Will the game between No. 4 St. Pius and No. 5 North Oconee be a foreshadowing of a possible playoff matchup? Or will it remove the mask off one of the teams and expose them as a poseur?
Both teams are coming off an undefeated regular season. North Oconee, which will be playing its first game of the season, is among the favorites in Region 8-AAA. St. Pius, 1-0 after last week’s 21-3 win over rival Westminster, is among the teams to beat in Region 6-AAA. This is the first meeting between the two schools.
St. Pius answered several questions last week. Jack Spear showed he could handle the duties at quarterback, where three-year starter Trey White graduated after leading the team in rushing and passing. The Golden Lions also learned that fullback Ryan Braswell can shoulder a big load; the senior rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns and his 32-yard TD run in the final minutes put the game away.
North Oconee is led by Nick Colvin, who coach Terry Tuley referred to as the team’s best athlete. Colvin will start at quarterback, but has previously played running back, wide receiver, safety and cornerback. He was an all-region selection last year. Another star in the making is sophomore Kawon Bryant, who rushed for 1,026 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman.
Four other games to watch
Gainesville at Buford: No. 2 Buford (1-0) had to stop one of the state’s best premier running backs last week in Elbert County’s Tyshon Dye. This week the Wolves must find a way to slow Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson, one of the state’s top junior prospects. Gainesville (0-1, Class AAAA No. 9) has played Buford on four previous occasions, losing each time, including last year’s 49-0 drubbing. But Buford’s offense wasn’t particularly stellar in last week’s 14-3 victory over Elbert County, which will put additional pressure on the Wolves defense in order to prevent this game from turning into a scorefest. Buford will like try to pound the ball on the ground
Cartersville at Cass: Cartersville (1-0) has 20 seniors on the roster from last year’s 5-5 team and is expected to be among the contenders in Region 5-AAA. The Purple Hurricanes will be stepping up in class to meet Cass (1-0) in a match between two Bartow County Schools. The series has been lopsided in favor of Cartersville, which holds a 37-5 edge. Cartersville has won two straight meetings since Cass won in 2007 to snap a seven-game losing streak to the Purple Hurricanes. This will be the first meeting since 2009, when Cartersville won 14-6.
Baldwin at Peach County: No. 1-ranked Peach County had its hands full with Perry last week and should be tested again this time by Baldwin (Class AAAA No. 10). Peach receiver Demarcus Robinson accounted for three touchdowns last week. Baldwin is led by QB Tajhea Chambers, who threw for 195 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 52 yards and two touchdowns in the opener. Peach County leads the series 7-5 and is 3-1 against the Braves since the series was resumed in 2008 after a 25-year hiatus. Last year’s game is typical of the last five, which include only one blowout (a 35-15 Peach win in 2010). Peach won last year’s game 17-14.
McNair vs. Columbia (Avondale Stadium): As a proud McNair graduate, please allow an indulgence. Not often have the words “unbeaten” and “McNair” appeared in the same sentence. But here goes: Unbeaten McNair meets Columbia in the annual “Battle for South DeKalb Mall.” McNair (1-0) won its season opener for the first time since 2005 and will try to defeat Class AAAA Columbia for the first time since 2009. Michael Minter’s 63-yard punt return sparked McNair’s victory. Columbia beat Cedar Grove 20-15 in its opener.