By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Time for the Second Round, the Elite Eight, or the Quarterfinals, whichever you prefer. Here is a quick look at all eight games – four public and four private.
But first, some have made the argument that while Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy is the clear favorite on the private school side, there is great parity among the other private schools. After the first round, proponents of that theory may be on to something.
If you take the Power Rankings as the measurement of team strength, which many absolutely do not, the top eight seeds were supposed to be the “favorites.” On the private school side, half of those teams lost last week. While the top three – Athens Academy, ELCA and Walker – moved on, No. 4 Brookstone, No. 5 Calvary Day, No. 6 Aquinas and No. 8 Darlington were all soundly beaten. That smacks of a lot of parity among the private schools, ELCA not withstanding.
Meanwhile, on the public school side, things went more according to plan as only two teams from the top eight – No. 6 Irwin County and No. 8 Miller County, a one-point loser to No. 9 Wilkinson County (27-26) – failed to advance. Most believe that the top three seeds — No. 1 Lincoln County, No. 2 Wilcox County and No. 3 Emanuel County Institute — are the clear favorites.
Also, a correction. Here is the list of region records after the first round of playoffs. There were a couple of errors in the previous post. Again keep in mind that Regions 5 and 7 are at a disadvantage here because they had teams that met each other in the first round – ELCA-Our Lady of Mercy in Region 5 and Lincoln County-Hancock Central in Region 7:
Region 1: 1-1
Region 2: 1-3
Region 3: 2-1
Region 4: 2-2
Region 5: 2-2
Region 6: 2-3
Region 7: 3-2
Region 8: 3-2
No. 9 Wilkinson County (8-3) at No. 1 Lincoln County (10-1). Wilkinson finished second in Region 7, while Lincoln was the Region 7 champion, the 37th region crown for the Red Devils. Wilkinson rallied and scored a touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game to defeat No. 8 Miller County in the first round. Lincoln rolled past Hancock Central, 21-0. The game is a rematch of a game played on Nov. 2, which Lincoln won, 21-19, after trailing 13-0 early. The Red Devils are 8-1 all time against Wilkinson. The last Warrior win in the series came in 2010 (26-14). Players to Watch: RB Mike McIntire, QB Ben Turner and WR Zireycus Letman for Lincoln; QB David Whipple, WR Kareem Sanders and RB Shiquez Underwood for Wilkinson County.
No. 5 Dooly County (9-2) at No. 4 Seminole County (9-2). Dooly finished second in Region 4, Seminole is the Region 1 champion. Dooly trailed Turner County 8-7 in the fourth quarter but scored 13 unanswered points in the period to win 20-8, in Round 1, Seminole thumped No. 13 Commerce 36-7. Dooly leads the all-time series, which dates back to 1980, 7-4 and won the last meeting, 22-0, in the first round of the 2003 playoffs.
Players to Watch: DT Montravious Adams, RB Chanin Hamilton and QB AJ Smith for Dooly; QB Jakhari Martin, RB Daquan Hamlet, OL/LB Alex Koonce for Seminole.
No. 11 Trion (9-2) at No. 3 Emanuel County Institute (10-1). Trion finished third in Region 6-Division A, ECI is the Region 3 champion. Trion dominated No. 6 Irwin County, 31-6, nearly five hours away, on the road in Ocilla in the first round. ECI hammered No. 14 Gordon Lee, 46-12. This is the first meeting between the two schools. Many believe ECI is the favorite to win the public school title, while Trion is the lowest seed left in the public school playoffs. ECI won a state title in 2007 behind the play of running back Washaun Ealey. Trion won a Class B state championship in 1974 when it defeated Lincoln County, 7-0, in Trion.
Players to Watch: QB Cory Bethune and RB Kingston Lanier for Trion; QB/DB/K Caleb Pressley, RB Greg Purcell and LB/RB Taiwan Daughtry for ECI.
No. 7 Marion County (9-2) at No. 2 Wilcox County (9-2). Marion finished third in Region 4, Wilcox is the two-time Region 2 champion. Marion downed No. 10 Charlton County 31-12 in the first round, Wilcox smashed No. 15 Greenville, 42-14. This is the first meeting between the two schools even though they are located a little over an hour apart. Wilcox won a state title in 2009, led by QB Nick Marshall. Marion is a fairly new school created in 2006 when the former Tri-County High School splintered into three separate schools. Yet the Eagles have already won two region championships.
Players to Watch: QB DeMarquez Mallard for Marion; QB/DB Mikail Grace and WR/DB Jonathan Howard for Wilcox.
No. 9 Prince Avenue Christian (9-2) at No. 1 Athens Academy (11-0). PAC finished third in Region 8, Athens Academy won the Region 8 title. PAC knocked off No. 8 Darlington, 42-21, in Rome in Round 1, Athens Academy edged No. 16 Mt. Pisgah Christian, 17-13, despite trailing 13-0 heading into the fourth quarter. Athens Academy prevailed 14-7 when the two teams met back on Oct. 5, and the Spartans lead the all-time series 5-2. The Wolverines last victory was last season, 18-0. Neither team has won a state championship.
Players to Watch: RB Bryce Huff and RB Carl Mattox for PAC; QB Adam Schulte and WR Eric Williams for Athens Academy.
No. 13 First Presbyterian Day (7-4) at No. 12 Landmark Christian (8-3). FPD finished fourth in Region 7, Landmark finished second in Region 5. FPD throttled No. 4 Brookstone, 49-33, in Columbus in the first round, Landmark smothered Calvary Day, 10-7, in Savannah. These are the two lowest seeds remaining in the playoffs on either the public or private school side. The all-time series is even at 1-1. FPD won last season, 31-21, Landmark won in 2010, 23-21. Neither team has won a GHSA state title. FPD, which has been competing in the GHSA since 2010, has won two Georgia Independent School Association titles (1980 and 1985). Landmark is the defending Class A runner up. Players to Watch: RB Darron Moore and RB Brooks Stroud for FPD; RB Jeremiah Kirkland, RB Joshua Nobles, and DB Cole Higbie for Landmark.
No. 11 George Walton Academy (8-3) at No. 3 Walker (11-0). GWA finished second in Region 8, Walker won the Region 6 championship, its first in school history. GWA blasted No. 6 Aquinas 38-12 in Round 1, Walker pulled away from No. 14 Athens Christian, 28-7. This is the first meeting between the two schools. GWA has won four state championships, all in the GISA (2009, 2003, 1991 and 1979).
Players to Watch: RB Stanley Williams, RB Nick Waters, QB Hunter Rice and RB Tyler Jarvis for GWA; RB/DB Evan Kasian and OL/DL Mike Ramsay for Walker.
No. 7 Savannah Christian (8-3) at No. 2 ELCA (10-1). Savannah Christian is the Region 3 runner up, ELCA is the three-time Region 5 champion. Savannah Christian, the defending Class A champs, mauled No. 10 Holy Innocents 35-17 in the first round, ELCA dumped No. 15 Our Lady of Mercy 42-14. This is the first meeting between the two schools. ELCA has been dominant this season. The Chargers’ only loss this season was in Week 1 to AAA Washington County, 24-19. ELCA led 19-0 in the second quarter. Washington County is now 11-1 and has outscored its two playoff opponents 93-7 heading into the quarterfinals. Savannah Christian began the season 0-2 but reeled off seven straight wins before falling to ECI in the Region 3 title game (48-14). Many believe Savannah Christian is the lone private school capable of defeating ELCA.
Players to Watch: RB/DB Jalen Myrick and RB/LB Ivan Reese for Savannah Christian; RB/LB Keyante Green, DL/TE Isaac Rochelle, DB/WR DJ Curl, DB/RB Marquise Griffin, DB/WR Jevious Terry, QB Dalton Etheridge, LB/RB Josh Shockley, DL Andrew Williams, OL Jake Martin, OL Beau Beasley, WR Davis Carrandi for ELCA.