Top 10 games of first round of playoffs

Class 7A

East Coweta at Camden County

When, where: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Chris Gilman Stadium, Kingsland

Records, rankings: East Coweta is 6-4, the No. 3 seed from Region 2-7A and unranked; Camden County is 7-3, the No. 2 seed from 1-7A and unranked.

Last meeting: Camden County won 34-14 in the second round of the 2012 Class 6A playoffs.

Things to know: Camden County, a program that once staged 14 consecutive first-round home games (2000-13), is at home for the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, an accomplish that seemed unlikely when the Wildcats opened 2022 with a stunning 13-10 loss to Class 2A Columbia. But it’s how you finish, and Camden beat Valdosta 17-14 and Lowndes 48-21 down the stretch to claim Region 1′s No. 2 seed. Staying faithful to coach Jeff Herron’s wing-T offense, Camden rushed for 430 yards against Lowndes – 158 by Deonte Cole – after averaging only 145 in its first two games, both losses. Herron’s teams had won 17 straight first-round playoff games until beaten by North Cobb last season in his Camden return. East Coweta also hangs its hat on beating Lowndes that season. That happened by a 49-34 score on Sept. 16. East Coweta has lost to top-10 Class 7A teams Lambert, Carrollton and Westlake. East Coweta’s top offensive threat is WR Brady Tillman, who has 51 receptions for 824 yards and 15 touchdowns. Sophomore QB Christian Langford has passed for 1,889 yards and rushed for 404.

Winner plays: Hillgrove/Grayson winner

Lowndes at Carrollton

When, where: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Grisham Stadium, Carrollton

Records, rankings: Lowndes is 5-5, the No. 4 seed from Region 1-7A and unranked; Carrollton is 10-0, the No. 1 seed from 2-7A and No. 4.

Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.

Things to know: Lowndes was ranked No. 8 in preseason while Carrollton, up from Class 6A, was unranked, but their seasons have gone in different directions. Lowndes is in jeopardy of finishing outside the top 10 and failing to win a playoff game for the first time since 2015. The Vikings also could have their first losing season since 1994. Still, it’s Lowndes, and the Vikings may point to their schedule, ranked the toughest in Class 7A by the Maxwell Ratings. Carrollton’s schedule is 31st. The Trojans haven’t played a top-10 7A team while Lowndes has played three and beaten then-No. 2 Grayson 24-14 on the road. Lowndes’ Marvis Parrish, a sophomore, has passed for 1,242 yards and rushed for a team-leading 691 yards and 15 touchdowns. Three of Lowndes’ top seven tackles are sophomores. Carrollton is averaging 445 total yards and 43.6 points, not happy news to an opponent that’s given up 40 points or more three times. Freshman QB Julian Lewis has thrown for 2,599 yards and 34 touchdowns. Bryce Hicks has rushed for 1,077 yards and scored 19 touchdowns, five receiving.

Winner plays: Newton/Marietta winner

Valdosta at Westlake

When, where: 6 p.m. Saturday, Westlake Stadium, College Park

Records, rankings: Valdosta is 8-2, the No. 3 seed from Region 1-7A and No. 8; Westlake is 7-3, the No. 2 seed from 2-7A and No. 10.

Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.

Things to know: This is the only Class 7A first-round game between ranked teams. Westlake’s losses are against No. 4 Carrollton, No. 5 North Cobb and Class 3A No. 1 Cedar Grove, all by 10 points or less. Valdosta started 8-0 but lost consecutive games to Camden County 17-14 and No. 2 Colquitt County 24-6. Valdosta’s average score is 27-8 against the 15th-toughest schedule. Westlake’s average is 35-18 against the 17th-toughest. Valdosta leads 7A in fewest points allowed per game. Defensive linemen Omar White and Eric Bentley Jr., both juniors, are major Division I prospects having all-state-quality seasons. The offense, led by sophomore Todd Robinson (878 yards passing, 482 rushing), remains a question mark. Westlake QB R.J. Johnson has thrown for more than 8,000 yards in his career, but he doesn’t have as many experienced receivers this season. Look for Clemson-committed CB Aveion Terrell to step up on offense in the playoffs. These teams have other things in common. Westlake coach Rico Zackery was on staffs at Georgia Southern and Kennesaw State before returning to Georgia high school sidelines this year. Valdosta coach Shelton Felton was on staffs at Tennessee, Akron and Chattanooga before returning to Georgia last year. Both teams were in Class 6A last season.

Winner plays: Parkview/North Paulding winner

Class 6A

Houston County at Brunswick

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Glynn County Stadium, Brunswick

Records, rankings: Houston County is 8-2, the No. 4 seed from Region 1-6A and No. 10; Brunswick is 10-0, the No. 1 seed from 2-6A and No. 8.

Last meeting: Brunswick won 34-7 in the second round of the 1999 Class 4A playoffs.

Things to know: Brunswick coach Garrett Grady calls Houston County “the best No. 4 seed I have ever seen before.” The Bears tied for second place in Class 6A’s toughest region but lost out on tiebreakers to Lee County and Northside of Warner Robins. Their losses were to Lee and No. 2 Thomas County Central. Houston County stands second in 6A in points per game at 45.1. A.J. Hill has thrown for 2,769 yards and 31 touchdowns, 10 each to Kale Woodburn and Ricky Johnson. Ryan Taleb has rushed for 1,147 yards and scored 20 touchdowns, four receiving. Brunswick, playing in a milder region, is 10-0 for the second consecutive season and hoping to go further than last year’s second-round loss to Dacula. Brunswick gets 60% of its total yards rushing, but Terry Mitchell has 912 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns, and his 73-yard punt return was big in last week’s victory over Effingham County that decided the region title. Brunswick’s leading passer (Jarrod Elkins), rusher (Jamarious Towns), receiver (Mitchell) and two leading tacklers (J’Shawn Towns and Devin Smith) are underclassmen.

Winner plays: North Atlanta/Lovejoy winner

Class 5A

McIntosh at Chamblee

When, where: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, North DeKalb Stadium, Chamblee

Records, rankings: McIntosh is 5-5, the No. 3 seed from Region 3-5A and unranked; Chamblee is 7-2, the No. 2 seed from 4-5A and unranked.

Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.

Things to know: This is a matchup between long-suffering programs that have made great strides this season. McIntosh is 5-5 under first-year coach Derek Smith after going 2-8 and 0-10 the previous two campaigns. The Chiefs have won a single playoff game in their history, and that one – a 7-6 victory over Lithonia in 1986 – was later forfeited. Chamblee’s story is refreshing, too. The Bulldogs played a non-region schedule the past two seasons, and their last playoff appearance came in 2008. Their four region victories match their total from the previous 10 seasons. This will be Chamblee’s first home playoff game since 2007, when they made the Class 3A semifinals. (North DeKalb Stadium, a shared county facility, is adjacent to Chamblee’s campus.) Aside from the history, these teams are fun to watch. Chamblee QB Fabian Walker Jr., the son of a legendary Americus quarterback from a generation ago, has thrown for 5,334 yards and 63 touchdowns in his career. McIntosh QB Tate Morris has thrown for 2,871 yards and rushed for 939 in his first season as a starter.

Winner plays: Jones County/Ware County winner

Class 4A

Burke County at LaGrange

When, where: 6 p.m. Saturday, Callaway Stadium, LaGrange

Records, rankings: Burke County is 8-2, the No. 3 seed from Region 3-4A and No. 8; LaGrange is 8-2, the No. 2 seed from 4-4A and No. 10.

Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.

Things to know: LaGrange got in the playoffs with a must-win victory over then-No. 4 Troup last week and ended up with the No. 2 seed and a home playoff game. Burke County was less fortunate, losing an overtime game to Wayne County 10 days ago and finishing third. Burke coach Eric Parker suffered a heart attack during the game and hasn’t returned to an on-field role, though he’s recuperating well. Defensive coordinator Anthony Williams will be handling Parker’s duties. Both teams get most of their yards rushing but with different styles. LaGrange passes only about 12 times per game but averages 22.8 yards per completion. Magic Johnson, with 610 receiving yards, is the top target. Jaylan Brown is a dual-threat quarterback with 24 passing or rushing touchdowns with only one interception. A.J. Tucker has rushed for a team-leading 738 yards at 9.0 per carry. Burke passes closer to 17 times per game but goes in short bursts and controls time of possession, averaging 53 offensive snaps to LaGrange’s 43. Burke’s Marshall Flowers has thrown for 1,438 yards. Charlie Dorsey has rushed for 845.

Winner plays: Baldwin/Bainbridge winner

Trinity Christian at Wayne County

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Donaldson-Madray Field at Jaycee Stadium, Jesup

Records, rankings: Trinity Christian is 6-4, the No. 3 seed from Region 4-4A and unranked; Wayne County is 8-2, the No. 2 seed from 3-4A and No. 7.

Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.

Things to know: Wayne County finished 0-9 last season but is reinvigorated under first-year coach Jaybo Shaw, formerly of Rabun County. The Yellow Jackets have victories over Burke County and Appling County. Their losses are against 2021 champions Benedictine and Brooks County. Another 2021 champion, Trinity Christian from Class A Private, is on the doorstep. Unlike Shaw’s Rabun teams, Wayne County relies primarily on the run game. Matthew Fuller has rushed for 1,322 yards, which ranks third in Class 4A. Trinity Christian opened with losses to Woodward Academy and Fellowship Christian, beat top-10 teams Starr’s Mil and Whitewater, then lost to LaGrange and Troup. Given the three-class jump and roster turnover, the Lions feel pretty good about it. Trinity is a pass-heavy team. Henry Brodnax, replacing Georgia Southern signee David Dallas, has thrown for 2,329 yards, which ranks third in 4A. Wayne’s average score is 26-16 against the 12th-toughest schedule in Class 4A. Trinity’s average score is 24-22 against the 15th-toughest.

Winner plays: Shaw/Perry winner

Whitewater at Benedictine

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Memorial Stadium, Savannah

Records, rankings: Whitewater is 8-2, the No. 4 seed from Region 4-4A and No. 9; Benedictine is 8-2, the No. 1 seed from 3-4A and No. 4.

Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.

Things to know: Benedictine is one of three reigning champions to draw a top-10 opponent in the first round. Brooks County and Trinity Christian are the others. Whitewater, a quarterfinalist in Class 5A last season, is one of the more run-heavy playoff teams, averaging 229 yards rushing to 82.8 passing. The Wildcats have four backs, including QB Ty Ellington, between 350 and 450 yards rushing. Whitewater’s best-known player is leading-tackler Raul “Popo” Aguirre, a linebacker committed to Miami. Benedictine is more balanced on offense. QB Luke Kromenhoek, who is committed to Florida State, has thrown for 1,874 yards and 21 touchdowns with only two interceptions. Preseason all-state CB/WR Za’Quan Bryan has been slowed by injuries but appears to be full strength now. He has more than 3,000 all-purpose yards in his career. Benedictine has won 10 straight first-round games and captured state titles in 2014, 2016 and 2021. Whitewater broke a nine-year drought of playoff wins last season when it advanced two rounds. Whitewater’s average score is 36-17 against the 31st-toughest Class 4A schedule. Benedictine’s average is 36-17 against the sixth-toughest.

Winner plays: Westover/Spalding winner

Class 2A

Worth County at Northeast

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Thompson Stadium, Macon

Records, rankings: Worth County is 8-2, the No. 3 seed from Region 1-2A and unranked; Northeast is 7-3, the No. 2 seed from 2-2A and unranked.

Last meeting: Northeast won 49-47 in 2005.

Things to know: Though outside the top 10 now, both teams have been ranked for multiple weeks this season, and each has one of Class 2A’s best candidates for offensive player of the year. Worth County QB Chip Cooper has passed for 2,050 yards and 19 touchdowns with only three interceptions and rushed for 599 yards and 12 touchdowns. Northeast is home to 2A’s leading rusher, Nick Woodford, a sophomore with 2,262 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns. An average performance would allow Woodford to break the Bibb County Schools record for rushing yards in a season of 2,423 set in 2004 by Westside’s Travis Evans. Northeast made the 2A quarterfinals last season. Worth County is in the playoffs for the first time since 2016, also the last time the Rams advanced a round. The teams have lost to a famous common opponent. No. 1 Fitzgerald beat Worth 42-0 and beat Northeast 28-27. Northeast’s average score is 41-14 against the 42nd-hardest schedule. Worth’s is 33-26 against the 12th-hardest.

Winner plays: Washington County/Appling County winner

Class A Division I

Bleckley County at Brooks County

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Veterans Stadium, Quitman

Records, rankings: Bleckley County is 8-2, the No. 3 seed from Region 2-A Division I and No. 10; Brooks County is 7-2, the No. 2 seed from 1-A Division I and No. 5.

Last meeting: Brooks County won 55-28 in the second round of the 2013 Class 2A playoffs.

Things to know: Bleckley County lost its season finale to No. 2 Swainsboro 28-21 last week but might have the momentum, as that was unbeaten Swainsboro’s closest game. Preseason all-state RB Jahvon Butler rushed for 142 yards, pushing his total to 1,231 for the season and 3,892 for his career. Bleckley’s other loss was to Dublin. Brooks County, meanwhile, finished with a pair of easy victories but must account for losing all-state QB Jamal Sanders to injury in the Irwin County game Oct. 21. The new guy, Javen Watts, passed for 132 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-14 victory over Pelham last week but is only 12-of-32 passing in his two starts. Chris Cole takes on a larger role. He has rushed for a team-leading 803 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tradition favors the Trojans. Brooks County has won 14 consecutive first-round games and reached three straight state finals. Brooks County’s average score is 37-15 against the toughest schedule in Class A Division I. Bleckley’s average score is 35-13 against the 16th-toughest schedule.

Winner plays: Claxton/Lamar County winner

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