Class 6A blog: Houston County, 7 region champions head to quarterfinals

Seven region champions will be joined by a No. 4 seed as they go head to head this weekend in the quarterfinals of the Class 6A football playoffs.

Region champions Thomas County Central, Woodward Academy, Marist, Hughes, Rome, Roswell and Gainesville have rolled through the first two rounds, winning their games by an average of 33.3 points, with no games closer than 19-point victories by Marist (vs. Northside-Warner Robins) and Roswell (vs. Allatoona) last weekend.

Houston County of Region 1 is the only No. 4 seed remaining in any classification. The Bears, ranked No. 10, finished tied with Northside and Lee County for second place but settled for the fourth seed based on the region’s tiebreakers.

Houston County eliminated Region 2 champion Brunswick in the first round and defeated North Atlanta last week. All eight teams that remain in Class 6A entered the playoffs ranked in the top 10.

Here’s a look at Friday’s four quarterfinal games:

*Roswell (11-0) at Thomas County Central (12-0): This game matches two of the top three ranked teams in Class 6A. Third-ranked Roswell, a quarterfinalist in 7A in 2021, advanced with a 49-30 victory over Allatoona last week. Roswell led 21-17 at halftime but scored two touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarters. Nykahi Davenport rushed for a season-high 225 yards and scored three touchdowns. He has rushed for 1,731 yards for the year. K.J. Smith passed for 254 yards, putting him at 2,247 for the season. No. 2 Thomas County Central, a 5-6 team in Class 4A last season, reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009 with a 49-14 victory over St. Pius. Sam Brown threw a touchdown pass to Malachi Thomas early in the second quarter to break a 7-7 tie and ignite a 42-0 run. Trey Brenton and Ricky Fulton each rushed for more than 100 yards in the game and passed 1,000 for the season - Brenton at 1,057 and Fulton at 1,023. Brown has thrown for 2,478 yards. Thomas County Central, under first-year coach Justin Rogers, has its most wins since the 2007 team finished 13-1.

*Houston County (10-2) at Gainesville (12-0): Tenth-ranked Houston County is the only No. 4 seed still alive in any classification and the only 6A team remaining that was not a region champion. The Bears reached their first quarterfinal since 2019 with a 41-31 victory over North Atlanta. Houston County trailed 31-21 in the fourth quarter but scored three touchdowns to put the game away. Antwann Hill was held to a season-low 73 yards passing but has 3,246 for the year. Ryan Taleb ran for a season-high 273 yards (1,585 for the year) and three TDs. No. 4 Gainesville is in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014 after a 42-21 victory over South Paulding. The Red Elephants led 14-7 at halftime and added two touchdowns early in the second half to seize control. Baxter Wright passed for 257 yards and four touchdowns, and Naim Cheeks ran for 206 yards and two scores. Cheeks has rushed for 436 yards in two playoff games and 1,511 for the season. Gainesville held South Paulding’s Jamarion Wilcox, the leading rusher in 6A during the regular season, to less than 100 yards for the first time this season.

*Woodward Academy (11-1) at Hughes (12-0): Fifth-ranked Woodward Academy, a Class 5A team last season, beat No. 9 Lee County 23-7 last week to reach the quarterfinals for the sixth time in nine seasons but first since 2019. Jalen Woods threw for 221 yards and had touchdown passes to Ben Grice and Cameron Thompson as the War Eagles built a 20-0 lead through three quarters. Hudson Hanges kicked three field goals (47, 47 and 25 yards). Top-ranked Hughes, the 2021 runner-up, set a school record for points in a 77-16 second-round victory over North Forsyth. Prentiss “Air” Noland passed for 302 yards and six touchdowns, three to Jaden Barnes, who had four catches for 151 yards. Noland has 3,288 yards and 46 touchdowns passing this season. Jekail Middlebrook (112) and Justus Savage (103) both ran for more than 100 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers have scored 659 points this season, just 100 away from breaking the state record set by Rome in 2017.

*Marist (10-2) at Rome (11-1): This is the only 6A game matching teams that have played each other. Marist won three of the four previous meetings, all in the playoffs between 1997 and 2008. Seventh-ranked Marist beat Northside of Warner Robins 32-13 last week to reach the quarterfinals for the 10th time in 11 seasons. Jack Euart rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and passed for 68 yards as Marist outgained Northside 293-203. No. 6 Rome is in the quarterfinals for the fourth time in seven seasons but first since 2018. The Wolves beat Alpharetta 35-14 last week, allowing the most points in a game since a 42-19 victory over Allatoona on Sept. 23. Javarius McDearmont and Chance Arthur each scored two touchdowns, and Reece Fountain threw for 136 yards, giving him 2,634 on the season. Joe Wilkerson and Stephiylan Green intercepted passes against Alpharetta’s Ben Guthrie, Class 6A’s leading passer in the regular season. Guthrie threw for 302 yards and a touchdown in his final game and finished with 3,365 yards and 38 touchdowns.