High school football fans have been talking about the state playoffs all season. And for at least half the year they’ve been looking ahead, figuring who’s going to beat each other and who their favorite team was going to meet in the playoffs.
Let the guessing end. Now that the brackets have been posted by the Georgia High School Association, it’s time to take a closer look at the first-round games. Remember, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds from each region play at home in the opening round. From then on the higher seed gets to play at home. When two teams of the same seeding meet (two No. 1s, for example) the location is settled by a coin flip.
Here’s a quick review of the path that awaits the state’s top five ranked teams:
Thomson: The No. 1 Bulldogs (10-0) should face little resistance in the first two rounds, but will likely do battle with unbeaten Cartersville in the third round.
Carver Columbus: The No. 2 Tigers (9-1) have a tougher path. They open against mercurial Dodge County, will likely meet a solid Appling County team, and then face either Buford or North Oconee in the third round.
Buford: The No. 3 Wolves (9-1 on the field, 7-3 on paper) didn’t make it easy on themselves with the two forfeits. They host explosive Cedar Grove in the first round, but would then likely play on the road at North Oconee and again at Carver.
Washington County: The No. 4 Golden Hawks (9-1) open with Pike County and would then likely go on the road against Callaway, before making an appearance in the quarterfinals against St. Pius, also on the road.
Peach County : The No. 5 Trojans (9-1) have a deceptively difficult path to the championship. They open against a solid Jefferson County club and would then likely play at Pierce County and at North Hall.
Here are a few other facts and opinions about the playoffs:
Best unranked team: This was going to go to Callaway, but the Cavaliers managed to get into the final set of rankings at No. 10. The promotion was well-deserved. Callaway (9-1) has reeled off nine straight victories since losing the season opener to Heard County, the No. 6 team in Class AA that just finished a 10-0 season. Callaway was unbeaten in a weak Region 4 schedule.
That leaves the honor of best unranked team going into the playoffs to Pierce County, the champion of Region 1. The Bears also powered their way through a weak league, beating Appling County (another solid club) to determine the region championship. The Bears were ranked No 8 in the state for a week until an inexplicable loss to Swainsboro, their only setback of the season.
Best No. 4 seed: Woodward Academy looked like it was going to win Region 6 when it knocked off St. Pius, but the War Eagles stumbled on the road the following week against Cedar Grove. The result: Woodward dropped down to the fourth seed. Thanks a lot, says North Hall, the Region 7 champion and the first-round opponent. Should make an outstanding first-round game.
Quickest first-round exit: Jackson County has waited 20 years since competing in the state playoffs. Hopefully the Panthers won’t have to wait so long the next time. They face long odds against No. 6 Cartersville, which has been scoring tons of points during its perfect season.
Why Me Award: Cedar Grove fans want to know why they ended up getting the short end of the stick when Buford had to forfeit two games. The Saints have played good football, but wound up third in Region 6 when they dropped the season finale to Blessed Trinity. That meant a matchup with No. 3-ranked Buford, which was stuck in second place thanks to the two forfeits. Oh, and the game is at Buford’s Tom Riden Stadium, too.
The County Countdown: There are 13 teams in the AAA playoffs with the word “County” in the name of the school: Pierce County, Appling County, Tattnall County, Peach County, Pike County, Dodge County, Jefferson County, Washington County, Jackson County, Hart County, Morgan County, Dawson County and White County. The pick of the litter? Peach and Washington.
Best Directional team: There are four schools with a compass direction in its name: Central Carroll, Gordon Central, North Hall and North Oconee. Best of show? North Oconee
First-round schedule: Central Carroll at Pierce County, Rockmart at Appling County, Johnson Savannah at Chapel Hill, Tattnall County at Callaway, Dodge County at Carver Columbus, Jefferson County at Peach County; Pike County at Washington County; Jackson at Thomson; Jackson County at Cartersville, Hart County at Adairsville, Gordon Central at Morgan County, Ringgold at North Oconee, Dawson County at St. Pius, White County at Blessed Trinity, Cedar Grove at Buford, Woodward Academy at North Hall.