Second-round preview: Warner Robins-Ware County ready to mix it up again

ajc.com

It wouldn’t be the state playoffs if it didn’t include some sort of matchup between Warner Robins and Ware County, would it?

The two teams met in the Class 5A championship game last season with Ware County producing a dominating 38-13 victory. In 2021 they met during the regular season and Ware knocked off the No. 1-ranked Demons 29-21. In 2020 it was Warner Robins that prevailed 22-19 over top-ranked Ware during the regular season. In 2028 Warner Robins won 35-0 in the second round of the playoffs. Warner Robins leads the series 3-2.

In each instance the teams have met, both have been ranked among the top 10. This season No. 5 Ware (8-3) will hit the road to play No. 9 Warner Robins (8-3) at The Mac.

Warner Robins has ridden quarterback Judd Anderson, a Miami commit, who threw four touchdown passes last week, and Isiah Cannon, a Georgia Tech commit, who caught two touchdown passes in the first-round win. Cam Flowers gives the Demons a two-way threat.

Ware County has an outstanding running back duo is Dae-jeaun Dennis and R.J. Boyd and quarterback Luke Hooks, a first-year starter, has thrown for 1,683 yards and 21 touchdowns.

A victory would be No. 150 for Ware County coach Jason Strickland.

Dalton (8-3) at No. 2 Creekside (10-1): Creekside’s powerful offense is led by quarterback Vinson Berry, who has thrown for 1,864 yards and 32 touchdown passes. Roderick McCrary has rushed for 1,463 yards – 9.8 yards per carry -- and 10 touchdowns. Shane Kelley has caught 44 passes for 847 yards. McCrary also leads the team with 84 tackles and ShuMond Johnson has seven sacks. Dalton will try to keep pace with running back Adriel Hernandez, the Region 7 co-Player of the Year, who has rushshed for 1,330 yards. Ethan Long has had a good season at quarterback and Bubba Tanner was an all-county receiver. Series: Creekside leads series 2-0, including 61-0 in second round of 2022 playoffs. First round: Dalton def. Greater Atlanta Christian 39-17; Creekside def. Flowery Branch 63-6.

Statesboro (4-7) at No. 10 Harris County (11-1): Harris County won the Region 3 championship and brings a powerful running attack that’s led by Mataye Youman, who rushed for 200 yards and four touchdowns against Ola, and quarterback Levi Watson. Statesboro’s Kamron Mitchell has crashed the 1,000-yard rushing barrier and ran for 209 yards and two touchdowns in the playoff opener. The Blue Devils put the game away with three unanswered touchdowns. Series: Statesboro won only meeting 22-0 in 2008. First round: Statesboro def. Tucker 49-27; Harris County def. Ola 42-20

No. 7 Hiram (9-2) at No. 3 Jefferson (11-0): Jefferson quarterback Gavin Markey threw for 206 yards and four touchdown passes in the first round, but the leading player is Sammy Brown, who has rushed for 1,542 yards this year. Brown, who scored three touchdowns last week, is the state’s No. 1 linebacker prospect and has committed to Clemson. Hiram is loaded with talent, too. The Hornets counter with all-Region 7 running back Kaden Hamilton, tight end Walter Matthews and wide receiver Chase Tyle, along with two big linemen – Jameson Riggs and Clinton Richard. Series: First meeting. First round: Hiram def. Cambridge 31-24; Jefferson def. Maynard Jackson 48-14.

Eastside (8-3) at No. 4 Cartersville (11-0): Eastside rebounded nicely from its season-ending letdown and Jefferson. The Eagles are a balanced offensive team with sophomore quarterback Payton Shaw growing into the role and throwing for 1,140 yards and nine touchdowns. But the strength remains the running game, with senior Anquez Cobb (796 yards, eight touchdowns) and Jayden Barr (588 yards, 15 touchdowns) leading the way. Cartersville’s Kristian Lando has carried the mail at running back and earned all-region honors. Other all-region players include wide receiver Jamari Brice, offensive linemen Malachai Toliver and Langston Hogg, defensive linemen Taye Cochran and Keylan McCarty, linebacker Connor Brasfield and Richard Houston and defensive back Turner Abernathy. Series: First meeting. First round: Eastside def. Chapel Hill 38-14; Cartersville def. Centennial 40-0.

Jenkins (4-7) at Dutchtown (6-5): Both teams are far better than their record might indicate. Jenkins played the most difficult schedule in the state. Jenkins has had trouble scoring points – the Warriors have been shut out five times and had only 78 yards of offense last week – but the defense is led by Lorenzo Cowan, a Kentucky commit who has six sacks and a penchant for big plays. Dutchtown has won four straight since enduring a difficult non-region schedule that included Cedar Grove, Jonesboro and Spalding. Dutchtown. Quarterback Michael Johnson is a two-year starter and the entire offensive line returned intact. The defense features cornerback Jayden Hollis, who also had a 97-yard kickoff return against Northgate. Series: First meeting. First round: Jenkins def. Arabia Mountain 14-13; Dutchtown def. Northgate 42-31.

Cass (6-5) at Mays (7-4): The Mays offense had a field day last week and scored 51 points in the first half against Loganville, with Quintavius Johnson scoring four touchdowns. But the defense was just as good and produced a pair of interception returns for touchdowns. Cass upset No. 6 Kell in its playoff opener behind a three-touchdown performance of quarterback Brodie McWhorter. Devin Henderson is the co-Region 7 Player of the Year and defensive lineman Kaden Ellis is the region’s Defensive Player of the Year. Series: Mays won only previous meeting 34-22 in second round of 2022 playoffs. First round: Cass def. Kell 28-14; Mays def. Loganville 65-7.

Jones County (8-3) at No. 1 Coffee (11-0): Jones County has won seven of its last eight games, the loss coming against Warner Robins in a game that ultimately determined the Region 2 champion. Jones County is led by Devin Edmonds (2,601 yards passing, 32 touchdowns), who threw for 302 yards and five TD passes in the playoff opener, and receivers Tyler Stewart (50 catches, 1,154 yards, 21 touchdowns) and speedy Zion Ragins (42 catches, 618 yards, seven touchdowns). Ragins is a dangerous running threat, too; he had four carries for 131 yards last week. Coffee brings a powerful offense led by Fred Brown (1,691 yards rushing, 21 touchdowns), but the Trojans true strength may be on the defensive side. Juniors Jyarius Carter and Chris Reed are the team’s top tacklers and Elgie Paulk has a team-leading eight sacks and 12 hurries. Series: First meeting. First round: Jones County def. Northside Columbus 42-21; Coffee def. Chamblee 56-0.