Friday's high school football predictions

North vs. South.

It’s one of the oldest debates in Georgia high school sports: Which part of the state plays the best football?

Frankly, it’s an argument that has grown tiresome, because neither area of the state has sustained consistent dominance to prove its case, especially in the past few years. There’s too much talent in this recruit-rich state for it all to be concentrated in one geographic area, and every part of the state has won its share of championships.

Regardless, South Georgia appeared to be making its case for 2010 supremacy heading into the quarterfinals. Among the teams reaching the final eight in their classifications were three teams from Region 1-AAAAA, all of whom were playing at home, and all four playoff teams from Region 1-AA. Plus, Statesboro, Cairo, Clinch County and Wilcox County looked like strong candidates to make a run at the title.

Oh, what a difference a week can make.

In Class AAAAA last weekend, Lowndes got beat in overtime by Collins Hill, and Valdosta was knocked out by third-seeded Grayson. All four teams from Region 1-AA were blown out by No. 1 Carver-Columbus and three North Georgia teams. Cairo fell at Carrollton in Class AAA, and Wesleyan eliminated defending Class A champion Wilcox County.

All of a sudden, North Georgia football is looking pretty good, especially in the higher classes. It should be noted, however, that metro Atlanta and North Georgia have a significant advantage in AAAAA and AAAA as far as the number of schools.

Here’s a look at this week’s semifinals, with an eye on the geographic significance in each class:

Class AAAAA

Colquitt County, under Rush Propst, always seems to get better as the season goes on. The Packers have averaged 42 points in three playoff victories, but this week they face a Grayson defense that has not allowed a point in the first three quarters of any of its playoff games. Grayson should be able to hold off Colquitt County and advance to the championship, setting up an all-Gwinnett County final against the Brookwood-Collins Hill winner. Brookwood beat Collins Hill in 45-38 in double overtime when they met earlier this season, and I expect the Broncos to win again in the rematch.

Advantage: North Georgia (specifically Region 8 and Gwinnett County).

Class AAAA

The Tucker-Starr’s Mill game assures that metro Atlanta will have at least one team in the final, where the winner will face either Chattahoochee or Statesboro. Tucker is the highest-ranked team remaining and would have to be considered the favorite, especially considering how easily the Tigers have rolled through the playoffs. Look for Tucker to meet Chattahoochee in the championship game.

Advantage: North Georgia (metro Atlanta)

Class AAA

The long-awaited matchup between defending champion Peach County and 2009 Class AAAA winner Sandy Creek, who were ranked as the top two teams all season, will take place a week before the final. Sandy Creek appeared to hit a bit of a lull near the end of the regular season, but the Patriots have picked it up in the playoffs, outscoring their opponents 133-3. I give Sandy Creek a slight edge this week. Awaiting the Patriots in the final will be Carrollton, which has given up 82 points this season and should be able to handle Burke County.

Advantage: Middle Georgia (the North can claim Carrollton and Sandy Creek and the South can claim Peach and Burke, but all four semifinalists fall in that middle ground).

Class AA

The championship game that most have expected to see this season -- Buford against Carver-Columbus -- is still on track. And that’s what it’s likely to be in the Georgia Dome next week after Carver knocks out Calhoun and Buford takes care of Lovett in the semifinals. Top-ranked Carver beat three-time defending champ Buford 14-0 when they met on Sept. 3 in Columbus.

Advantage: Split decision (North Georgia vs. Middle Georgia in the final, but three of the four semifinalists from the North)

Class A

The Class A semifinals have, in effect, come down to a public-school championship and a private-school championship (speaking of longtime debates). Look for top-ranked Clinch County to emerge as the top public school when it beats Wilkinson County. Third-ranked Wesleyan, which won the title in 2008, will represent the private schools after it eliminates 2009 runner-up Savannah Christian.

Advantage: Tie (North-South and public-private)

The weekend predictions

Last week: 13-7 (.650); Playoffs: 103-37 (.736)

Winner##Loser

Class AAAAA

Brookwood##Collins Hill

Grayson##Colquitt Co.

Class AAAA

Chattahoochee##Statesboro

Tucker##Starr’s Mill

Class AAA

Carrollton##Burke Co.

Sandy Creek##Peach Co.

Class AA

Carver-Columbus##Calhoun

Buford##Lovett

Class A

Clinch Co.##Wilkinson Co.

Wesleyan##Savannah Christian