Previews of all 8 second-round games in Class 7A

(Jamie Spaar for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Jamie Spaar

Combined ShapeCaption
(Jamie Spaar for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Jamie Spaar

Here are previews of the eight second-round games in Class 7A.

*Valdosta (8-3) at Carrollton (10-1): Fifth-ranked Carrollton, the 2022 runner-up, can reach the quarterfinals for the eighth straight time, though the first six came outside the highest classification. Carrollton beat Harrison 54-14 in the first round. Ju Ju Lewis was 15-of-19 passing for 435 yards and seven touchdowns, and Dylan Bishop came off the bench to throw an eighth Carrollton TD pass. The touchdowns went to seven receivers. Lewis, a sophomore committed to Southern Cal, has 2,625 passing yards and 41 TD passes on the season. Kimauri Farmer has rushed for 1,118 yards. Valdosta beat Archer 41-16 in the first round. Todd Robinson was 7-of-10 passing for 111 yards and rushed for 120 yards. Freshman Deron Foster rushed for 93 yards. He has averaged 103.8 rushing yards over the past seven games. Valdosta, with Rush Propst as coach, beat Carrollton 36-15 in the 2020 quarterfinals. The game was overturned months later on forfeit.

*North Gwinnett (8-3) at Walton (11-0): Both are in the second round for the seventh straight season. Both lost in the quarterfinals last season. Each won comfortably last week. Walton beat Mountain View 66-7. Jeremy Hecklinski, a Wake Forest commit and Class 7A’s leading passer in the regular season, was 12-of-13 passing for 214 yards and five touchdowns, three to Hunter Teal. Lota Ugokwe had three tackles for 23 yards in losses. North Gwinnett allowed just 109 total yards in its 31-6 victory over West Forsyth. Cole Funderburk and Braxton Kyle had three sacks apiece, and Funderburk returned a blocked kick 37 yards for a touchdown. Julian Watters rushed for 91 yards. North Gwinnett QB Ryan Hall has passed for 1,814 yards and rushed for 699 in a balanced offense.

*Camden County (8-3) at McEachern (7-4): Camden County defeated No. 7 Newton 29-15 in the biggest upset of the first round. Newton was favored by 21 points, according to the computer Maxwell Ratings. Camden trailed 15-0 in the first quarter, then did what wing-T offenses can do, rushing for 312 yards with no official passing attempts (two negated by penalties). Jaden Dailey rushed for 135 yards, and Ja’Marley Riddle rushed for 83 and three touchdowns. Camden is in the second round in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2012-13. McEachern, which hasn’t lost since an 0-4 start, beat Campbell 42-0 last week, scoring all its points in the first half. Jaydon Kinney was 9-of-12 passing for 106 yards and three touchdowns in limited work. He also had three TD passes in the regular-season finale against Hillgrove. Jayreon Campbell has had three 100-yard rushing games this season. These teams have two common opponents. Valdosta beat Camden 24-21 and lost to McEachern 28-7. Newton beat McEachern 13-7 and lost to Camden 29-15.

*Peachtree Ridge (10-1) at Mill Creek (11-0): Peachtree Ridge’s 20-17 victory over Lambert was the Lions’ first playoff win since 2016. Sophomore QB Darnell Kelly was 18-of-28 passing for 192 yards. He’s thrown for 2,426 yards and 26 touchdowns. Sedric Addison rushed for 70 yards. Kelly and Addison are sophomores. Mill Creek, the defending champion and No. 1-ranked team, shattered the dreams of first-time state playoff qualifier Osborne by winning 42-17 and holding the Cardinals to minus-11 total yards in the first half. Jaiden Patterson, a safety/wide receiver committed to North Carolina, scored three touchdowns in the first quarter, two on receptions, one on an interception return. Shane Throgmartin was 7-of-11 passing for 111 yards and three touchdowns. A victory would put Mill Creek in the quarterfinals for the third straight time, which would be a program first.

*Buford (10-1) at Norcross (9-2): Norcross beat Denmark 34-10 in the first round to reach the round of 16 for the sixth straight time. A.J. Watkins was 9-of-11 passing for 143 yards. He’s had at least one touchdown passing, rushing and receiving in each of the past two games. Kevin Mavin rushed for 141 yards against Denmark. Fourth-ranked Buford beat Wheeler 50-0 in the first round. Dylan Raiola was 12-of-15 passing for 229 yards and four touchdowns. K.J. Bolden had five receptions for 138 yards and three touchdowns. Since losing to Mill Creek, Buford is 4-0 while outscoring opponents 234-0. Buford and Norcross share Mill Creek as a common opponent. Norcross lost 27-13. Buford lost 31-24. These Gwinnett County schools haven’t met since 1977, when both were small. Norcross is 1-7 in the second round since its 2012-13 state championship teams. Buford’s streak of 22 second-round victories ended against Walton last season.

*North Paulding (9-2) at Grayson (9-2): North Paulding won 22-19 in overtime in the first round by holding East Coweta to a field goal in the extra period and winning on a TD pass from Tyler Niehr to Dube Enongene. Jayden Clayton rushed for 119 yards. The victory was the Wolfpack’s first in the playoffs since the 2013 team made Class 5A quarterfinals. Sixth-ranked Grayson beat Richmond Hill 34-24 last week for the Rams’ 10th consecutive first-round victory, the longest streak of its kind in the highest class. Jeff Davis was 15-of-22 passing with four touchdowns, one an 83-yarder to John Cineas for a 34-17 lead late in the third quarter. Grayson has not lost a home playoff game, or any playoff game to an unranked team, since Lowndes beat the Rams in the 2018 quarterfinals.

*Collins Hill (5-6) at Milton (9-2): Collins Hill beat No. 9 North Cobb 45-14 in the first round as a 19-point underdog. The projected margin was understandable given the teams’ common opponent – Milton. North Cobb beat Milton 42-27 while Milton beat Collins Hill 27-13. In Friday’s game, T.J. Wilcox was 10-of-13 passing for 207 yards and three touchdowns, and Cam Jones rushed for 127 yards on eight carries. Milton, ranked No. 10, won its first-round game 53-0 while holding Duluth to minus-5 rushing yards. Luke Nickel, who is committed to Miami, passed for 225 yards. In the regular season, Milton led Collins Hill 201-194 in total yards as neither team could run on the other. Milton’s Marc Essley had a 54-yard TD reception and an interception.

*Westlake (9-2) at Colquitt County (11-0): Colquitt County beat Parkview 51-25 in the first round, but star quarterback Neko Fann was on crutches in the second half. Fann threw for 172 yards and two touchdowns and continued to play for a while after being shaken up on a 55-yard run in the first quarter. Day’Shawn Brown rushed for 113 yards. No team has held Colquitt County to fewer than 35 points this season. Westlake beat Marietta 34-15 in the first round. Naeem Odeniyi rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns, and Westlake held Marietta to 17 rushing yards. Westlake beat Colquitt County 31-24 in a 2021 regular season game in Moultrie. Both were ranked No. 3. Westlake was in Class 6A then.

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