Four teams nailed down region championships on Friday night, as Class AAA whittled the field of contestants for the big-money showcase to 32 teams.
Appling County, Cartersville, Blessed Trinity and Buford won the games they needed to secure the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs. Carver, Washington County, Callaway and Elbert County had already clinched their league championships
The playoff pool supports the argument that the addition of an extra classification has watered down the competition. There are six teams with a record below .500. That’s almost 19 percent of the playoff field.
Two teams will advance to the playoffs for the first time: the B.E.S.T. Academy Eagles and the Sonoraville Phoenix. West Hall and Southeast Bulloch will be going to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Here’s a rundown of what happened on Friday night.
Region 1: No. 9 Appling beat Southeast Bulloch 42-21 to win the regular-season championship. That means Pierce County takes second and Southeast finishes third. The fourth playoff spot went to Johnson Savannah, which beat Tattnall County 13-3 on the strength of quarterback Raquen Green’s 158 yards passing, including a 20-yard score to Darrell Myers.
Region 2: No. 4 Carver Columbus (9-1), which had already clinched first place, completed the season with a 33-16 win over Jackson. The Tigers won their 50th straight region game and won their ninth game for the eighth consecutive year. The other three playoff teams are Peach County, Pike County and Henry County. Peach was led by quarterback Greg Williams (192 yards passing, four touchdowns) in a 54-6 win over winless Southwest Macon.
Region 3: No. 3-ranked Washington County (10-0) took the week off, but there were plenty of theatrics among the rest of the field. Jefferson County beat Thomson 21-14 to break a three-game losing streak and take second place. But Jeffco lost quarterback Will Jordan to a knee injury. Fourth place went to Dodge County after the Indians blitzed Swainsboro 42-0 thanks to Landon Martin, who rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns.
Region 4: Regular-season champion and No. 5-ranked Callaway warmed up with a 47-6 win over Rockmart, while runner-up Central Carroll took the night off. Chapel Hill nailed down the third spot with a 34-12 win over Maynard Jackson.
Region 5: No. 2 Cartersville got all it could handle from Ringgold. The No. 2 Hurricanes jumped out to a 27-0 lead and wound up winning 33-16, as quarterback Brooks Barden threw for three touchdowns. Ringgold, which got a pair of touchdown runs from Slade Dale, finished second. Adairsville finished third and Sonoraville won the final spot with a 27-7 win over Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, which allowed the region to avoid the ever-popular mini-games.
Region 6: Turned out to be pretty simple to decipher by the time the dust settled. Blessed Trinity’s 21-14 win over Cedar Grove made the No. 10-ranked Titans the region champion, followed by Woodward Academy, St. Pius and Cedar Grove. Blessed Trinity got 132 yards rushing from Milton Shelton. St. Pius erased any doubt with a 41-14 win over Decatur, thanks to 154 yards rushing from Dalton Wilson.
Region 7: Buford improved to 10-0 by trouncing North Hall 42-14. The No. 1-ranked Wolves got touchdowns from six different players, with Thomas Wilson scoring a pair on runs of 1 and 22 yards. The Buford win gave White County the No. 2 spot in the region, with North Hall dropping to third place. White County whipped Banks County 38-13, with brothers Clancy and Coley Loudermilk each scoring on returns. West Hall defeated Dawson County 10-7 on Bradley Hodgson’s 37-yard field goal to grab the final playoff spot and qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Region 8: No. 6-ranked Elbert County, which has already clinched the region championship, whipped up on Franklin County 33-0. No. 7 Hart County secured the second seed by defeating North Oconee 33-30, despite 176 yards rushing and two touchdowns by North’s Kawon Bryant. The final playoff spot went to Jackson County by virtue of a 38-35 win over Morgan County that came when Luis Sanchez kicked a field goal on the final play of the game.
That leaves these first-round playoff games for next week:
Henry County at Callaway
Thomson at Pierce County
West Hall at Cartersville
St. Pius at Hart County
B.E.S.T. Academy at Carver Columbus
Southeast Bulloch at Jefferson County
Sonoraville at Buford
North Oconee at Woodward Academy
Johnson Savannah at Washington County
Chapel Hill at Peach County
Jackson County at Blessed Trinity
Adairsville at White County
Dodge County at Appling County
Pike County at Central Carroll
Cedar Grove at Elbert County
North Hall at Ringgold
Although the first round has its share of stinkers, there are some very interesting games for the opening week. The showcase game might be Hart County-St. Pius, with the winner most likely getting a shot at mighty Cartersville in the second round.