If you’re looking for a game to watch two of the best athletes in the state, look no farther than the first-round match between North Oconee and Woodward Academy. The game provides a spotlight for North Oconee’s Kawon Bryant and Woodward’s Terry Googer and may offer the best game in the opening week of the playoffs.
North Oconee (7-3) finished third in Region 8-AAA because it could not beat Elbert County or Hart County. But the Titans have reached the second round in four of the last five seasons and must be taken seriously.
The Titans are led by Bryant, a junior running back, who has run for 2,485 yards and 41 touchdowns. He averages 9.5 yards per carry. He is capable to taking over a game with his exciting runs.
Woodward (8-2) is the second seed from Region 5, relegated to second place because of a loss to Blessed Trinity. This is the sixth straight trip to the playoffs for the War Eagles, who have won their first-round game on four of those previous occasions.
Googer plays quarterback and defensive back for the War Eagles and, like Bryant, has been known to take over a game. Googer has rushed for 1,060 yards and 15 touchdowns, a 6.9 yard average, and has thrown for 854 yards and eight touchdowns. He has committed to South Carolina.
This is the first time Woodward and North Oconee have met.
In other interesting first-round games:
St. Pius at Hart County: This is a rematch of last year’s second-round game, which St. Pius won 31-15, and will be just the second meeting between the two teams.
Hart County (9-1) has thrived again in the second term of coach William DeVane, who was 38-3 in his first stop at the school. Upon his return last year the Bulldogs were 6-6 and this year went 9-1, losing only to Elbert County. Hart is led by quarterback Dakota Mitchell, who is an excellent runner, and big-play maker Sean Harper.
St. Pius has (7-3) done a nice job building on last year’s trip to the Class AAA final. Joey Connors has stepped in at quarterback and done a nice job running the option. Back Dalton Wilson can be a load to bring down, too. The Golden Lions beat Decatur in what essentially was a playoff game last week.
Cedar Grove at Elbert County: Cedar Grove is one of the best 6-4 teams in the state, but the Saints will have a tough time winning at the Granite Bowl. All four of their losses have come at the hands of ranked teams, including close setbacks the last two weeks against Blessed Trinity and Woodward. The two teams have never played.
This game features two talented quarterbacks: Elbert’s Mecole Hardman and Cedar Grove’s James Hartsfield. Hardman has rushed for more than 1,500 yards and Hartsfield has thrown for more than 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Cedar Grove’s Deion Sellers has also rushed for 1,000 yards.
North Hall at Ringgold: North Hall (8-2) will try to regain the mojo it had early in the season against a Ringgold (8-2) team that is equally hungry for respect. Ringgold must try to stop – or outscore – North Hall’s triple option attack that has run roughshod at times. Ringgold is led by quarterback Slade Dale, while North Hall’s offense is sparked by quarterback Andrew Smith and back Zac Little.
The two teams have meet on one previous occasion, with North Hall prevailing 39-21 in the first round of the playoffs in 2009.
Other first-round games include: