A couple of the state’s highly ranked teams flirted with disaster last week before they were able to escape. It’s unlikely that No. 2 Cartersville or No. 4 Carver will be able to wriggle off the hook as easily this week.
Cartersville (11-0) kept its season alive when West Hall missed a 41-yard field goal in the closing seconds, allowing the Hurricanes to sneak away with a 28-26 win. Carver (10-1) needed four overtimes and two missed extra points to overcome first-year playoff participant B.E.S.T. Academy 38-32.
This year the big boys can’t play fast and loose with their opponents in the second round. To do so would be a big mistake.
Cartersville plays St. Pius (8-3), which finished second in the state last year. The Golden Lions may be the most physical team that Cartersville has seen this year. St. Pius would love the use its powerful ground game to keep the ball out of the hands of Canes quarterback Brooks Barden.
Cartersville relied heavily on sophomore running back Tiamon Pennymon last week. He ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns, but was limited to four carries in the second half because of an injury.
Carver will have to overcome Jefferson County (8-3), which brings an impressive defense to the table. Jefferson County also has the sort of team speed needed to compete, but has been hampered by injuries to starting quarterback Will Jordan. The Jeffco defense will have to play its best game of the season to slow the Carver offense, led by QB Jawon Pass, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for two touchdowns last week.
In the other second-round games:
Pierce County (10-1) at Callaway (10-1): Pierce Country quarterback Tyler Harris has helped the Bears go 20-3 over the last two seasons. Callaway enjoyed a 62-28 romp over Henry County in the first round last week, scoring on three of its first six plays. Eddie Culpepper scored on runs of 57, 70 and 3 yards to lead the Cavs.
Woodward Academy (9-2) at Buford (11-0): Sorry, Woodward fans, but Buford won’t move up in classification until next season. Buford warmed up with a 58-0 win over outmatched Sonoraville, which was making its first trip to the playoffs. Joshua Thomas scored two of Buford’s nine touchdowns. Woodward put up big numbers against better competition, whipping North Oconee 53-21. This will be the first meeting between the two successful programs.
Peach County (8-3) at Washington County (10-0): Peach County has had an amazing season despite its youth and inexperience. Keshawn Lowe ran for 138 yards and Greg Williams threw for 148 in last week’s win over Chapel Hill. Washington County will be a different challenge. The Golden Hawks are loaded with explosive offensive weapons like Melvin Hill and Danyale Wicker, who helped the team top the 50-point margin five times this season. Hard to believe, but Washington County has never beaten Peach County; Peach holds a 10-0-2 series lead.
White County (9-2) at Blessed Trinity (8-3): This is the only rematch in the second round. Blessed Trinity waxed White County 30-0 on Sept. 20. White’s only other loss was against Buford. Each team has an exceptional running back: White County’s Dalton Whitfield (237 yards and three TDs last week) and Blessed Trinity’s Chad Manthey (228 yards).
Central Carroll (9-2) at Appling County (9-2): Central must try to slow Appling quarterback Vernon Dasher, who ran for 162 yards and threw for 67 yards in last week’s first-round win over Dodge County. The Appling defense is led by C.J. Alexander, who leads the team with three pick-sixes. Central Carroll will try to control the ball on the ground; the Lions rushed for 296 yards in the first round. Damarious Owensby (117 yards, two TDs last week) and Jayleen Terry lead the attack.
Cedar Grove (7-4) at Ringgold (9-2): The Saints were the only No. 4 seed to win its first round game. Cedar Grove enjoyed a dominating defensive performance from linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams, who had 23 tackles. This week he’ll be focused on slowing Ringgold quarterback Slade Dale, who ran for 164 yards and threw for 220 in a win over North Hall.