Blessed Trinity at Westminster
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Alfred E. Thompson Stadium, Atlanta
Rankings: Blessed Trinity (9-3 in 2012) is No. 7 in AAA; Westminster (5-7 in 2012) is No. 7 in AA.
Last meeting: Blessed Trinity won 25-20 in 2012.
Three things to know: 1. Blessed Trinity was led in rushing last season by Milton Shelton, a freshman who was pressed into duty when starting RB Jordan Denson was lost for the season after tearing his ACL in a scrimmage. Shelton finished with 894 yards rushing, including 106 against Westminster, all in the second half. 2. Westminster lost a big weapon with the graduation of kicker Harrison Butker, who signed with Georgia Tech. Butker was named first-team all-state as a junior and senior, and he set school records for longest field goal (53 yards) and most field goals in a season (16-for-17 in 2011). 3. Blessed Trinity, which began playing varsity football in 2001, set a school record with nine victories last season. The Titans had never won a playoff game before Tim McFarlin’s arrival in 2011, but the former Roswell coach has led them to first-round victories in each of his first two seasons.
Booker T. Washington (Fla.) at Norcross
When, where: 7 p.m. Saturday, Norcross Stadium, Norcross
Rankings: Booker T. Washington (13-1 in 2012) is No. 1 in Florida’s Class 4A; Norcross (15-0 in 2012) is No. 1 in Georgia’s Class AAAAAA.
Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting.
Three things to know: 1. This is one of two games to be played on Saturday at Norcross as part of the ESPN High School Football Kickoff. South Gwinnett will face Lincoln, Fla. at 3:30 p.m., and both games will be televised live on ESPN. 2. Booker T. Washington of Miami and Norcross won state championships last season, and both have high national rankings this season. Washington is ranked No. 1 by USA Today, and Norcross is No. 3 by MaxPreps. 3. Washington returns eight offensive starters from a team that averaged 50 points per game last season. The Tornadoes are led by QB Treon Harris, a Florida State commitment who passed for 2,576 yards and 33 touchdowns and rushed for 751 yards and 15 TDs. Norcross is led by three preseason all-state players – AJC Super 11 DE Lorenzo Carter, LB Kevin Mouhon and WR/RB Myles Autry. Carter led Gwinnett County in sacks with 18 last season and made 136 tackles.
Brookwood vs. McEachern
When, where: 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Rankings: Brookwood (7-5 in 2012) is unranked in AAAAAA; McEachern (8-3 in 2012) is No. 6 in AAAAAA.
Last meeting: Brookwood won 20-10 in the first round of the 2009 Class AAAAA playoffs.
Three things to know:1. McEachern has beaten Brookwood twice in the Corky Kell Classic only to lose to Brookwood that same season in the first round of the state playoffs (1992, 2009). They’ve met one other time in the Corky Kell (McEachern won in 1999) and one other time in the playoffs (Brookwood won in 2002). These are the founding schools of this event, and they’ve played in it each season. 2. McEachern QB Ty Clemons rushed for 108 yards in last season’s Corky Kell in a 35-24 loss to Walton. Speedy RB Taj Griffin has offers from Georgia and Ohio State as a junior. Nine starters return on defense. McEachern’s question mark is the offensive line, which returns only one starter. 3. Brookwood lost 13 of 22 starters. The biggest questions are on defense after allowing 28.8 points per game in 2012. RB Josh Brown has several smaller Division I offers and could lead Gwinnett County in rushing this season.
Burke County at Thomson
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, The Brickyard, Thomson
Rankings: Burke County (11-2 in 2012) is No. 3 in AAAA; Thomson (12-1 in 2012) is No. 9 in AAA.
Last meeting: Thomson won 21-14 in 2012.
Three things to know: Burke County QB Donquell Green, a first-team all-state player last season and a preseason selection (ATH) this year, rushed for 1,827 yards and scored 32 touchdowns on 177 attempts for a team that lost to eventual champion Sandy Creek in the AAAA quarterfinals. Green also passed for 1,399 and 11 TDs with just two interceptions. 2. Thomson WR/DB Felton Hatcher was a first-team all-state player at defensive back as a junior and was a preseason selection this season. Hatcher made 54 tackles in 2012 and had nine interceptions. He also caught six passes for 76 yards. 3. Thomson scored 21 second-quarter points to rally from a 14-0 deficit last year and snap a four-game losing streak against Burke County to even the all-time series 14-14. Chris Jordan, a senior fullback, led the Bulldogs with 165 yards rushing and scored on a 62-yard run just before halftime that provided the game-winning points.
Camden County vs. North Gwinnett
When, where: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Rankings: Camden County (11-2 in 2012) is No. 5 in AAAAAA; North Gwinnett (11-2 in 2012) is No. 4 in AAAAAA.
Last meeting: Camden County won 35-0 in the 2009 Class AAAAA quarterfinals.
Three things to know:1. Each team has two players who are rated among the top 50 senior recruits in the state. For North Gwinnett, they are DE Dante Sawyer and WR Nate Brown. For Camden County, they are Kalvaraz Bessent and Chris Williams, both of whom play in the backfield on both sides of the ball. Both have committed to Alabama. North Gwinnett OL Mitch Hyatt is rated by some as the No. 1 junior prospect in the state. 2. Both coaches have won state championships in other states – North Gwinnett’s Bob Sphire in Kentucky, Camden County’s Welton Coffey in Florida. Coffey, a promoted assistant, is taking over for Jeff Herron, who won three state titles in his 13 seasons in Kingsland. 3. Both teams have new quarterbacks. North Gwinnett’s Hayden Sphire, the son of head coach Bob Sphire, replaces Michael Haynes, who threw for 2,193 yards and rushed for 632 despite injuries last season. Camden’s Dalton Sikes replaces Brice Ramsey, now a freshman at Georgia. Sikes is accurate, but expect also to see sophomore Antonio Hamilton, a dangerous runner.
Colquitt County vs. Grayson
When, where: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Rankings: Colquitt County (10-4 in 2012) is No. 2 in AAAAAA; Grayson (10-2 in 2012) is No. 10 in AAAAAA.
Last meeting: Grayson won 35-31 in the 2011 Class AAAAA semifinals.
Three things to know: 1. Grayson and Colquitt County have played twice, both in classic semifinal games at Grayson. In 2010, Colquitt County won 31-24, outscoring Grayson 14-0 in the final quarter. In 2011, Grayson won 35-31 on Nick Schuessler’s 6-yard TD pass to Marcus Lindquist with six seconds left. 2. Grayson graduated 21 starters and seven Division I signees from a defending state championship team that started the season ranked No. 1 nationally in one poll. Among those was DE Robert Nkemdiche, the No. 1-rated recruit in the country who signed with Ole Miss. 3. Colquitt County is high on QB Daniel Mobley, who was 68-of-103 passing for 1,014 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He had won the starting job but was injured and didn’t get it back. Also watch for DE Jamiyus Pittman, Colquitt’s preseason all-state defensive end.
ELCA at Washington County
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, House of Pain, Sandersville
Rankings: Eagle’s Landing Christian (13-1 in 2012) is No. 1 in A; Washington County (11-2 in 2012) is No. 6 in AAA.
Last meeting: Washington County won 24-19 in 2012.
Three things to know: 1. ELCA will be searching for a replacement for RB/LB Keyante Green, who signed with Purdue. Green rushed for 1,272 yards as a senior and was named first-team all-state at linebacker. Lane Timpson and Cameron Stewart are the two leading candidates to pick up some of Green’s production on offense. 2. Junior A.J. Gray, who made second-team all-state last season in both football (defensive back) and basketball, will move to quarterback this season for Washington County. Gray will be replacing William Walker, who was first-team all-state as an athlete. He’ll have to settle in in a hurry, as the Golden Hawks play both defending Class A champs (ELCA and ECI) in the first three weeks of the season. 3. Washington County stopped an ELCA drive at the 13-yard line with 25 seconds remaining to preserve a five-point victory last season. It was the only loss of the season for ELCA, which rebounded with 13 consecutive victories to claim the state’s first Class A public-school championship.
Peachtree Ridge vs. Walton
When, where: 11:45 a.m. Saturday, Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Rankings: Peachtree Ridge (4-6 in 2012) is unranked in AAAAAA; Walton (7-4 in 2012) is unranked in AAAAAA.
Last meeting: Walton won 26-14 in 2011.
Three things to know: 1. Walton’s D.J. Smith is a four-star recruit at cornerback but also figures to replace all-state tailback Tyren Jones, who is at Alabama. Smith averaged 123 yards rushing in Walton’s final three games after Jones was lost for the season with a knee injury. 2. Peachtree Ridge, coming off its first losing season in eight years, is expected to be among the most improved teams in the state. The Lions have five seniors with Division I offers in RB Jordan Ellis (committed to Virginia), OL Orlando Brown (Tennessee), DB Nick Glass (formerly committed to Georgia), RB Myron Burton (offers from Tennessee and Vanderbilt) and LB Dru Moody (offer from Georgia State). 3. Walton and Peachtree Ridge have played only one other time, also in the Corky Kell in 2011. An 89-yard punt return for a touchdown by Dakota Richardson broke open the game, won by Walton 26-14. It was the first game as head coach for Peachtree Ridge’s Mark Fleetwood, and the first of 14 consecutive wins for Walton, which was the AAAAAA runner-up to Grayson that year.
Thomasville at Thomas County Central
When, where: 8 p.m. Friday, Jackets’ Nest, Thomasville
Rankings: Thomasville (3-7 in 2012) is unranked in AA; Thomas County Central (9-3 in 2012) is No. 9 in AAAAA.
Last meeting: Thomas County Central won 41-7 in 2012.
Three things to know: 1. Leroy Ryals will be making his debut as the Thomasville coach. Ryals, who was 60-21-1 in eight seasons at Clarke Central, was hired to replace Richie Marsh, who was 53-40 in eight seasons at Thomasville. Marsh resigned to become the defensive coordinator for Southeastern University’s new program in Lakeland, Fla. 2. Thomas County Central quarterback Adam Choice rushed for 1,656 yards and 23 touchdowns and passed for 600 yards last season. Choice, who also will start at cornerback this season, has committed to Clemson. He has been recruited as a running back. 3. Thomasville still holds a 24-23 advantage in the rivalry that dates to 1962, but Thomas County Central has won 14 of the past 16 meetings. Thomas Central’s 41 points last year were the fourth-most points it has scored against Thomasville, and the 34-point win was its second-largest margin of victory.
Woodward Academy at Lovett
When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Memorial Stadium/Conley-Oakley Field, Atlanta
Rankings: Woodward Academy (7-4 in 2012) is No. 10 in AAA; Lovett (8-5 in 2012) is No. 8 in AA.
Last meeting: Lovett won 7-3 in 2012.
Three things to know: 1. Lovett is led by DB/RB Grant Haley, a first-team preseason all-state player who has committed to Vanderbilt. Haley had seven interceptions, rushed for 536 yards, caught 18 passes and returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in 2012. 2. Woodward Academy QB Terry Googer was named preseason all-state in Class AAA as an athlete after passing for 1,200 yards and rushing for 600 last season. Googer, who was recruited as a WR/TE, has committed to South Carolina. Woodward kicker A.J. Cole, who committed to N.C. State, also made the preseason all-state team. 3. Haley scored the only touchdown in last year’s meeting with the War Eagles on a 4-yard run that was set up when Woodward Academy fumbled a punt. Googer passed for 97 yards and rushed for 31 for Woodward Academy, which held Lovett to 124 total yards but got its only score on a 31-yard field goal by Alex Robinson in the second quarter.
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