Wednesday February 10th, 2016 10:55AM

Trio of area teams will continue their title defenses on the air Friday

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Four area teams will continue their quest toward the ultimate prize in this weekend's state football playoffs, as the quarterfinal round gets underway -- and Jacobs Media will bring you live action from three of the contests.

All three of northeast Georgia's defending state champs -- Buford, Gainesville and Jefferson -- kept up the defense of their titles last week, and all three will feature line on the air on Friday.

Buford will commence its 14th straight quarterfinal appearance when the Wolves play host to familiar foe Carver, Columbus on AM 550.

Carver (11-1) and Buford (12-0) have faced off in each of the last two postseasons and four times overall, with the Wolves winning three straight and all of the playoff match-ups. Buford knocked the Tigers out of last year's Class AAA bracket at the quarterfinal stage and will hope to do so again this time around.

Friday's showdown could feature a defensive standoff, as Buford enters the contest with perhaps the best defense in the state -- facing a Carver squad that allowed just 95 yards in last week's 19-0 second shutout of Jefferson County.

The Tigers are under a new head coach, as Joe Kegler takes over from highly successful head man Dell McGee (who claimed a state championship in 2007). Yet Carver continues to utilize an athletic and disciplined approach that looks plenty familiar to Buford fans.

Like the Wolves, the Tigers are happy to run first on offense and feature senior fullback Noah Hickey. Yet opponents underestimate quarterback Jawon Pass at their own risk, and Carver can dial up big plays through the air at any time.

Big plays through the air are a staple of Gainesville's spread attack, but on Friday the Red Elephants face a team that will put them to the test athletically in quarterfinal newcomer Mundy's Mill in a game played live on 1240 AM.

The most talented athlete for Mundy's Mill (8-4) also happens to be one of the best running backs in the state.

Senior Rodney Smith (5-foot-11, 190) has paced the Tigers on their deepest ever postseason run, rushing for 1,974 yards so far -- including a stellar two-game playoff surge that has seen the back pile up 613 yards and eight scores.

It is an impressive return for a player who suffered a torn ACL last season, and the Red Elephants (11-1) know they must shadow the explosive senior if they are to make a third successive state semifinal run.

Gainesville's defense has allowed an average of just 13 points through two playoff wins but will take on a team capable of scoring points in bunches -- just look at last week's 41-35 second defeat of Lee County -- or holding teams on defense -- the Tigers are yielding 18 points per game.

The Red Elephants' offense showed its explosive side in last week's 51-12 defeat of South Paulding, racking up almost 640 yards, and Gainesville will hope to continue that kind of play this Friday.

Offense was most certainly the name of the game for Jefferson last week, as the Dragons put up 495 yards and nine touchdowns in their 61-57 second round defeat of Heard County on the road.

Jefferson's defense will want to hold Lamar County to a much lower total this week, but the Dragons (10-2) would not mind putting up similar offensive numbers when they trek to Barnesville in a game broadcast live on 102.9 FM.

The Trojans (12-0) reached last year's Class AA semifinals, falling to Calhoun, and Lamar County is also led by a coach that knows all about winning in the postseason. Franklin Stephens is in his second campaign with the Trojans after leading Tucker 2007-2011 -- a stint that included a 54-5 record and two state championships.

Much like Jefferson, Lamar County relies on a physical attack -- though the Trojans will run the ball far more than the Dragons' balanced offense, relying on the duo of Lance and Lawrence Austin -- brothers who are committed to Georgia Tech. When Lamar County does throw the ball it looks to big-play threat Qua Searcy -- who is also committed to play for the Yellow Jackets.

It should be another intriguing match-up for Jefferson, which won its first road state playoff game last week.

Meanwhile, in Class AAAAAA, North Gwinnett will head back on the road for the third straight playoff game this week, trekking to take on Hillgrove.

The Hawks (11-1) upset Camden County in the season round and are back in the quarterfinals for the second time in four seasons. The Bulldogs (11-1), meanwhile, are back in the final eight for the sixth time in eight seasons.


North Gwinnett at Hillgrove

Mundy's Mill at Gainesville -- Radio: 1240 AM

Carver, Columbus at Buford -- Radio: 550 AM

Jefferson at Lamar County -- Radio: 102.9 FM
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