Here’s what to look for this weekend in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs:
- The best matchup of regions in the first round is the one between 6-AAAAA and 8-AAAAA. Defending state champion Gainesville (R8) faces an M.L. King (R6) team that went 11-1 and reached the second round last year. Top-ranked Tucker (R6) meets a Heritage-Conyers (R8) team making a school-record fourth consecutive playoff appearance. Stephenson (R6) and its opponent, Flowery Branch (R8), both spent time in the top 10 this season. And Clarke Central (R8) and Mays (R6) will be meeting in the playoffs for the third time in five seasons.
- The health of Thomas County Central quarterback Adam Choice will be a big factor in the Yellow Jackets’ game at Richmond Hill. Choice ran for 258 yards and broke the school record for career rushing yards in a loss to Harris County last week but left the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury, and his availability for this week remains uncertain. If Choice is unable to play, look for the Yellow Jackets to replace him at quarterback with Deondre Cooksey, who has 1,138 yards rushing at running back this season.
- Kell began playing football in 2003 and Allatoona started in 2008, but their first-round matchup on Friday will be the first meeting between the Cobb County schools. Kell has the most regular-season victories of any school in Cobb over the past three seasons with 27, and Allatoona is second with 26. Kell went 10-0 and won the Region 7-AAAAA championship this season. Allatoona was in position to win the Region 5-AAAAA title but lost its final two games of the regular season to finish as the No. 4 seed.
- McIntosh has not played a postseason game since 1987 and has never appeared in the state playoffs, and the Chiefs’ task won’t be an easy one when they travel to Northside-Warner Robins. McIntosh won a school-record eight games this season and finished as the No. 3 seed in Region 4-AAAAA. Northside, which is the No. 2 seed in Region 2 after losing to rival Warner Robins, needs one more victory to record its 16th consecutive season with at least 10 victories. The Eagles feature one of the state’s top rushing tandems in Glenn Smith and Willie Jordan.
- Paulding County is sending three teams to the state playoffs for the first time. North Paulding won the Region 5-AAAAA championship and will face Riverwood, which is making its first playoff appearance since 2001. South Paulding is in the playoffs for the first time in the program’s eight-year history. The Spartans will play Sequoyah at home. Defending 5-AAAAA champion East Paulding was in danger of not making the playoffs, but the Raiders won their final two games to earn the No. 3 seed and a date with Creekview.