Regulars: Ten teams are in the round of 16 for the 10th consecutive year or longer. They are Benedictine (11 consecutive), Buford (24), Calhoun (22), Callaway (11), Cartersville (11), Cedar Grove (10), Eagle’s Landing Christian (15), Prince Avenue Christian (12), Ware County (16) and Woodward Academy (10).
Missing: Brooks County, the 2021 Class A Public champion, failed to make the second round for the first time since 2007, the season before coach Maurice Freeman was hired. Blessed Trinity’s streak of 11 appearances also ended in the first round. Brooks County and No. 4 Jefferson in Class 5A are the only top-five teams that are out.
Best second-round game: No. 5 North Cobb and No. 3 Mill Creek have been in the Class 7A top five almost every week, but only one will make the elite eight. They’re playing at North Cobb, where the home team has suffered heartbreaking second-round losses the past two seasons. Mill Creek features the state’s most highly recruited player, defensive back Caleb Downs.
Danger approaching: Three No. 1-teams will be tested at home against top-10 opponents. They are Buford vs. No. 6 Walton in Class 7A, Prince Avenue Christian vs. No. 7 Elbert County in A Division I and Bowdon vs. No. 9 Manchester in A Division II.
More good games: Nine other games match ranked teams. They are No. 9 Lee County at No. 5 Woodward Academy in Class 6A, No. 3 Cartersville at No. 5 Cambridge in 5A, No. 8 Burke County at No. 6 Bainbridge and No. 7 Wayne County at No. 3 Perry in 4A, No. 9 Oconee County at No. 10 Adairsville and No. 3 Sandy Creek at No. 7 Stephens County in 3A, No. 9 Cook at No. 4 Thomson and No. 10 North Cobb Christian at No. 7 Rockmart in 2A and No. 6 Clinch County at No. 7 McIntosh County Academy in A Division II.
Top players: The teams of nine of the AJC’s Super 11 are still alive. Buford’s Justice Haynes, Hughes’ Bo Hughley and Cedar Grove’s Kayin Lee play for No. 1 teams. The teams of Mill Creek’s Downs, Warner Robins’ Vic Burley and South Atlanta’s Keyjuan Brown also are favored to win this week. Things look dicier for Lamar County’s C.J. Allen and North Gwinnett’s Kayden McDonald. North Cobb quarterback Malachi Singleton remains sidelined with an injury.
What’s next: The quarterfinals represent the first time that region champions and other same-seeded teams can meet. In those instances, the teams listed lower on the draw is home. Potential matchups include No. 1 Buford at No. 4 Carrollton in Class 7A, No. 3 Roswell at No. 2 Thomas County Central in 6A, No. 2 North Oconee at No. 3 Perry in 4A and No. 2 Calvary Day at No. 1 Cedar Grove in 3A.