Some of the most highly anticipated matchups in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs were the four games between Region 6 and Region 8. It turned out to be a great night for Region 6.
Top-ranked and No. 1 seed Tucker, second-seeded Mays and No. 3 seed Stephenson advanced to the second round and gave the region a 3-1 record, one of only two regions in AAAAA to win three first-round games on Friday.
Tucker got off to a bit of a slow start but broke open a close game with a 21-point second half and beat Heritage-Conyers 31-14. Mays scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter and made a goal-line stand in the final minute to beat Clarke Central 14-10. And Stephenson beat Flowery Branch 27-7 in a bit of a surprise, if only because of the margin of victory. Flowery Branch had put up 524 yards of total offense against Gainesville in the regular-season finale but was held to 182 by Stephenson.
The only victory for Region 8 came from defending state champion Gainesville, which beat M.L. King 28-14. The Red Elephants built a 28-0 lead but had to withstand a rally by M.L. King and make two goal-line stands to record their sixth consecutive playoff victory.
Here are some of the other items of note from Friday’s first-round playoff games:
- The other region that won three games on Friday was 5-AAAAA. Region champion North Paulding crushed Riverwood 50-14, South Paulding beat Sequoyah 48-21 for the first playoff victory in the program’s eight-year history, and East Paulding held on to beat Creekview 34-33 on the road. Second-ranked Kell handed the region its only loss, beating No. 4 seed Allatoona 31-17.
- All eight No. 1 seeds won their first-round games, but Region 2 champ Warner Robins got a good scare. Whitewater had a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line in the final minute, but Warner Robins stopped four consecutive running plays, including the final one at the 2, to preserve a 34-27 victory. Caden Johnston threw three touchdown passes for Warner Robins, which also intercepted three passes.
- Richmond Hill quarterback Nick Fitzgerald scored the winning touchdown on a 5-yard run with 5:29 to play in a 13-7 win over Thomas County Central that was the Wildcats’ first playoff victory since 1996. Thomas County Central was playing without star quarterback Adam Choice, who suffered a shoulder injury in the regular-season finale. Fitzgerald ran for 142 and both touchdowns.
- Region 4 runner-up Mundy’s Mill picked up the first playoff victory in the program’s 11-year history when it beat Houston County 33-13. Rodney Smith rushed for 347 yards and four touchdowns, according to the Clayton News Daily. He ran for 186 yards in the first quarter as Mundy’s Mill built a 20-0 lead. The Tigers have won a school-record seven consecutive games since an 0-4 start.
- Here are the matchups for next weekend’s second-round games:
Harris Co. (9-2) at Creekside (11-0)
Stephenson (9-2) at North Paulding (10-1)
Richmond Hill (10-1) at Warner Robins (10-1)
Mays (8-3) at Kell (11-0)
McIntosh (8-2)/Northside-Warner Robins (9-1) winner at Ware Co. (10-1)
East Paulding (8-3) at Tucker (11-0)
Mundy’s Mill (7-4) at Lee Co. (10-1)
South Paulding (10-1) at Gainesville (10-1)