The first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs went according to form, for the most part, as the higher-seeded teams went 14-2. Here’s a look at the biggest surprise and the other games of note:
*The upset: North Paulding made a big splash in its playoff debut, beating top-seeded and eighth-ranked Flowery Branch 63-43 in a game in which the teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of total offense. North Paulding, which led 42-7 at halftime, got five touchdown passes and a TD run from quarterback Chase Newnan, according to the Gainesville Times. Flowery Branch was the Region 8 champion and earned a No. 1 seed for the first time in the program’s history but was the only No. 1 to lose its opener.
*The upset? Not really: Fifth-ranked Tucker was the only No. 3 seed to win on Friday when it beat Creekview 42-25, but it was hardly unexpected. In fact, it’s rarely an upset when the Tigers win a playoff game – they are 18-3 in the postseason with two state championships since 2007. Nonetheless, it was a great season for Creekview, which matched the school record for victories with nine in Al Morrell’s final season as the Grizzlies’ coach. He announced his retirement earlier this season.
*Rating the regions: If playoff success is the ultimate measuring stick of a region’s strength, then Regions 5 and 6 came out on top as the only ones to go 3-1. Region 5 got victories from top-seeded East Paulding, No. 2 Allatoona and No. 4 North Paulding. Third seed Rome lost to Gainesville 41-14. Region 6 got victories from M.L. King and Tucker on Friday, and Stephenson defeated Pope 31-11 on Saturday. Region 6 came close to making it 4-0, but fourth-seeded Southwest DeKalb gave up a late score in a 19-14 loss to Kell.
*Still perfect: Three Class AAAAA teams (East Paulding, Northside-Warner Robins and M.L. King) were 10-0 during the regular season, and all three moved on to the second round. East Paulding is trying to reach 12-0 for the first time since 2007, when it lost to Thomas County Central in the AAAA quarterfinals. Northside won its first 13 games last season before losing to Tucker in the AAAA semifinals, and M.L. King was 12-0 in 2011 when it lost to Lassiter in the AAAAA quarterfinals.
*Looking ahead: There will be two second-round games that match teams ranked in the top 10, and both involve Regions 5 and 6. Second-ranked M.L. King will host No. 10 Allatoona, and No. 3 East Paulding will host No. 8 Stephenson. Here are the second-round games:
Thomas County Central at Northside (Warner Robins)
North Paulding at Tucker
Union Grove at Ware County
Stephenson at East Paulding
Warner Robins at Harris County
Gainesville at Kell
Glynn Academy at Whitewater
Allatoona at M.L. King