Class 5A blog: A look at this week’s Sweet 16

This week’s quarterfinal games have something for everyone. There are three games that match ranked teams against each other – any of them otherwise worthy of a state championship game.

Here’s a look at this week’s second round games:

No. 5 Creekside (9-2) at No. 8 St. Pius (9-2): Creekside’s stout defense will face a different sort of test this week when it goes against the option attack that will be fielded by St. Pius. Linebacker Vincent Hill leads the Seminoles with 143 tackles and junior Kaquan Kimber has 100 stops. Creekside’s offense revolves around quarterback Nyqua Lett, who has thrown for 1,625 yards and 19 touchdowns – three last week – and has run for 611 yards and six TDs. The St. Pius attack has produced at least 33 points in each of its last seven games by using a variety of backs, including Alex Possert (162 yards, two TDs last week), Shug Bentley, Liam Whitlark and the versatile Jack Tchienchou. Creekside leads the series 2-0, but the teams haven’t played since 1991. The winner gets: Lithia Springs-Whitewater winner.

Lithia Springs (5-6) at No. 10 Whitewater (10-1): Lithia Springs is fresh from the school’s first win in the state playoffs. The Lions have won three straight and four of their last five. Jai’que Hart has thrown for 2,667 yards and 26 touchdowns, including 176 yards and three touchdowns last week against Apalachee, to pace the offense. Whitewater is on a 10-game winning streak. The Wildcats run an option attack and will try to shorten the game and keep the ball out of Hart’s hands. Braxton Mueller (767 yards, six TDs), Dalton Bonner (679 yards, eight TDs), Logan Griffith (482 yards), quarterback Austin Williams (549 yards rushing, 10 TDs; 425 yards passing). This is the first meeting between the schools. The winner gets: Creekside-St. Pius winner.

No. 4 Warner Robins (10-1) at No. 1 Cartersville (10-0), 8:10 p.m.: This game is worthy of being played for the state championship – just like it was a year ago, which Warner Robins won 62-28. Both teams are loaded with weapons, particularly on offense. Warner Robins features quarterback Christon Lane, who has thrown for 2,136 yards and 27 touchdowns, and Malcom Brown, who has run for 1,332 yards and 17 TDs, but didn’t play last week. Daveon Walker is all-state caliber with 49 receptions for 1,035 yards and 12 TDs. Cartersville quarterback Jake Perry has thrown for 1,149 yards and 16 TDs, with Collin Fletcher, Brynen Wilkins and Jacob “Big Play” Ray. Amari White (894 yard, 10 TDs) and Malachi Jefferies (592 yards, 12 TDs) form a great running tandem. The game will be televised on Peachtree TV, thus the very late start. The game can be heard live on the SportsMic app. The winner gets: Eastside-Jones County winner.

Eastside (8-3) at Jones County (9-2): This is a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal game that Jones County won 28-7. Jones County is on an eight-game winning streak and won the Region 4 title along the way. The Greyhounds are all about the offense; they’ve scored at least 38 points in seven of the last eight games. John Alan Richter has thrown for 2,659 yards and 28 touchdowns, with 48 completions to Zion Ragins and 42 to running back Javious Bond, who has rushed for a team-leading 676 yards and 10 TDs. Eastside will try to slow the pace of the game with its strong running attack. The Eagles have a workhorse in Dallas Johnson, who has run for 1,669 yards. Johnson ran for 152 yards last week against New Manchester. The winner gets: Warner Robins-Cartersville winner.

Harris County (7-4) at Villa Rica (9-2): For the second straight week the volatile attack of Harris County is matched against a run-oriented team. Harris County quarterback Cooper Corey ran for three touchdowns and threw for three others in last week’s win over Apalachee and Vanderbilt commit K.J. Hutchinson scored twice, catching one and returning another for a touchdown. Villa Rica’s Ty McKey is only 25 yards shy of reaching 1,000 and the Wildcats are on a nine-game winning streak that includes two shutouts. This will be the first meeting between the two teams. The winner gets: Blessed Trinity-Woodward Academy winner.

No. 9 Blessed Trinity (7-4) at No. 2 Woodward Academy (11-0): This is expected to be a showcase for two of the state running backs in the state – Blessed Trinity junior Justice Haynes (1,771 yards) and Woodward senior Damari Alston (1,592 yards). Haynes missed three games or his total would be closer to 2,000 and Alston, an Auburn commit, had limited carries in several lopsided games. The Woodward defense is led by Spencer Snipe (86 yards), Deon King (76 stops) and A.J. Hoffler (nine sacks) and has allowed more than 14 points in a game this season. Blessed Trinity leads the series 4-1; the teams played twice in 2019 with Woodward winning during the regular season and Blessed Trinity won the rematch in the state semifinals on the way to claiming a state championship. The winner gets: Harris County-Villa Rica winner.

Starr’s Mill (8-3) at Clarke Central (9-2): Starr’s Mill takes its wing-T attack to Death Valley to challenge Clarke’s athletic defense in the battle between two of the state’s most consistent programs. Starr’s Mill will try to eat the clock and keep it away from Clarke’s playmakers behind the running of Brandon Mathis (981 yards, 14 TDs), Greigh Joseph (863 yards, 12 TDs) and quarterback William Yarbrough (393 yards rushing, 196 yards passing). Clarke Central’s attack is directed by quarterback Lucien Anderson (824 yards passing) with a balanced running attack led by Will Richardson (725 yards, 11 TDs) and Jaydavion Adkins (512 yards, five TDs). The Gladiators’ defense is led by junior Dailen Howard, who has 46 tackles and 10 sacks. The winner gets: Calhoun-Ware County winner.

No. 6 Calhoun (9-2) at No. 3 Ware County (9-1): This could turn into another high-powered shootout between two outstanding offensive teams. Calhoun averages 41 points, Ware County averages 40 – both against a challenging schedule. The talent starts at quarterback, which features Calhoun’s Christian Lewis (2,286 yard passing) and Ware’s Thomas Castellanos (1,293 yards passing, 781 yards rushing, 38 TDs). Both also have 1,000-yard runners – Ware’s Cartevious Norton (1,166 yards) and Calhoun’s Caden Williams (1,069 yards). Calhoun’s dangerous Cole Speer could be a difference maker; the Georgia plays both ways and is a game-breaker as a return man and receiver. The two teams have never met. The winner gets: Clarke Central-Starr’s Mill winner.