Now that the wheat has been separated from the chaff, the real business of the state football playoffs can begin. Each one of the eight region champions survived the first round and only two of the No. 2 seeds were picked off. None of the state’s ranked teams were beaten on the first week.
That leaves this week’s schedule with some outstanding football games. Here’s how they rank in order of quality.
The best games
No. 3 Buford (10-1 on the field, 8-3) at No. 8 North Oconee (10-1): North Oconee has the sort of versatile attack that could challenge Buford’s defense. Kawon Bryant is an exceptional running back and Nick Colvin does a lot of different things at quarterback. But Colvin hurt his shoulder last week against Ringgold and may not play. If he can’t go, North Oconee’s chances diminish considerably. The big challenge is for the North Oconee defense, as Buford has scored 41 or more points in eight of its last nine games. Prediction: Buford:
No. 4 Washington County (10-1) at No. 10 Callaway (10-1): This is the ideal chance for Callaway to show the world how good it really is or the perfect opportunity for Washington County to unmask the Cavaliers as pretenders. This has the potential to be an offensive shootout, with each team having an outstanding quarterback running the offense. Washington County’s William Walker threw for 185 yards and six touchdowns last week. Callaway’s Tez Parks ran for two touchdowns and threw for another against Tattnall County. May the best signal caller win. Prediction: Washington County.
No. 9 Blessed Trinity (9-2) at No. 6 Cartersville (11-0): Blessed Trinity got a taste of facing a strong passing attack last week against White County and survived. This week the challenge grows exponentially against a Cartersville club that loves to throw it around. The Purple Hurricanes have an unflappable leader in QB Brooks Barden, who threw six touchdown passes in the 56-21 playoff opener against Jackson County. Barden threw for 218 yards and ran for another 100 against Jackson. BT quarterback Spencer McManes had one of his better games (256 yards passing) last week, but the Titans will likely need their defense to rise up and get enough stops to keep it close. Prediction: Cartersville.
The good games
No. 5 Peach County (10-1) at Pierce County (10-1): This may be the biggest game they’ve seen in Blackshear in years. Peach County, the runner-up in Class AAA last year, is led by quarterback Greg Williams, who had 162 yards and two touchdowns last week. Clemson commitment Demarcus Robinson remains one of the top receiving threats in the country. The Trojans also have perhaps the best defense that Pierce has faced this season. Pierce beat Central Carroll in overtime and got away with turning the ball over nine times last week; it can’t afford half that many this week or it will be a rout. Prediction: Peach County
Morgan County (9-2) at North Hall (9-2): North Hall may be the best non-ranked team in the state. Quarterback Bradley Brown and tailback Kevin Christmas lead an offense that tagged Woodward Academy for 388 yards last week. Morgan was having trouble stopping Gordon Central in the opener, but persevered and was able to take advantage of some mistakes at the end of the game. Prediction: North Hall
Hart County (6-5) at No. 7 St. Pius (9-2): The St. Pius offense had a school-record 525 yards rushing in its opening 72-28 win against Dawson County, despite playing the fourth quarter with a running clock. Quarterback Jack Spear (148 yards), fullback Ryan Braswell (127 yards, four TDs) and tailback Branden Mitchell (103, two TDs) led an offense that averaged 10.6 yards per snap. In its 32-11 win over Adairsville, Hart looked more like the team that won five straight games than the one that lost its final two games of the season. Prediction: St. Pius
Rockmart (6-5) at No. 2 Carver Columbus (10-1): Kudos to Rockmart for traveling to Baxley and nocking off a one-loss Appling County team. But the Yellow Jackets will need even more magic if they have hopes to knocking off a Carver team that’s won eight straight games. Carver quarterback Torrance McGee (two TD runs, one TD pass last week) and Marqui Hawkins are one of the state’s top passing combinations. And the Tigers can rely on a stable of running back and focus on the one with the hot hand. Prediction: Carver
Johnson Savannah (5-6) at No. 1 Thomson (11-0): Johnson historical run (the Atomsmashers won their first state playoff game last week) should end at The Brickyard, meaning quarterback Shyheim Roberts (three TD passes, one TD run last week) isn’t likely to get the chance to do his Superman pose. Thomson has too much offense, even in quarterback Chris Tutt misses the game with a bad ankle. The Bulldogs still have an outstanding pair of backs in player of the year candidate Chris Jordan and Torrie Battle. Prediction: Thomson