First-round playoff preview: Class A (private)

Mt. Pisgah Christian at Athens Academy

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Slaughter Field, Athens

Records, rankings: Mount Pisgah Christian is 6-4, the No. 16 seed and unranked; Athens Academy is 10-0, the No. 1 seed and ranked No. 3.

Last meeting: Athens Academy won 36-6 in the 2007 regular season.

Three things to know: 1. Mount Pisgah, an Alpharetta school that began football in 2003 and joined the GHSA in 2006, is playing in its first playoff game under the GHSA banner. The Patriots reached the Georgia Independent School Association playoffs in 2005. 2. Athens Academy coach Michael Gunn is in his 23rd season, the most of any private-school coach in Class A. This season, Gunn achieved his ninth 10-win season, his seventh region title and his second perfect regular season. 3. Athens Academy beat five playoff teams toward its 10-0 finish. The biggest win came Oct. 26, when Athens Academy defeated George Walton Academy 21-20 after trailing 20-7 at halftime. QB Austin Schulte threw second-half TD passes to Eric Williams and Bobby Marshburn.

Maxwell Ratings’ projection: Athens Academy by 25

Winner plays: Prince Avenue Christian/Darlington winner

Prince Avenue Christian at Darlington

When, where: 7 p.m. Friday, Chris Hunter Stadium, Rome

Records, rankings: Prince Avenue Christian is 8-2, the No. 9 seed and unranked; Darlington is 7-3, the No. 8 seed and unranked.

Last meeting: Darlington won 49-13 in the first round of the 2010 Class A playoffs.

Three things to know: 1. Darlington has made the playoffs nine of the past 10 seasons but advanced to the quarterfinals only once, in 2009, when the Tigers also made the semifinals. 2. Prince Avenue reached the semifinals last season and lost to eventual champion Savannah Christian. The Wolverines started football in 2005 and made the playoffs only one other time, 2010, when beaten at Darlington 49-13. 3. While Savannah Christian’s Donald Chumley is the only coach in the private division who has won a state title in the GHSA, Prince Avenue coach Mark Farriba and George Walton’s Don Williams have won state titles in the GISA. Farriba won with Stratford Academy of Macon in 2004 and First Presbyterian Prep in 1985. Farriba’s record is 144-96-3.

Maxwell Ratings’ projection: Prince Avenue Christian by 4

Winner plays: Mount Pisgah Christian/Athens Academy winner

Landmark Christian at Calvary Day

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, M.C. Anderson Field, Savannah

Records, rankings: Landmark Christian is 7-3, the No. 12 seed and unranked; Calvary Day is 9-1, the No. 5 seed and ranked No. 8.

Last meeting: Calvary Day won 28-21 on Aug. 24 in the regular season.

Three things to know: 1. Landmark Christian RB Jeremiah Kirkland has rushed for 1,563 yards this season. 2. Calvary Day QB Jake Clemens was a preseason all-state pick. He was 8-of-17 passing for 195 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 80 yards in the regular-season game between these teams. Calvary won 28-21 despite trailing 21-0 at halftime. 3. Landmark Christian eliminated Calvary Day the round of 16 last season with a 21-7 victory at Calvary Day. Landmark won four consecutive road games to reach the finals as a No. 4 seed. Calvary Day has not advanced to the quarterfinals since 1999.

Maxwell Ratings’ projection: Calvary Day by 7

Winner plays: First Presbyterian/Brookstone winner

First Presbyterian at Brookstone

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Rex Knight Stadium, Columbus

Records, rankings: First Presbyterian is 6-4, the No. 13 seed and unranked; Brookstone is 8-2, the No. 4 seed and unranked.

Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.

Three things to know: 1. First Presbyterian QB Brooks Stroud has passed for 1,073 yards and run for 674 and scored 14 touchdowns. 2. Brookstone QB Duncan Fletcher has thrown for 1,812 yards and 13 touchdowns. 3. Both schools began football around the same time, Brookstone in 1972, First Presbyterian a year later. Brookstone joined the GHSA, partly because another Columbus private school, Pacelli, already was a member and a natural rival. First Presbyterian started football in 1973 and joined GISA, which had several middle Georgia members. First Presbyterian won GISA state titles in 1980 and 1985 before joining the GHSA in 2010. Brookstone’s best GHSA finish has been the 1987 finals.

Maxwell Ratings’ projection: First Presbyterian by 2

Winner plays: Landmark Christian/Calvary Day winner

Athens Christian at Walker

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Robertson Field, Marietta

Records, rankings: Athens Christian is 4-6, the No. 14 seed and unranked; Walker is 10-0, the No. 3 seed and ranked No. 10.

Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.

Three things to know: 1. Athens Christian’s 4-6 record is the weakest in the field. But the computer Maxwell Ratings rank Athens Christian’s schedule the toughest in Class A among private schools and also rank the Eagles as the No. 15 team in the private division. Athens Christian played seven playoff teams, including a ranked Class AAA team in North Oconee. By contrast, Walker’s schedule is ranked 33rd among 35 in the private division. 2. Walker RB Evan Kasian leads Class A in rushing with 1,795 yards. He has run for 24 touchdowns. 3. Neither team has won a playoff game in the GHSA. Walker began football in 2001. Athens Christian joined the GHSA in 2000.

Maxwell Ratings’ projection: Walker by 16

Winner plays: George Walton Academy/Aquinas winner

George Walton Academy at Aquinas

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aquinas Stadium, Augusta

Records, rankings: George Walton Academy is 7-3, the No. 11 seed and unranked; Aquinas is 8-2, the No. 6 seed and ranked No. 9.

Last meeting: Aquinas won 28-21 on Sept. 7 in the regular season.

Three things to know: 1. This game matches two of the elite running backs in the state. Aquinas’ Brendan Douglas has rushed for 1,369 yards and 22 touchdowns on 176 carries despite missing a game with an injury. George Walton’s Stanley Williams, a junior who has committed to Georgia, also has been banged up much of the season but has rushed for 1,348 yards and 18 touchdowns. 2. In the regular-season meeting between these teams, Ruben Garrett of Aquinas returned a kickoff 100 yards for the tying touchdown with three minutes left, and Aquinas took the lead when Douglas (78 yards rushing, 22 carries) scored on a 1-yard run in overtime. Shane Meehan made an interception to clinch the victory. 3. George Walton coach Don Williams has won two state championships in the GISA in 2003 and 2009, both with George Walton. His record is 136-84-1.

Maxwell Ratings’ projection: Aquinas by 10

Winner plays: Athens Christian/Walker winner

Holy Innocents’ at Savannah Christian

When, where: 7 p.m. Friday, Garden City Stadium, Garden City

Records, rankings: Holy Innocents’ is 6-4, the No. 10 seed and unranked; Savannah Christian is 7-3, the No. 7 seed and unranked.

Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.

Three things to know: 1. Holy Innocents’ has qualified for the playoffs in every season except its first, 2006, under coach Ryan Livezey, who started the program. His seven-year record is 51-28. 2. Savannah Christian is rebuilding after winning Class A last season with a 15-0 record. This season’s 7-3 record represents the most losses since coach Donald Chumley took over the program in 2005 and finished 6-4. Chumley is 84-17 in nine seasons. 3. Savannah Christian ATH Jalen Myrick is the most vital returning player for his team. He is a champion sprinter who has committed to Minnesota.

Maxwell Ratings’ projection: Savannah Christian by 12

Winner plays: Our Lady of Mercy/Eagle’s Landing Christian winner

Our Lady of Mercy at ELCA

When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Commitment Field, McDonough

Records, rankings: Our Lady of Mercy is 6-4, the No. 15 seed and unranked; Eagle’s Landing Christian is 9-1, the No. 2 seed and ranked No. 1.

Last meeting: Eagle’s Landing Christian won 49-0 on Oct. 19 in the regular season.

Three things to know: 1. This will be the first playoff game for Our Lady, which started football in 2001. The school did not have a winning season until coach Mike Earwood was hired in 2010. Our Lady has finished 7-3, 6-4 and 6-4 since. Earwood got his 200th career victory this season. 2. ELCA RB/LB Keyante Green has rushed for 1,033 yards and averaged 12.3 yards per carry despite missing two games with an ankle injury and most second halves this season because of blowouts. 3. ELCA has beaten its seven Class A opponents by an average score of 52-4. According to Maxwell Ratings simulations, ELCA wins the Class A tournament 620,836 times out of 1 million.

Maxwell Ratings’ projection: Eagle’s Landing Christian by 29

Winner plays: Holy Innocents’/Savannah Christian winner

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7 comments Add your comment

congrats to Geo Walton and ELCA

November 22nd, 2012
10:34 pm

They’ve both done a great job at recruiting athletes away from surrounding public schools and have, through breaking the rules, developed fantastic programs. Good luck to both cheating programs!

Swamp Lizard

November 23rd, 2012
6:21 am

@ ELCA & GW FAN … If you coud have seen what Coach Gess has done the last six years at ELCA and had a kid in that program, you would have a different take. Just as the kids & coaches at George Walton, Aquinas, Sav Christian, Landmark, etc … Thank you for taking the time to notice our programs though.

LoveFridayFootball

November 23rd, 2012
6:34 am

Swamp.. Guys like that aren’t even worth it!

Swamp Lizard

November 23rd, 2012
6:34 am

@ ELCA & GW FAN … I’d like to talk about a PRIVATE school that I think is on the verge of being a top 10 team in the coming years. Our Lady of Mercy. I have a friend that coaches there and I’m sure you might have heard of head coach Mike Earwood. He’s won 200 games in GHSA. OLM has never been to the playoffs until this year, since his arrival at OLM I think he has gone 6-4, 7-3 & 6-4 …. he has surrounded himself with great coaches, changing the mindset & culture to a winning attitude. He is building a program just like he did at Stars Mill. Is everyone going to call them cheaters when he establishes OLM as a top 10 team?

Swamp Lizard

November 23rd, 2012
6:37 am

@ LoveFridayFootball … thank you, you are so right.

innocent bystander

November 23rd, 2012
8:35 am

@ congrats to goerge walton & elca………your kid must play at one of the schools ELCA hung 60 + on.. or di G.W get ya ????? Sore loser..emphasis on loser

Swamp Lizard

November 23rd, 2012
11:31 pm

Congrats to Our Lady of Mercy …. first for making the playoffs this year, and second for playing their hearts out tonight against a very good ELCA team. They showed true grit tonight, fighting hard and never quiting. You can see that OLM is on track to be one of the better teams in the state.