First round review: Two region champs get the heave-ho

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Only two regions swept all four of their first-round playoff games – and both were in Class 5A.

The four contestants from Region 7 wiped out the participants from Region 6, while all four teams from Region 1 survived by sweeping Region 4. In Region 7, Cartersville, Hiram, Dalton and Cass all prevailed. In Region 1, Coffee, Ware County, Statesboro and Jenkins all advanced.

In the case of Region 7, the outcome wasn’t a complete surprise since each of the league’s four representatives had been ranked in the top 10. The results were more surprising in Region 1, where Statesboro and Jenkins both entered with 3-7 records, the worst in the playoffs.

The big surprises: Region 1

Jenkins was able to hang on in the final minutes to beat Region 4 No. 1 seed Arabia Mountain 14-13. Arabia Mountain returned a punt to the 3, but a holding penalty forced the Rams to start at the 33. Jenkins’ Todd Rhodes produced the game-clinching interception with 55 seconds left.

Jenkins only had 78 yards of total offense but took advantage of numerous Arabia Mountain mistakes. The Warriors scored on a 1-yard keeper by quarterback Demetrius Holloway and a 75-yard pick-six from Sylvester Harris.

The win was also career No. 50 for Jenkins coach Tony Welch, who is in his third season at Jenkins after spending four years at Claxton, his alma mater, three years at Savannah and two seasons at Memorial Day. His teams have qualified for the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons, including the last five.

Statesboro only earned the Region 1 No. 3 seed after beating Jenkins in the final regular-season game. The Blue Devils made the long trip the Adams Stadium and returned with a 49-27 victory over the Tigers, its first playoff victory since 2013.

Statesboro ran for 340 yards, with Kam Mikell picking up 187 and two touchdowns, and quarterback Raylin Grant threw for two touchdowns in the win. Keon Childers scored on a 63-yard reverse to open the scoring and Kam McCollum added a 43-yard touchdown run.

The surprises: Region 7

Region 7 No. 4 seed Cass (5-5) went on the road and stunned Region 6 champion and No. 6-ranked Kell 28-14. It was the second straight year the Colonels have taken down a No. 1 seed. A year ago Cass knocked off Region 8 champion Jefferson.

Cass quarterback Brodie McWhorter ran for three touchdowns, Devin Henderson ran for a touchdown and the Colonels picked up a safety before intermission.

Region 7 No. 3 seed Dalton (8-3) also went on the road to knock off No. 8-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian 39-17. The Catamounts advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the second straight year.

It didn’t look good for Dalton to start the game when it fumbled the opening kickoff to set up a fast GAC score. But the mistake was merely a blip and Dalton scored 24 straight and led 24-7 at halftime. Quarterback Ethan Long completed 12 of 21 for 217 yards and three touchdowns, with 181 of those yards going to Bubba Tanner. Adriel Hernandez ran 28 times for 172 yards and the Catamounts rolled up 480 total yards.

No surprises

No 1 Coffee, No. 2 Creekside, No. 3 Jefferson, No. 4 Cartersville, No. 5 Ware County, No. 7 Hiram, No. 9 Warner Robins and No. 10 Harris County all advanced.

The only contestable contest was Hiram’s 31-24 win over a stubborn Cambridge bunch. Hiram had a 24-7 halftime lead and hung on for the win, which wasn’t secured until the final two minutes when Clinton Richardson came up with a key tackle for loss. Hiram’s Kaden Hamilton carried 12 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns and Ryan Strickland completed a 55-yard pass to Walter Matthews for what proved to be the winning points.

Second-round schedule

Ware County at Warner Robins, Dalton at Creekside, Statesboro at Harris County, Hiram at Jefferson, Eastside at Cartersville, Jenkins at Dutchtown, Cass at Mays, Jones County at Coffee.

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