First-round preview: Mays prepares for another playoff run

Mays quarterback Quintavious Johnson (3) shown here at the 2021 Corky Kell Classic football game at West Forsyth High School, is a University of Georgia commit as a defensive lineman. He still occasionally plays quarterback and is hard to bring down. (Daniel Varnado/ For the AJC)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Mays quarterback Quintavious Johnson (3) shown here at the 2021 Corky Kell Classic football game at West Forsyth High School, is a University of Georgia commit as a defensive lineman. He still occasionally plays quarterback and is hard to bring down. (Daniel Varnado/ For the AJC)

One of the teams flying under the playoff radar is Mays. The Raiders sport a less-than-flashy 6-4 record, but their body of work in the second half of the season points to coach Tony Slaton’s team as one to keep an eye on during the postseason. Again.

The same scenario existed a year ago and the Raiders powered their way into the third round, losing to Dutchtown and former Mays coach Niketa Battle. Mays (6-4) opens the playoffs against Loganville (5-5) on Friday at Lakewood Stadium in what could be one of the best games of the opening round.

Mays lost its first three games – a three-point loss to next-door neighbor Douglass, by six points to Class 6A No. 3 Douglas County and by 10 to Rabun Gap when the Raiders were handicapped by missing numerous key players who had to sit out a game following an incident at the end of the DC game.

After a week off, the Raiders came back to pound Chapel Hill 40-0, took another week off and lost a one-point thriller to No. 2 Creekside. From that point Mays has been focused and sharp, winning five in a row and closing the season with three shutouts.

“We were able to regroup,” Slaton said. “We know what the expectations are and they just came together and started playing for one another. We’ve been able to grow and find our identity and get that going into the playoffs.”

Mays had to replace all-state quarterback Saulamon Evans and turned to Semaj Martinez, who has grown into he role. Quintavius Johnson (6-5, 250) is a Georgia commitment at defensive end but is occasionally asked to play quarterback and is hard to bring down. The Raiders also have a pair of long-limbed 6-5 receivers in Jaqorian Wiggles and Jamonte Wilson.

The presence of the two big receivers should help the Mays secondary prepare for this week’s challenge against Loganville, where sophomore Brody Hannah has thrown for 2,845 yards and 24 touchdowns. Junior Ahmed Souare has caught 65 passes and leads Class 5A with 1,275 yards and 16 touchdowns. Joseph Banks has developed into a dangerous running back – he rushed for 183 yards and three touchdowns against Flowery Branch in the game that clinched a spot in the playoffs.

The Mays defense is quick and athletic, especially up front and with the linebackers. Derrius Grimes has stepped in to replace Troy Pikes, now at Georgia Southern, and is holding down the middle.

“They understand their assignments,” Slaton said. “That has been the advantage that we’ve had going into this last stretch of the season. Those guys are quicker and faster than a lot of offensive lines we play.”

This will be the first meeting between Loganville and Mays.

First-round matchups:

Decatur (5-5) at No. 5 Ware County (7-3), McIntosh (6-4) at No. 9 Warner Robins (7-3), Dalton (7-3) at No. 8 Greater Atlanta Christian (9-1), Flowery Branch (5-5) at No. 2 Creekside (9-1), Statesboro (3-7) vs. Tucker (6-4) at Adams Stadium, Ola (7-3) at No. 10 Harris County (9-1), Cambridge (6-4) at No. 7 Hiram (8-2), Maynard Jackson (5-5) at No. 3 Jefferson (10-0).

Eastside (7-3) at Chapel Hill (8-2), Centennial (3-7) at No. 4 Carrollton (9-1), Dutchtown (5-5) at Northgate (7-3), Jenkins (3-7) vs. Arabia Mountain (9-1) at Godfrey Stadium, Loganville (5-5) at Mays (6-4), Cass (5-5) at No. 6 Kell (9-1), Northside Columbus (6-4) at Jones County (7-3), Chamblee (4-6) at No. 1 Coffee (10-0).

Dalton at Greater Atlanta Christian: This will be the battle between two outstanding quarterbacks – Dalton’s Ethan Long, a junior who was second-team all-region, and GAC’s Jack Stanton, a senior who has thrown for 2,129 yards and 22 touchdowns. Stanton recently committed to play at Houston Christian.

Dalton running back Adriel Hernandez is the Region 7 co-Player of the Year. The Catamounts also had first-team all-region players in wide receiver Bubba Tanner, tight end Jefferson Locke (who de-committed from Army), offensive lineman Stryker Woods and cornerback Andy Atangana.

GAC’s Gianlucca Tiberia has rushed for 1,286 yards and seven touchdowns and Xavier Daisy has 45 receptions for 813 yards and 10 touchdowns. On defense, sophomore Reid Voyles has a team-high 100 tackles and nine tackles for loss and five sacks. Linebacker Gold Chyrack had eight tackles, three for loss, and a sack in last week’s win over Centennial.

This will be the first meeting between the two schools.

Ola at Harris County: Harris County didn’t get any favors, as Ola is considered one of the best No. 4 seeds in the field. The Mustangs were ranked as high as No. 9 in the state during the regular season.

Ola has a balanced attack behind quarterback Jake Holmes, who has thrown for 1,257 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 492 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Mustangs’ solid run game features a pair of freshmen -- Nigel Newkirk (870 yards rushing, 14 TDs) and Caden Waye (729 yards, four TDs).

Harris County quarterback Levi Watson has thrown for 1,187 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed or 437 yards and five touchdowns. Mataye Youman is a key two-way player; he was the Region 5 Defensive Player of the year in 2022 and this season has rushed for 1,094 yards and 13 touchdowns and has come up big in important games. He carried 30 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns against Northgate, the game that essentially earned them the region title.

The teams have met one before, with Ola prevailing 21-14 in 2010.

Cass at Kell: Each of Cass’ losses have come against state-ranked competition. Beating then-No. 10 Calhoun last week was enough to get the Colonels a place in the state playoffs for the third straight year. Kell has won nine straight since losing its season opener to Class 7A Parkview in the Corky Kell Classic.

All-region quarterback Brodie McWhorter leads Cass with 1,683 yards passing and Devin Henderson has rushed for 955 yards rushing and Georgia commitment Sacovie White is No. 2 in the state with 1,138 yards receiving. Defensive back Devin Henderson, a Liberty commitment, was voted the Region 7 co-Player of the Year and lineman Kaden Ellis, an App State commit, was named Region 7 Defensive Player of the Year. Other first-team all-region players include lineman Bear McWhorter, outside linebacker Kevin Henderson

Kell quarterback Bryce Clavon has thrown for 1,608 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for 373 yards in seven games. Sophomore Tyriq Green has run for 762 yards and 10 touchdowns and Quinterrius Gipson has rushed for 655 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Longhorns have several stellar receivers, including Peyton Zachary, who caught eight passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns last week against Chattahoochee.

Kell leads the series 5-0, most recently winning 35-0 in 2019.

Chapel Hill at Eastside: Should be a good game between two solid defensive teams.

Chapel Hill has won five straight games since losing two straight to open Region 5 play. The Panthers have thrived on defense down the stretch and have not allowed more than one touchdown over the last four weeks. Among the top contributors are two-way starter Mike Padgett, who starts at running back and on the defensive line.

Eastside had won five straight games until losing the region title matchup against Jefferson. The Eagles had allowed no more than one touchdown in three of those games. Jayden Barr had eight solo tackles and six assists in last week’s season-ending loss to Jefferson. Marion Eubanks had a pair of pick-six interceptions against Winder-Barrow.

This will be the first meeting between the two schools.