The first round of the high school football playoffs is often filled with mismatches, and this year may be no exception. But there are some good matchups on the schedule, too. Here are five of the best in Class AAAAA this week:
*Rome at Gainesville: This could be one of the highest-scoring games of the weekend, a matchup of two teams that averaged a combined 80.4 points per game. Rome (8-2) won perhaps the game of the year in Class AAAAA, rallying in the final seconds to force overtime before beating North Paulding 57-56. Gainesville (7-3) enters the playoffs on a two-game losing streak but has the leading candidate for AAAAA player of the year in quarterback Deshaun Watson.
*Northgate at Harris County: They may not bring the best records into the playoffs, but these teams turned their seasons around at just the right time. Northgate (5-5) lost five of its first seven games but rallied to win its final three, including a 15-3 victory over Mundy’s Mill in a region play-in game to qualify for the state playoffs. Harris County (6-4) was 0-4 before winning its final six games to capture the Region 1-AAAAA championship and a No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
*Heritage-Conyers at Allatoona: Allatoona (9-1) averaged 38 points in rolling through its first nine opponents before being shut down by East Paulding 25-7 last week in a game that decided the 5-AAAAA championship. The Buccaneers now face the task of trying to get the offense going again against a Heritage (8-2) defense that allowed just 13.7 points per game and held six of 10 regular-season opponents to a touchdown or less.
*Bainbridge at Union Grove: Union Grove set a school record with nine regular-season victories, but the Wolverines are still looking for a statement victory. Bainbridge provides that opportunity, despite its 7-3 record and No. 3 seed. Bainbridge’s three losses have come against one of Florida’s top 10 teams in Class 4A, and the others were against the top two teams in Region 1-AAAAA – Harris County and Thomas County Central – by a combined seven points.
*Pope at Stephenson (Saturday, Hallford Stadium): Can Stephenson overcome its recent first-round struggles? The Jaguars (7-2) lost their playoff opener four times in the past five years, but all of those came while playing in the highest classification. Stephenson will be facing a Pope (7-3) team that has won seven of eight games since an 0-2 start. Pope has just two victories in the state playoffs in the 25-year history of the program.