Northside (Warner Robins) at Ware County
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Memorial Stadium, Waycross
Records, rankings: Northside is 13-0, the No. 1 seed from Region 2-AAAAA and ranked No. 1; Ware County is 12-1, the No. 1 seed from 3-AAAAA and ranked No. 6.
Last meeting: Northside won 20-14 in the 2007 Class AAAA championship game.
Three things to know: 1. Northside is averaging 262 yards per game rushing in the playoffs. Curtis Martin ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries in a 23-20 victory over Tucker last week and has 299 yards in three playoff games. Keshun Hill ran for 111 and QB Glenn Smith had 110 the previous week against Thomas County Central. 2. Ware County’s defense is among the state’s best. The Gators have allowed 7.9 points per game this season. Of the remaining playoff teams, only AAAAAA Lovejoy (7.2) and AA Buford (7.3) have allowed less. Ware County forced six three-and-outs and allowed only 63 yards of total offense in a 14-0 victory over Stephenson last week. It was Ware’s fifth shutout, tied for most in the state. Team leaders are TB/LB Xavier Tolbert (1,496 yards rushing, 104 tackles) and DL/TE Jimal McBride (126 tackles, 24 for losses). 3. In the teams’ only previous meeting, Ware County led 14-10 with less than six minutes to play until Northside RB Tijuan Green threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Nick Bass for the game-winning points in the 2007 AAAA final. The victory gave Northside its second consecutive state championship.
Maxwell Ratings’ projection: Northside by 9
Gainesville at Whitewater
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Wildcat Stadium, Fayetteville
Records, rankings: Gainesville is 10-3, the No. 2 seed from Region 8-AAAAA and unranked; Whitewater is 12-1, the No. 1 seed from 4-AAAAA and unranked.
Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.
Three things to know: 1. Gainesville QB Deshaun Watson is GHSF Daily’s top candidate for all-classification player of the year. The junior has 4,742 yards passing and rushing and had a hand in 67 touchdowns this season. In three playoff games, during which the Red Elephants have averaged 55 points, Watson has passed for 882 yards and 12 TDs and rushed for 387 yards and eight scores. 2. Whitewater’s top offensive weapon is RB Kendall Conley, who has rushed for 2,041 yards and 36 touchdowns this season. He runs behind 6-9, 368-pound RT Pat Dalton, whom coach Amos McCreary calls ”the most dominant lineman I’ve seen all season.” 3. Gainesville is making its 19th appearance in the semifinals, which ranks fourth all-time behind Valdosta (29), Lincoln County (25) and Carrollton (22). It is the only school with 10 or more trips to the final four that has not won a GHSA state championship. Whitewater is making its first semifinal appearance in the nine-year history of the program.
Maxwell Ratings’ projection: Gainesville by 1
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