A look at the Class AAA quarterfinals:
Cairo (11-2) at Peach County (12-1): Peach and Cairo have played two common opponents so far, putting up similar scores against Perry. Cairo needed overtime to beat Worth County, whom Peach routed in the playoffs. Each team has played five games decided by a touchdown or less. Cairo is 3-2 in those games, while Peach is 4-1. Peach County WR Robinson has 47 catches for 892 yards and nine touchdowns, and QB Kentel Kendrick has completed 72 percent of his passes for 1,905 yards and 16 TDs, perhaps posing a test for the Cairo defense unlike anything it has faced to this point. The ‘Makers have four shutouts and have held seven opponents to less than 10 points, and they’ve been the better of the two defenses over the past five weeks. But can they make someone other than Robinson beat them?
Prediction: Peach County 24, Cairo 20
Burke County (12-1) at Gainesville (12-1): Gainesville, which knocked off defending champion Sandy Creek last week, now owns the longest winning streak in AAA (12 in a row), and the central question in this one is whether Burke can slow down sensational sophomore QB Deshaun Watson, who has 2,914 passing yards and 943 rushing yards and has accounted for 53 touchdowns. It’s an altogether different challenge than the Bears faced last week against Allatoona and its 2,000-yard RB Miles Jones. There are no common opponents, but there is this: Burke beat Allatoona 32-28 and needed a late touchdown to get that win. Allatoona beat Dalton with a late comeback. Gainesville hung 48 points on Dalton. Of the two semifinals, this one figures to be the bigger shootout.
Prediction: Gainesville 38, Burke 34
Class AAA semifinals by the numbers:
467 – number of plays through 14 games Watson has either passed or run for Gainesville
8 – opponents who have been held to a touchdown or less by both Burke County and Peach County
123 – yards rushing last week by Cairo QB Steven Bench
3 – state championships won by both Cairo and Peach County
41.2 – average points scored by Burke County, the highest of the four remaining teams
109 – points scored in the playoffs by Burke
8.6 – average points allowed by Peach County, the lowest of the four remaining teams
23 – points allowed in the playoffs by Cairo, the fewest of the four remaining teams
10 – total number of shutouts by the four semifinal teams (by comparison, AAAA semifinalist Lovejoy has eight)