Five intriguing Class AAAA first-round games:
Eastside (7-3) at No. 1 Sandy Creek (10-0): The last two weeks have been a roller-coaster for Eastside, which dropped to fourth in Region 8-AAAA despite having only two losses in region play. The Eagles, who played Sandy Creek within a field goal in 2011, lost to Stephens County on Nov. 2 before shocking previously unbeaten Monroe Area 35-0 last week. So they have a modicum of momentum going against Sandy Creek, which allows less than 10 points a game and averages almost 46 points per
Statesboro (8-2) at Mary Persons (8-2): The Blue Devils face Mary Persons for the second time eveaennd the first since 1970, when Statesboro won a region championship against the Bulldogs. This one features two explosive backs in Statesboro’s Quan Daniels and Mary Persons’ Nick Davis. The Bulldogs enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak and have won 10 straight home games.
Dalton (7-3) at Carver-Atlanta (9-1), Lakewood Stadium: The question here is how will Carver respond coming off a blowout loss to Marist last week, spoiling the Panthers’ bid for an unbeaten season. The ground game, keyed by running back Montravious Taylor, has been Carver’s biggest weapon. Dalton has won five straight since a 2-3 start. The Catamounts have allowed 35 points or more three times.
Stephens County (8-2) at No. 10 Carrollton (7-3): The last time these two teams played, in the 2010 playoffs, Carrollton romped to a 63-20 win en route to putting up one of the highest-scoring seasons in state history. Carrollton was the more experienced team then; this time Stephens County appears to have the more experienced club, particularly in the skilled positions. The Indians’ two losses are by a combined eight points to Chestatee and Monroe Area, and running back Chaz Thornton, who has rushed for more than 1,400 yards, is one of the better backs in the state.
Riverdale (7-3) at No. 7 Cairo (8-2): Riverdale has overcome a mid-season stretch where it allowed 35 points or more in three straight games, and the Raiders have big-play capability in running back Ti’Keem Cooper. Cairo has won seven straight after a 1-2 start. This is the first meeting between the two schools.