Previews of the 8 second-round games in Class 6A

ajc.com

Seven of the eight Class 6A region champions survived the opening weekend of the football playoffs and will continue their seasons in the second round Friday night.

The one exception was Region 2 champion Effingham County, which lost to Region 3 No. 4 seed Lovejoy 47-14. It was the second consecutive season in which the Region 2 winner was the only region champion knocked out in the first round. Last year, Brunswick lost to Houston County 29-28 in overtime. Brunswick went into that game undefeated and ranked No. 8 but was considered a seven-point underdog by the computer Maxwell Ratings. Effingham’s loss was a bit more surprising, as the computer had pegged the Rebels as nine-point favorites.

The other region champions – Thomas County Central, Woodward Academy, Marist, Douglas County, Rome, Roswell and Gainesville – had little trouble in the first round. They won their games by an average of 34 points, with none closer than a couple of 17-point victories by Woodward Academy (31-14 over Evans) and Marist (38-21 over Northside-Warner Robins).

Thomas County Central, Gainesville and Douglas County are the remaining unbeaten teams.

Here’s a look at the eight second-round games:

*Lovejoy (7-4) at Lee County (9-2): Lovejoy of Region 3 is the only No. 4 seed remaining in Class 6A after beating Region 2 champion Effingham County 47-14. Dashun Gilbert passed for 238 yards and four touchdowns, two to Corey Orr, who had 101 yards receiving. A win against Lee County would put Lovejoy in the quarterfinals for the first time since reaching consecutive state finals in 2011 and 2012. Fifth-ranked Lee County is one of three top-10 teams still alive from Region 1 (Thomas County Central and Houston County are the others). The Trojans are in the second round for the eighth straight year after beating Dunwoody 51-14. Weston Bryan passed for 145 of Lee County’s 454 yards, and Ousmane Kromah ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Kromah led Region 1 in rushing in the regular season with 1,392 yards and 14 touchdowns.

*Sequoyah (8-3) at Douglas County (11-0): Region 6 runner-up Sequoyah advanced to the second round for the first time since 2018 with a 33-9 victory over Alpharetta. The Chiefs led just 12-3 midway through the third quarter but got two touchdowns in a three-minute span to pull away. Sequoyah has won eight of nine games since starting the season 0-2. Third-ranked Douglas County, the Region 5 champion, has 11 wins for the first time since 2002 after its 63-9 victory over Habersham Central. A win this week would give Douglas County its first 12-0 start. Sophomore Rah’keith Kelly had 123 of the Tigers’ 347 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns. Sire Hardaway passed for 2,261 yards during the regular season. This will be the first meeting between these schools since 2007.

*Houston County (9-2) at Woodward Academy (9-2): Ninth-ranked Houston County, the No. 3 seed from Region 1, advanced with a 42-32 victory over North Atlanta. Houston County built a 21-3 lead but needed a touchdown pass from Antwann Hill to Ricky Johnson with about two minutes left to put the game away. It was the third touchdown reception of the night for Johnson and the fourth TD pass for Hill, who led Region 1 in passing yards (2,223) during the regular season. Johnson was the region’s leading receiver (969). Tenth-ranked Woodward Academy, the Region 3 champion, won a first-round playoff game for the 11th consecutive season when it beat Evans 31-14. The War Eagles forced three first-half turnovers and led 31-0 at halftime before giving up two touchdowns in the final 10 minutes. Griffin Marshall passed for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Ben Grice caught two TD passes, and Lucas Farrington ran for a score.

*Blessed Trinity (9-2) at Gainesville (11-0): Last year, Blessed Trinity ended a nine-year streak of reaching at least the quarterfinals when it lost in the first round, but the Titans are back in Round 2 after defeating Creekview 24-10 last week. The Titans fell behind 3-0 midway through the first quarter but scored the next 24 points. Zyon McKenzie had nine receptions for 135 yards, and Ahmontae Pitts had touchdown runs of 1 and 18 yards. Top-ranked Gainesville, the state runner-up last season and two-time Region 8 champion, beat South Paulding 46-27 last week. Gainesville trailed 14-13 before taking control with a 20-point run. Gavin Hall rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns, putting him over 1,500 yards for the season. Baxter Wright passed for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Wright has 1,906 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. This will be the first meeting between these schools.

*Lanier (9-2) at Roswell (10-1): Lanier, the No. 2 seed from Region 8, won a playoff game for the first time since 2019 when it rallied to defeat East Paulding 21-14 last week. East Paulding led 14-7 and was at the Lanier 5-yard line with about nine minutes left when Logan Laughlin intercepted a pass and returned it for the tying touchdown. Chase Jameson caught the game-winning touchdown pass on a fourth-and-4 play from the East Paulding 34 in the closing seconds. Region 7 champion Roswell, a semifinalist last season, advanced to the second round with a 51-24 victory over River Ridge. K.J. Smith passed for 224 yards and a touchdown and ran for 100 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries. He has 1,949 yards passing, 413 yards rushing and 35 combined touchdowns for the season. Nykahi Davenport, a 1,500-yard rusher for the season, ran for 172 yards and three TDs on 12 carries.

*Brunswick (7-3) at Marist (10-1): Brunswick is the only remaining team in the field from Region 2, and Marist is the only team left from Region 4. Brunswick lost in the first round last season as a region champion but won this year as a No. 3 seed. The Pirates trailed Mundy’s Mill 22-7 at halftime last week but scored three second-half touchdowns for a 28-22 victory. Waseem Murray passed for one touchdown and ran for two, including the game-winning 7-yarder with 2:10 remaining. Seventh-ranked Marist advanced with a 38-21 victory over Northside of Warner Robins 38-21. Jack Euart completed four passes, two of which went for touchdowns, and ran for 72 yards and a touchdown. Joseph Pizzo ran for 83 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. The War Eagles intercepted four passes, the first two of which were turned into early touchdowns. Marist led 38-7 with two minutes left in the third quarter.

*Hughes (9-2) at Rome (10-1): This is a rematch of last year’s semifinal game that Hughes won 42-3 on the way to its first state title. Fourth-ranked Hughes, a No. 2 seed this year, beat North Forsyth 41-7 last week. Hughes led 14-7 at the end of the third quarter but broke the game open with four fourth-quarter touchdowns, including two on Justus Savage runs. Savage finished with 170 yards on 24 carries, giving him 1,192 yards for the season. Air Noland passed for 225 yards (2,242 for the season) and two touchdowns. No. 6 Rome ranks second in scoring average (50.82) and first in points allowed (7.0) among Class 6A teams after a 56-0 first-round victory over Sprayberry. It was the Wolves’ fifth shutout and ninth game allowing eight points or less and their eighth time scoring at least 55 points. Reece Fountain had thrown for 2,285 yards. D.K. Daniel had 808 yards receiving.

*Jonesboro (8-3) at Thomas County Central (11-0): Jonesboro, the No. 3 seed from Region 3, won at Glynn Academy 32-31 to advance to the second round for the first time since its 2015 team reached the Class 4A quarterfinals. That team beat Thomas County Central 17-14 in the first round in their most recent meeting. Against Glynn Academy, the Cardinals took a 32-29 lead midway through the fourth quarter on a short touchdown pass from Jamon Jones to Jontavious Wyman, then took a safety with four seconds left. Lucious Murray rushed for 101 yards. No. 2 Thomas County Central beat St. Pius 49-0 last week for its 23rd victory in 24 games since moving from 4A to 6A last year. It was the fourth shutout in six games, and fifth overall, for the Yellow Jackets, who are allowing just 7.9 points per game. Trey Brenton, a 1,000-yard rusher during the regular season, ran 118 yards and two touchdowns.