

LaGrange has been one of the hottest teams in the state over the last month and will look to upset two-time defending state champion Benedictine on Friday. The Grangers dominated the first round with a 45-6 win over Westover and have benefitted from the return of Malachi Fannin-Render—who is back from an injury sustained in the Spring. Benedictine also excelled in the first round with a 41-0 win over Baldwin. Florida State-commit Luke Kromenhoek passed for 256 yards and two touchdowns and added 31 rushing yards and a score.

Similar to LaGrange’s trip to Savannah, Cedartown will have a tall task with its trip to No. 2 ranked North Oconee. This is a rematch of last year’s semifinal game that the Bulldogs won 28-20, but this year it is the Titans that will be heavy favorites. Last week, the Titans fell behind Pace Academy 6-0 in the first quarter but scored the game’s next 52 points in a 52-13 victory. Max Wilson passed for 166 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown. Cedartown, meanwhile scored a 21-7 win over Holy Innocents’ in the first round.

Central-Carroll is 11-0 for the first time since 2014 and will host No. 3 seed Lovett for a chance to add another victory to its historic run. Lovett reached the second round for the fourth consecutive season with a 31-24 victory over Madison County. Freshman J.R. Harris was 10-of-15 passing for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the Lions’ 41-33 win over Hapeville Charter. New Hampstead, playing a postseason game at home for the first time in the school’s 10-year history, picked up its first playoff victory since 2018 with a 40-12 win over Westside of Macon. Junior quarterback RaShawn Truell passed for 231 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 53 yards and two TDs. He led Class 4A in passing during the regular season with 2,692 yards. Eighth-ranked Starr’s Mill, the Region 4 champion, missed the playoffs last year but beat Shaw 48-0 last week to reach the second round for the seventh time in nine seasons. Starr’s Mill is led by Logan Inagawa, who passed for 1,065 yards in the regular season, and Dorsey Benefield, who ran for 694 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Panthers have given up just 7.2 points per game since opening the season with losses to East Coweta and Northgate by a combined 10 points.

Luella won a playoff game for the second time in three years (and second time in school history) when it beat East Forsyth 26-21. East Forsyth, a 3-year-old school, was making its first playoff appearance. Luella trailed 21-20 until Kylen Hart scored his third rushing touchdown, a 36-yarder, late in the third quarter, and the Lions stopped East Forsyth inside the red zone with less than two minutes left to preserve the win. Stephenson advanced past the first round for the second consecutive season when it beat Northwest Whitfield 62-15. A 50-yard touchdown run by Devin Ingram jump-started a 41-point half for the Jaguars. Ingram rushed for 221 yards and four touchdowns. That put him at 2,033 yards and 30 touchdowns on the season. Stephenson won five of six games against Luella when they were in Region 2-5A together from 2006 to 2011, but they haven’t met since.

No. 7 Perry’s 35-14 victory over Burke County las week was its seventh playoff win in coach Kevin Smith’s seven-year tenure. The Panthers had won just three state-playoff games in the 63 seasons before his arrival. The game was tied 14-14 midway through the third quarter, but Ahmad Gordon scored three touchdowns in the final 18 minutes to put the game away. Gordon ran for 158 yards on 30 carries, giving him 1,381 yards and 26 touchdowns for the season. Third-ranked Bainbridge, the Region 1 champion, built a 28-0 second-quarter lead and rolled past Trinity Christian 49-14 to reach the second round for the eighth time in nine seasons. Keenan Phillips and Antavious Murphy scored three touchdowns each. Phillips rushed for 200 yards on 15 carries and has 1,444 yards for the season. Murphy had 96 yards rushing and 61 yards receiving.

Second Round Matchups

R4#3 Troup at R2#1 Spalding

R6#2 Westminster at R5#1 Stockbridge

R4#2 LaGrange at R3#1 Benedictine

R7#2 Cedartown at R8#1 North Oconee

R5#3 Lovett at R7#1 Central-Carroll

R3#2 New Hampstead at R4#1 Starr’s Mill

R5#2 Luella at R6#1 Stephenson

R2#2 Perry at R1#1 Bainbridge

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