Class 5A blog: A look at the quarterfinal games

Maurice Dixon addresses his Creekside football team after their 19-14 win at Grayson on Aug. 20, 2021.
Maurice Dixon addresses his Creekside football team after their 19-14 win at Grayson on Aug. 20, 2021.

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey

By the time the third round of the playoffs rolls around, all the weak teams are gone. For the most part, the final eight teams remaining are quality squads who are playing at the highest level. There are no cupcakes at this stage of the game. And that’s certainly the case in Class 5A.

Of the eight remaining teams, four have won a state championship over this decade: Creekside (2013), Calhoun (2014 and 2017), Blessed Trinity (2017-19) and Warner Robins (2020). Four are region champions, three of the others were runner-up. Blessed Trinity was the lone No. 3 seed that emerged.

Here’s a look at this week’s games, which will leave four teams needing just one more win to play for the state championship:

No. 5 Creekside (10-2) at No. 10 Whitewater (11-1): Creekside has the same assignment it did last week: Stop the opponent’s option offense. The Seminoles were effective enough at it last week and came away with a 41-34 win over St. Pius. Creekside’s offense has matured under the direction of QB Nyqua Lett (1,855 yards passing, 22 TDs), who has found a favorite target in Derrick White (648 yards receiving, nine TDs). Whitewater’s offense may be even more ground-oriented than that of St. Pius; the Wildcats average 5.8 passes per game. Braxton Mueller (821 yards, seven TDs), Dalton Bonner (766 yards, 11 TDs), and QB Austin Williams (567 yards) lead a group that averages 309 yards rushing per game. The series is tied 2-2 and Creekside won the last meeting 27-23 in 2013.

No. 4 Warner Robins (11-1) at Jones County (10-2): The defending state champion Demons came up with last-minute goal line stand and beat No. 1-ranked Cartersville in a rematch of the 2020 title game. This game could evolve into a shootout, with both clubs capable of putting up big numbers. Warner Robins has scored 579 points (48.3 per game), with QB Christon Lane throwing for 2,267 yards and 29 TDs, Malcom Brown (1,332 yards rushing, 17 TDs) and Fred Perry (857 yards, 13 TDs) producing on the ground and Daveon Walker (58 catches, 1,117 yards, 13 TDs) and Deuce Petty (28 catches, 573 yards, nine TDs) the main targets. Jones County has scored 525 points (43.8 per game) behind the direction of quarterback John Alan Richter, who has thrown for 3,021 yards and 31 touchdowns. There’s depth in the backfield with Javious Bond (883 yards rushing, 14 TDs) the leader; he ran for four touchdowns last week. Zion Ragins (60 catches, 1,026 yards) is the big-play wide receiver. The other twist in this game is Jones County coach Mike Chastain, who left the job at Warner Robins to join the Greyhounds. The all-time series is tied 3-3 and Warner Robins won the last meeting 56-21 in the semifinals a year ago.

No. 9 Blessed Trinity (8-4) at Villa Rica (9-2): The Blessed Trinity attack revolves around junior running back Justice Haynes, who missed a couple of games and has still rushed for 1,964 yards. He had 193 yards and two touchdowns last week. Haynes is a threat to go the distance at any time. Villa Rica is a running team led by running back Ty McKey (1,133 yards), who went for 158 in the second round against Harris County. Villa Rica has won nine straight games and is in the quarterfinal round for the first time since 1998. This will be the first meeting between the two teams.

No. 6 Calhoun (10-2) at Clarke Central (10-2): Calhoun went to the other end of the state to knock off Ware County 49-42 in an offensive display that wasn’t decided until the final minute. Calhoun quarterback Christian Lewis leads an attack that averages 40 points per game; he threw for 447 yards last week. Calhoun has plenty of quick-strike potential in Georgia commit Cole Speer, who is dangerous as a return man and as a receiver. Clarke Central’s defense is playing at a high level. The Gladiators have allowed a total of 16 points over the last three games, but they haven’t played an opponent with as much firepower as Calhoun all season. Clarke can throw up a pass rush; Dailen Howard has 11 sacks and Kahari Dean and Kendrick Curry each have four. But the Glads won’t succeed unless they are effective running the ball with Will Richardson, who is 70 yards shy of reaching 1,000. The teams met for the first time last season in the second round and Calhoun won 33-14.

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