Grayson at Lowndes
When, where: 8 p.m. Friday, Martin Stadium, Valdosta
Records, rankings: Grayson is 4-0 and No. 2 in Class 7A; Lowndes is 2-2 and unranked in 7A.
Last meeting: Lowndes won 28-20 in the 2019 Class 7A quarterfinals.
Things to know: These programs rank 1-2 in winning percentage this century in the highest classification – Lowndes at .789 (221-59) and Grayson at .778 (210-60) – each with three state titles. They’ve played four times, all in the playoffs, with each team winning twice. Grayson has won its four games this season by 20 points or more, though none of those opponents currently has a winning record. Grayson has a balanced offense with a pair of rushers with more than 200 yards (Joe Taylor, Amari Alston) and two receivers over 150 yards (Caden High, Joseph Stone). QB Jeff Davis has completed 75% of his passes. Jalen Smith, a linebacker committed to Tennessee, is the leading tackler. Lowndes, ranked No. 8 in preseason, has lost to East Coweta 49-34 and to nationally prominent America Heritage of Florida 38-20. The Vikings are averaging 32.3 points per game, a good output given its youth on offense. Sophomore QB Marvis Parrish has thrown for 576 yards and rushed for a team-leading 230 yards. Kevis Thomas, who is committed to Maryland, leads the team in receiving yards and is fifth in tackles.
Hughes at Douglas County
When, where: 8 p.m. Friday, Tiger Stadium, Douglasville
Records, rankings: Hughes is 4-0 overall, 1-0 in Region 5-6A and No. 1; Douglas County is 3-1, 1-0 and unranked.
Last meeting: Douglas County won 28-20 in 2019.
Things to know: These teams met each season from 2012 to 2019 as region rivals, with Hughes winning five but with Douglas County winning the most recent three. Douglas County is one of the top passing teams in the state. Sire Hardaway has thrown for 1,328 yards while completing 75% of his passes. He’s also a good runner with five touchdowns. Deuce Alexander, who is committed to Wake Forest, is one of three wide receivers with more than 300 yards. James Johnson, a senior, leads with 443. Monte Gooden has 385. All have at least one 100-yard receiving game. Douglas County’s defense features DL Zachariah Keith (committed to Georgia Tech) and LB Shakai Woods (2021 all-state and region defensive player of the year). Hughes is more balanced but leans a bit toward the pass. Prentis “Air” Noland has thrown for 1,013 yards and 17 touchdowns without an interception. His TD strikes have gone to seven receivers. Justus Savage has rushed for 241 yards and five touchdowns. Hughes has four other major Division I players. They are OL Bo Hughley (committed to Georgia), TE Jelani Thurman (Ohio State), DL Joshua Horton (North Carolina) and DB Terrance Love (Auburn).
Lambert at East Coweta
When, where: 8 p.m. Friday, Garland Shoemake Memorial Stadium, Sharpsburg
Records, rankings: Lambert is 4-0 and unranked in Class 7A; East Coweta is 4-1 and unranked in 7A.
Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.
Things to know: Neither team is ranked in the GHSF Daily/AJC top 10, but Lambert is No. 10 in the Maxwell Ratings, and East Coweta is No. 10 with GPB and 680 the Fan. East Coweta lost its opener to Starr’s Mill but has beaten Sandy Creek and Lowndes the past two weeks. Lambert has beaten Mountain View and three smaller schools. Both lost in the first round of the 2021 playoffs. Lambert, under first-year coach Marc Beach, is the fourth-most-improved 7A team with a winning record, according to GHSF Daily’s Improvement Tracker. Beach was promoted from offensive coordinator, a position he also held at Tift County from 2015 to 2020. These teams are balanced offensively, though each has a player in the top five of Class 7A receiving. East Coweta’s Brady Tillman has 24 receptions for 470 yards and 10 touchdowns. Lambert’s Brandon Jones has 16 receptions for 452 yards and five touchdowns. Both had more than 200 yards receiving last week. East Coweta QB Christian Langford, a sophomore, has thrown for 1,062 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 330 yards and a touchdown. Lambert QB James Tyre, a senior two-year starter, has thrown for 897 yards.
Milton at North Cobb
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Emory Sewell Stadium, Kennesaw
Records, rankings: Milton is 2-2 and No. 9 in Class 7A; North Cobb is 2-2 and unranked in 7A.
Last meeting: North Cobb won 40-21 in 2021.
Things to know: These are preseason top-10 teams that have each lost twice for perhaps different reasons. Milton, under first-year coach Ben Reaves, scheduled aggressively and lost to Lipscomb Academy of Tennessee and Christian Brothers of Missouri, fell out of the top 10, then re-entered after beating Fulton County neighbors Roswell 14-7 and Alpharetta 36-21. North Cobb, the preseason No. 4, has beaten Westlake and Marietta and pushed Buford to the brink before losing 21-14, but Super 11 QB Malachi Singleton hasn’t played the past two games because of an injured foot, and the Warriors lost to Northside of Warner Robins 20-17 last week. With Singleton’s return uncertain, North Cobb is unranked. North Cobb’s strength is in running backs Ben Hall (committed to Michigan) and David Mbadinga. OL Robert Grigsby (North Carolina) and CB Quintin Ajiero (Duke) are committed to ACC schools. Milton is building around sophomore QB Lee Nickel, who is 66-of-116 passing for 787 yards and six touchdowns. Milton’s best all-around player, WR/S Bryce Thornton, has been limited to two games because of injuries.
Parkview at Mill Creek
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Markham Field at Mill Creek Community Stadium, Hochston
Records, rankings: Parkview is 4-0 and No. 7 in Class 7A; Mill Creek is 4-0 and No. 4 in 7A.
Last meeting: Mill Creek won 43-10 in 2021.
Things to know: This is only the second meeting between these schools from different sides of Gwinnett County, and last year’s Mill Creek blowout victory was not a good representation of their histories. Parkview, at 4-0, has matched the win total of its anomalous 2021 season, when it finished 4-7 after averaging 9.6 victories the previous five seasons. Khyair Spain, a junior, has rushed for 771 yards, second-most in Class 7A and about half of Parkview’s total offense. Mike Matthews, a consensus top-10 national recruit among juniors, has 15 receptions for 242 yards and four touchdowns. DE Nolan Marshall leads the team with 17 solo tackles and five tackles for losses. This is Parkview’s best start since 2018. Mill Creek, ranked No. 1 in all classes in the computer Maxwell Ratings, is averaging 45.25 points per game, second-most in 7A. Mill Creek’s offense is balanced at 206 yards rushing and 197 passing per game. Cam Robinson has rushed for 499 yards. Hayden Clark has passed for 757. Makhail Wood has 323 yards receiving. Caleb Downs has 291 yards from scrimmage. The top defenders are Downs (committed to Alabama), Jamal Anderson (Clemson), Josh Anglin (eight tackles for losses) and Cole Mullins (four sacks).
Savannah Christian at Calvary Day
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Specialty Sports Complex, Savannah
Records, rankings: Savannah Christian is 4-0 overall, 1-0 in Region 3-3A and unranked; Calvary Day is 3-0, 1-0 and No. 3.
Last meeting: Calvary Day won 21-0 in 2021.
Things to know: These former Class A Private schools have the two best teams in their 3A region, according to the Maxwell Ratings. Calvary Day’s victory over Savannah Christian last season ended a four-game losing streak in the series, and Calvary remains the favorite this season in large part due to its cache of Division I talent. DL Terry Simmons (Duke) and LB Troy Ford (Central Florida) are committed seniors, and TE Michael Smith and QB Jake Merklinger are top-200 national recruits among juniors. Merklinger has thrown for 5,043 yards in his career. Calvary has played the tougher schedule. Its best victory was a 28-21 decision against Eagle’s Landing Christian. Savannah Christian’s average score is 54-6 against a lighter slate. The Raiders average 311.8 yards rushing per game. Zo Smalls, a sophomore, has rushed for 465 yards and eight touchdowns. Paulus Zittrauter has thrown for 540 yards and seven touchdowns, completing 65.2% of his passes. Savannah Christian is a young team. Five of its 11 leading tacklers are sophomores or freshmen.
Troup at Starr’s Mill
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Panther Stadium, Fayetteville
Records, rankings: Troup is 4-0 overall, 1-0 in Region 4-4A and No. 4; Starr’s Mill is 4-0, 1-0 and No. 5.
Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.
Things to know: The winner will be the region frontrunner, as each defeated another ranked team from the region last week. Troup beat then-No. 3 Whitewater 43-33 while Starr’s Mill beat then-No. 10 LaGrange 25-24 in overtime. Troup has the most recruiting talent in the league. DB Noah Dixon and LB Qua Birdsong are top-250 national junior recruits. QB Taeo Todd, another junior with Division I offers, has rushed for 715 yards and passed for 633. Qua Moss has 11 receptions for 305 yards and four touchdowns and scored on a kickoff return. Troup is 4-0 for the first time since its 2018 team reached the 4A semifinals. Starr’s Mill was a region champion five of the past six seasons in 5A. Starr’s Mill typically is a strong running team, and this edition is no different. Greigh Joseph is the leading rusher at 397 yards, although Andersen Cardoza went for 105 yards and caught a 36-yard pass in the victory over LaGrange. QB Logan Inagawa was 11-of-16 passing for 169 yards last week, nearly doubling his season totals.
Warner Robins at Houston County
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Freedom Field, Warner Robins
Records, rankings: Warner Robins is 1-3 and No. 10 in Class 5A; Houston County is 4-0 and No. 8 in 6A.
Last meeting: Warner Robins won 49-9 in 2021.
Things to know: Houston County is its county’s best team, according to the Maxwell Ratings, and a victory over Warner Robins – the county’s best the past five seasons, per the computer – would help validate that. It’s happened only once that a school other than Warner Robins or Northside has won that computerized title, and that was in 2015, when Jake Fromm led Houston County to an 11-2 finish and victories over both. The current Bears team, coached by former Warner Robins offensive coordinator Jeremy Edwards, is averaging 56 points per game. A.J. Hill, a sophomore with Fromm-like arm talent, has passed for 1,184 yards. Ricky Johnson has 448 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Ryan Taleb has rushed for 550 yards and 12 touchdowns. All three offensive weapons are underclassmen. Warner Robins, the defending Class 5A champion, has failed to score more than 17 points in any game. The last offensive dry spell of its kind occurred in 2010. But the Demons’ average opponent is 37.5 points better than Houston County’s so far, per Maxwell, and Warner Robins has won five straight in the series.
Whitefield Academy at Rabun Co.
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Frank Snyder Memorial Stadium, Tiger
Records, rankings: Whitefield Academy is 4-0 and No. 7 in Class A Division I; Rabun County is 4-0 and No. 3 in Class A Division I.
Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting
Things to know: While Rabun County has averaged 10.5 wins over the past 10 seasons, Whitefield Academy hasn’t had a 10-win season in more than 10 years, but Whitefield has its most talented team in school history. Ayden Duncanson has passed for 588 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 439 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s averaging 13.7 yards per rushing attempt. He also lines up at safety, the position he’s expected to play at East Carolina. Caleb LaValle, a linebacker committed to North Carolina, is averaging 12 solo tackles per game, twice that of his nearest teammate. Ian Geffrard, a 6-6, 350-pound offensive lineman, is committed to Arkansas. Rabun County, under first-year coach Michael Davis, is maintaining the Tigers’ tradition of outstanding offense. Keegan Stover, a transfer from West Forsyth, has thrown for 1,249 yards, or 312.3 per game, with 17 touchdowns and no interceptions. Jaden Gibson has 661 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns. He’s committed to Georgia Southern. Lang Windham, a senior running back, has rushed for 2,498 yards in his career and has another 1,214 receiving yards. Rabun County hasn’t lost a regular-season home game to an opponent from the same class or lower since 2014 (Mount Pisgah Christian).
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