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Playoff previews: 19 area teams embark on state title quests

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
Posted 7:01AM on Friday 10th November 2017 ( 2 weeks ago )

The 2017 playoffs are finally upon us, and the northeast Georgia area is well-represented with 19 teams qualifying from all seven classifications.

Eighteen area teams will be in action Friday night (Commerce has a first-round bye in Class A Public) and many have better than average chances to advance to the second round.

The most stunning of the playoff teams has to be Towns County in Class A Public, which qualified for its first-ever postseason. The Indians, however, face a monster road trip to Pelham in southwest Georgia.

On the other end of the spectrum, Buford is in its 19th consecutive postseason and Gainesville is in for the 18th straight time. The Wolves hope to begin a trek to their 11th straight championship game.

Statewide, all eight defending champs qualified to defend their titles. However, only Rome in Class AAAAA, Cartersville in Class AAAA, and Benedictine in Class AA come in as favorites to repeat.

For a look at all of the night's first round playoff contests involving area teams, simply scroll down. And be sure to check back with AccessWDUN's Friday Game Night throughout the night for score updates and game stories and video highlights. You can also check for scores and highlights on our Twitter feed: @FridayGameNight

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE FOR Nov. 10
(Games listed by highest classification and in alphabetical order of visiting team)

CLASS AAAAAAA
The bracket for the state’s highest classification looks balanced on paper with five ranked teams on each side. Only three teams -- Archer, Lowndes County, Walton -- come in undefeated and four others -- Grayson, North Gwinnett, South Forsyth, Tift County -- have just one loss. ... Five teams -- Grayson, Lowndes County, Mountain View, North Gwinnett, South Forsyth -- are in the top 10 in both offensive scoring and scoring defense but ALL five are on the same side of the bracket. ... Four teams -- Campbell, Newnan, Roswell, South Gwinnett -- advanced despite posting losing records. ... Several intriguing matchups highlight the first round. South Forsyth and Mountain View open the playoffs against each other in Cumming and North Gwinnett entertains North Forsyth, which has the classification’s top quarterback in passing yardage in Ben Bales. ... Archer, which has the No. 3 defense, takes on Meadowcreek and the state’s top rusher in Chauncey Williams, who topped the 2,000-yard mark two weeks ago. ... The two finalists from 2016, Colquitt County and Roswell, both face tough road games at Pebblebrook and Hillgrove to open the playoffs.

NORTH FORSYTH at NORTH GWINNETT
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tom Robinson Memorial Stadium, Suwanee
-- NORTH FORSYTH (5-5, Region 5, No. 4 seed): Lost 49-17 to Milton last week
-- NORTH GWINNETT (9-1, Region 6, No. 1 seed): Defeated Discovery 41-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: North Gwinnett leads the series 4-0. It is the first meeting between the two teams since 2009 when both were part of Region 7-AAAAA. ... The Bulldogs have had a remarkable season considering they sport a new coach (Bill Stewart) and lost their starting QB (Cade Fortin, Texas A&M-commit) for the season and top RB Tyler Goodson for half the season. ... North Gwinnett is 6th in offense (371, 37.1 ppg) and 7th in defense (138, 13.8 ppg) and is flying under the radar with the talk of Archer, Grayson, and Lowndes County. The Bulldogs are 6-1 against fellow playoff teams with their only loss a 31-28 setback in their opener to Walton where they lost a 28-14 lead. ... Despite riding a 3-game losing streak into the playoffs, the Raiders are making their first playoff appearance since 2013. They have ridden the arm of Bales, who has set multiple school records during the season. They average 30.1 ppg on offense but the defense is yielding 28.9 ppg, the 3rd-most in the playoff field. ... North Forsyth is looking for its first playoff win since 2005.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Norcross (R7, S3) at Grayson (R8, S2) winner in the second round

WEST FORSYTH at MILL CREEK
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Mill Creek Community Stadium
-- WEST FORSYTH (8-2, Region 5, No. 3 seed): Lost 28-14 to South Forsyth last week
-- MILL CREEK (7-3, Region 5, No. 2 seed): Defeated Duluth 56-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: Mill Creek leads series 2-0. The Hawks won the last meeting 51-13 in 2015 at home. ... The Hawks have been battling injuries over the last half of the season, mainly on offense, but their vaunted defense is still stout, sitting 10th in AAAAAAA and allowing just 15.1 ppg. ... The Wolverines are just 31st in scoring (23.5 ppg) but defensively they have held seven opponents to 24 points or less and six to 17 or less. ... West Forsyth has lost four straight first round games. Mill Creek is 4-2 all-time in first round games.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Medowcreek (R7, S4) at Archer (R8, S1) winner in the second round
 

CLASS AAAAAA
Offense may be the name of the game in this classification with 18 of the top 20 offenses advancing. Nine of the top 10 defensive teams advanced but several bottom-tier defensive units will be tested in the early rounds. ... No teams in AAAAAA finished the season unblemished. Richmond Hill was the final unbeaten team but then dropped its final two games. ... Four teams, including 2016 state runner-up Valdosta (4-6), qualified with losing records (Gainesville, Pope, Lakeside-Evans). ... Four teams ranked in the top 10 in both offense and defense advanced, paced by Tucker (No. 1 offense, No. 2 defense), which is considered the team to beat for the state title. ... The most interesting team to follow may be Harrison, which lost the nation’s No. 2 overall recruit in QB Justin Fields (Georgia-commit) for the season with a broken hand. The Hoyas dropped their regular-season finale to Creekview and scored just 19 points after averaging nearly 40 ppg before that. The Hoyas defense ranks just 27th (227, 22.7 ppg) as well. They open against Alexander.

CHATTAHOOCHEE at WINDER-BARROW
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: W. Clair Harris Stadium, Winder
-- CHATTAHOOCHEE (7-3, Region 7, No. 3 seed): Lost 41-14 to Alpharetta last week
-- WINDER-BARROW (8-2, Region 8, No. 2 seed): Lost 47-14 to Dacula last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two teams. ... It is the first home playoff game for the Bulldoggs since 2003, a 28-21 overtime loss to Westlake in the Class AAAA playoffs. They are still looking for their first playoff win, however, since 1993 and have lost six straight playoff games going back to a semifinals loss to Thomasville in 1993. ... Chattahoochee is making its first playoff appearance since 2012 and has won just one playoff game since winning the Class AAAA state title in 2010. ... Offensively both teams are averaging 30 ppg but the Cougars are 42nd in defense in AAAAAA (294, 29.4 ppg), while the Bulldoggs have yielded 22.7 ppg behind Logan Cash, who has 91 tackles, 36 TFL, and is the 8-AAAAAA sacks leader with 19.5 on the season. The Winder-Barrow defense is ballhawking with 24 takeaways, including 13 fumble recoveries, and has four defensive TDs as well. ... Chattahoochee likes to pound the ball, averaging 232 yards a game rushing behind Jr. Max Webb (198 car., 1,263 yards, 12 TD) and Sr. Jack Corrigan (93 car., 688 yards, 6 TD) and has 28 rushing TDs as a team on the season. But the Cougars have lost 7 fumbles, which could play to the Bulldoggs' defensive strength.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Alexander (R5, S4) at Harrison (R6, S1) winner in the second round

GAINESVILLE at ALPHARETTA
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Alpharetta Stadium, Alpharetta
-- RADIO: 1240 ESPN Radio
-- GAINESVILLE (4-6, Region 8, No. 4 seed): Lost 27-14 to Lanier last week
-- ALPHARETTA (9-1, Region 7, No. 1 seed): Defeated Chattahoochee 41-14 last week
-- NOTABLE: Alpharetta leads series 2-0. The Raiders won 29-7 in the second game of the 2017 season. It is their third meeting in just over 15 months. ... They say it’s hard to beat a team twice in the same season. Gainesville is hoping that is the case. It has been a disappointing season for the Red Elephants, who were looking to rebound from last season’s sub-.500 record, their first since 2000. ... While defense (253 points, 25.3 ppg) has been up and down for Gainesville, the offense was also inconsistent after key injuries throughout of the season. The Red Elephants are 44th (175, 17.5 ppg) out of 58 teams in AAAAAA and only Lakeside-Evans (75, 7.5 ppg) has scored fewer points among the playoff field. However, Gainesville is 4-0 when scoring 20 or more points. ... Alpharetta, however, is 5th in AAAAAA in defense (134, 13.4 ppg) and has allowed just 65 points (9.2 ppg) over its last seven games. ... The Raiders have not advanced past the first round since 2014. Gainesville did not advance past the first round for the first time in nine years last season.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Dalton (R6, S3) at Douglas County (R5, S2) winner in the second round

LANIER at CENTENNIAL
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Centennial Stadium, Roswell
-- LANIER (6-4, Region 8, No. 3 seed): Defeated Gainesville 27-14 last week
-- CENTENNIAL (7-3, Region 7, No. 2 seed): Defeated Pope 45-17 last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two teams. ... This one features the Knights' top-five offense (356, 35.6 ppg) against the Longhorns' usually-stout defense (209, 20.9 ppg), which has held 8 of 10 opponents to 24 points or less. ... Lanier’s defense is led by Kameron Brown (105 tackles), Malik Johnson (101 tackles), and Erick Turner (95 tackles) who have a combined 36 TFL and 12 sacks. The also have 18 takeaways, including 10 INTs, with the Longhorns being a plus-4 turnover ratio. Centennial QB Max Brosmer is 3rd in the state in passing yards (2,991) and has tossed 22 TDs to go with 9 INTs. ... However, the key may be if the Lanier offense (213, 21.3 ppg), which replaced most of its skilled players in 2017, can take advantage of the Knights’ 29th-rated defense (228, 22.8 ppg). The Knights are (minus-1) on turnover ratio.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Sequoyah (R6, S4) at Mays (R5, S1) winner in the second round
 

CLASS AAAAA
Expect virtually every game to be a slugfest in this classification. The top 20 offensive teams and the top 21 defensive teams all advanced with only three teams -- Rome, Buford, Jones County -- sporting top 10 units in both areas. Stockbridge (57, 5.7 ppg) is the top defensive team with Rome (497, 49.7 ppg) the top offensive team. ... Only three teams -- Rome, Stockbridge, Warner Robins -- finished unbeaten with five other teams, including Buford, having just one loss. ... The bottom right quadrant is stacked with five of the 10 ranked teams, with No. 5 Jones County hosting No. 6 Griffin. ...  No. 9 Flowery Branch is making its first playoff appearance since 2013. Cedar Shoals is making its first appearance since 2008. ... Conversely, Buford is making its 19th straight playoffs and is also looking for its 11th straight finals appearance. ... Rome has won 22 straight in AAAAA play, including knocking off the Wolves in last year’s championship game. The two teams could meet in the semifinals this time.

KELL at FLOWERY BRANCH
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Falcons Field, Flowery Branch
-- RADIO: WDUN AM 550
-- KELL (5-5, Region 7, No. 3 seed): Lost 52-37 to Hiram last week
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (8-2, Region 8, No. 2 seed): Lost 42-7 to Buford last week
-- NOTABLE: Kell leads series 1-0. The Longhorns won 21-13 in second round of 2010 playoffs. ... The Longhorns are coming off a semifinal run in 2016 and lost three games by 7 total points. The Falcons are looking for their first playoff win since a quarterfinal run in 2011. ... The Falcons defense (147, 14.7 ppg) is ranked 10th while the Kell offense (361, 36.1 ppg) is also ranked 10th so expect a push. The key matchup will be the Falcons offense (324, 32.4 ppg) against the Kell defense (338, 33.8 ppg) which is ranked 53rd out of 58 AAAAA teams with the most points allowed of any team in the field. ... The Longhorns have yielded 35 or more points six times. The Falcons feature a power running game led by Sr. Malik Damons and Sr. Malik Drayton. So. QB Elijah Gainey has improved during the season and has several weapons in the passing game.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Columbia (R5, S4) at Carver-Atlanta (R6, S1) winner in the second round

PAULDING COUNTY at BUFORD
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
-- PAULDING COUNTY (5-5, Region 7, No. 4 seed): Defeated East Paulding 19-14 last week
-- BUFORD (8-1, Region 8, No. 1 seed): Defeated Flowery Branch 42-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two teams. ... The Patriots started its postseason a week early having to beat East Paulding last week to get into the playoffs. It is their first playoff appearance since 2007 (AAAA) and just the second since 2003 (AAAA). The have not won a playoff game since making the AAAA semifinals in 2001. ... The Patriots face a tall order this week. Buford is second in offense (406, 45.1 ppg) and second in defense (81, 9.o ppg) in AAAAA. Meanwhile, the Patriots have been outscored 297-193 on the season. ... Buford is paced by Sr. RBs Christian Turner and Anthony Grant, but Fr. QB Aaron McLaughlin had perhaps his biggest game last week throwing for 299 yards and 4 TDs when Flowery Branch stacked the box to stop the run.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Miller Grove (R5, S3) at Jackson-Atlanta (R6, S2) winner in the second round
 

CLASS AAAA
This could be the hardest-hitting, most competitive classification in the playoffs, however, 2-time defending champ Cartersville, behind QB Trevor Lawrence, is still considered an overwhelming favorite to repeat. But, there are seven or eight teams that are all capable of getting to the finals. ... Six teams are in the top 10 in offense and defense, including Jefferson, and the top 20 defensive teams all advanced to the playoffs. ... Four teams come in undefeated -- Burke County, Cartersville, Marist, Ridgeland -- and three teams -- North Clayton, Madison County, Carver-Columbus -- have losing records. One team, Howard out of Macon, is making its first-ever playoff appearance. ... Cartersville and 2016 state runner-up Thomson could meet in the quarterfinals. ... Jefferson, a semifinalist in 2016, has a tough road with the three top-ranked teams -- Cartersville, Thomson, and Ridgeland -- all on its side of the bracket. The Dragons could face Ridgeland, which has the top defense and No. 2 offense in AAAA, in the second round on the road.

WEST HALL at ST. PIUS
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Atlanta
-- WEST HALL (5-5, Region 7, No. 4 seed): Lost 44-21 to Blessed Trinity last week
-- ST. PIUS (5-5, Region 8, No. 1 seed): Defeated Madison County 35-13 last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two teams. ... Don’t let the Golden Lions record fool you. They are the best 5-5 team in the state. They played perhaps the toughest non-region schedule in the state with games against Class AA No. 1 Benedictine, then-Class AAAAA No. 2 Marist and No. 4 Blessed Trinity, Class AAA No. 2 GAC, and AAAAAA Lanier. ... St. Pius closed out the season with five straight wins, including a win over then-top 5 Jefferson, to capture the region title. ... Three of West Hall’s five losses came to ranked teams in Class AA No. 6 Rabun County, Marist, and Blessed Trinity and another to AAAAAA Gainesville. ... The key will be if the Spartans defense, which has allowed 181 points (36.2 ppg) over their last five games after giving up just 58 (11.6 ppg) in their first five games. St. Pius has scored 202 points (40.4 ppg) during its 5-game win streak. However, the Spartans have forced 16 turnovers and are a plus-6 in turnover ratio. ... The West Hall offense, which is averaging less than 200 yards a game, will need to find a way to sustain some drives and keep its defense off the field.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Troup (R5, S3) at Heritage-Catoosa (R6, S2) winner in the second round

WHITE COUNTY at JEFFERSON
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
-- RADIO: www.wrwh.com
-- WHITE COUNTY (7-3, Region 7, No. 3 seed): Lost 35-7 to Marist last week
-- JEFFERSON (8-2, Region 8, No. 2 seed): Defeated Oconee County 28-21 last week
-- NOTABLE: Jefferson leads series 12-4-1. First meeting since 2005 and just the third since 1991. White County won the last meeting in 2005, 21-0 in Jefferson. The Warriors are 2-1-1 in their last four contests against the Dragons. ... This could be one of the more compelling matchups in the first round. Jefferson is 9th in both offense (352, 35.2 ppg) and defense (153, 15.3 ppg) in AAAA while the Warriors offense is 13th (332, 33.2 ppg) so expect both offenses to be able to put up some points. And both have one of the best RBs in the state. Jefferson is paced by Sr. Colby Wood while the Warriors are led by Sr. Kaleb Crane. Fr. QB J. Ben Haynes could be an X-factor for the Warriors in their spread attack. ... The Dragons may have the edge in that the White County defense has allowed 284 points (28.4 ppg) the 2nd-most of any team in the field. Only Chapel Hill (311, 31.1 ppg) has surrendered more. ... However, the Dragons defense yielded 89 points (29.6 ppg) over their last three games after having allowed just 65 points (9.2 ppg) with three shutouts over their first seven games.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Chapel Hill (R5, S4) at Ridgeland (R6, S1) winner in the second round


CLASS AAA
Defending champion Cedar Grove is one of just two teams, along with Jenkins, to come in undefeated. Meanwhile, seven teams with losing records battled into the playoffs, including North Hall (a No. 3 seed). ... Six teams -- Cedar Grove, Greater Atlanta Christian, Peach County, Calhoun, Morgan County, Monroe Area -- are in the top 10 in offense and defense. East Hall has the biggest disparity, sitting third in offense (438, 43.8 ppg) behind the state’s leading passer in Austin Parker but the Vikings also come in with the worst defense of any of the playoff teams having allowed 371 points (37.1 ppg) ... However, the Vikings head to 8-AAA champ Morgan County, who played just two teams with winning records, in what could be an upset special. Another of the more interesting first round games has Pace Academy, the 2015 AA state champ, heading to AAA 2014 state champ Calhoun. The Knights won three straight down the stretch to get into the playoffs. 

EAST HALL at MORGAN COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Legion Field, Madison
-- EAST HALL (6-4, Region 7, No. 4 seed): Defeated Fannin County 47-27 last week
-- MORGAN COUNTY (9-1, Region 8, No. 1 seed): Defeated Jackson County 31-12 last week
-- NOTABLE: Morgan County leads series 4-1-1. It is the first meeting between the two teams since 1999 when they were both in 8-AA. The Bulldogs won 33-6 in Rabbittown. The Vikings only win came in 1987 in Madison. ... This is perhaps the most compelling matchup in the first round in Class AAA. Both teams run similar spread attacks. But the Vikings have the No. 3 offense (438, 43.8 ppg), led by the state’s leading passer in Austin Parker (196-of-308, 3,563 yards, 38 TD, 0 INT). ... The Bulldogs have a top 10 defense (155, 15.5 ppg) but have not faced a team as explosive as East Hall all season. In fact, they played just two teams that finished with winning records. ... The Vikings have scored 42 or more points eight times and will expect to put up numbers against the Bulldogs. ... The key matchup, however, may be the Morgan offense, which is averaging 35.2 ppg, against the Vikings defense, which has yielded 371 points (37.1 ppg) the most of any team in the playoffs in any classification. ... It could come down to who has the final possession.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Westminster (R5, S3) at North Murray (R6, S2) winner in the second round

HART COUNTY at DAWSON COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tiger Stadium, Dawsonville
-- RADIO: northgeorgiasportslink.com
-- HART COUNTY (3-7, Region 8, No. 3 seed): Defeated East Jackson 70-0 last week
-- DAWSON COUNTY (7-3, Region 7, No. 2 seed): Lost 49-10 to Greater Atlanta Christian last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two teams. ... Despite the lopsided score for Hart County last week, the Bulldogs have struggled on offense most the season. Five times they have scored 19 or less. ... The Tigers defense has allowed 21.4 ppg but take away 97 points scored by top 3 offenses East Hall and GAC and they have yielded just 11.7 ppg to everyone else, which would put them in the top six in AAA. ... The Dawson offense also has been rolling over the last half of the season behind Sr. QB Coey Watson, despite just the 10 scored against GAC. The Tigers had averaged 43.8 ppg in their six previous games. ... The Bulldogs defense is yielding 25.3 ppg. ... Dawson County is 4-1 at home in 2017, with its only loss to West Hall without an injured Watson. The Bulldogs are 1-4 on the road this season.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Adairsville (R6, S4) at Cedar Grove (R5, S1) winner in the second round

JACKSON COUNTY at GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Spartans Sports Complex, Norcross
-- JACKSON COUNTY (5-5, Region 8, No. 4 seed): Lost 31-12 to Morgan County last week
-- GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN (9-1, Region 7, No. 1 seed): Defeated Dawson County 49-10 last week
-- NOTABLE: Jackson County leads series 1-0. The Panthers won 41-12 in 1991 in the Spartans’ inaugural season. ... The Panthers have a tall task ahead against a Spartans team that is second in offense (471, 47.1 ppg) and thid in defense (107, 10.7 ppg) and scored in all three phases of the game. The Spartans have four interception returns for touchdowns to go with one punt return. Sr. RB Kyler McMichael (78 car., 997 yards, 12.8 ypc, 20 TD) leads four backs that average over 8 yards per carry on the season. ... Jackson County is led by one of the state’s most dynamic RBs in Noah Venable (211 car., 1,354 yards, 11 TD) but he has been limited over the last month by injury. But he is expected to be as close to 100 percent as he has been all season. The key will be if the Panthers can control the ball behind a rushing attack averaging 230 yards a game and shorten the game. ... The Spartans defense, however, has allowed more than 14 points just once in their 28-22 loss to Valor Christian (Colorado).
-- WINNER PLAYS: Bremen (R6, S3) at Lovett (R5, S2) winner in the second round

NORTH HALL at MONROE AREA
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Legion Field, Monroe
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM
-- NORTH HALL (4-6, Region 7, No. 3 seed): Bye last week; defeated East Hall 31-20 two weeks ago
-- MONROE AREA (9-1, Region 5, No. 2 seed): Defeated Franklin County 43-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: Monroe Area leads series 12-9. North Hall won the last meeting in 2015, 25-0 in Monroe when both were part of Region 8-AAAA. The Trojans have won two straight and it’s the fourth meeting since 2011. ... Both records are deceiving. Monroe has played just two teams with a .500-or-better record and went 1-1. They are seventh in offense (380, 38.0 ppg) and fourth in defense (116, 11.6 ppg) in AAA but feasted on a weak schedule. ... The Trojans, meanwhile played six playoff teams and went 4-2 after an 0-4, injury-riddled start. Their only losses during their rebound were to 7-AAA leaders Dawson County and GAC. ... The North Hall defense is coming off its best performance of the season holding a No. 3-ranked Vikings offense to less than half of its season output. ... A rested and hopefully full-strength North Hall wing-T offense will be the key. If they can control the ball with a stable of six rushers that have 43 or more carries on the season they can keep the Hurricanes’ power running game off the field. ... Monroe Area is plus-7 in turnover-ratio.
-- WINNER PLAYS: Pace Academy (R5, S4) at Calhoun (R6, S1) winner in the second round
 

CLASS AA
Five teams -- Benedictine, Rabun County, and Thomasville at 10-0 and Dodge County and Screven County at 9-0 -- come in undefeated, while six other teams come in with just one loss. Meanwhile, five teams -- Berrien, Chattooga, Fitzgerald, Monticello, Washington County -- qualified with losing records. ... Four teams -- Benedictine, Hapeville Charter, Rabun County, Screven County -- are in the top 10 in offense and defense.. Rabun County (498, 49.8 ppg) is the highest scoring team with Screven County (53, 5.3 ppg) as the stingiest team in the classification. ... Don’t look for too many upsets in the first round as this may be the most top-heavy classification. But there are a couple of interesting first round matchups. Fitzgerald is the two-time state runner-up and despite a 4-6 record the Hurricanes will bring that experience to Toombs County, which has not won a playoff game since a quarterfinal run in 2008. ... Vidalia and Brooks County, which have seven quarterfinal or better appearances combined since 2008, will meet in the opening round in Quitman.

BANKS COUNTY at PEPPERELL
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Dragon Stadium, Lindale
-- BANKS COUNTY (5-5, Region 8, No. 3 seed): Lost 43-22 to Elbert County last week
-- PEPPERELL (7-3, Region 7, No. 2 seed): Defeated Chattooga 38-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two teams. ... The teams are similar in that seven of their eight combined losses were against playoff teams. ... Both teams also played well down the stretch with the Dragons closing with a 3-game win streak and the Leopards winning 3 of their last 4. ... It looks like an even match between the Banks County offense (23.7 ppg) and the Pepperell defense (20.2 ppg) but the Dragons offense is 14th (331, 33.1 ppg) while the Leopards have yielded 24.1 ppg. ... Banks County is 1-4 against the five playoff teams they faced in 2017 but is 3-2 on the road. Pepperell is 4-1 at home with its only loss to AAAA Cedartown.
-- WINNER PLAYS: South Atlanta (R6, S4) at Heard County (R5, S1) winner in the second round

CHATTOOGA at RABUN COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger
-- CHATTOOGA (4-6, Region 7, No. 4 seed): Lost 38-7 to Pepperell last week
-- RABUN COUNTY (10-0, Region 8, No. 1 seed): Defeated Monticello 52-7 last week
-- NOTABLE: Rabun County leads series 1-0. The Wildcats won 24-20 in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. ... Don’t expect this one to be that close. Rabun County leads AA in scoring (498, 49.8 ppg) and is fifth in defense, allowing just 10.3 ppg. ... The Indians did make the quarterfinals in 2016, winning their first playoff games since 1974, but are just 34th in defense (261, 26.1 ppg), the fifth-most points allowed in the field in 2017, and have surrendered more points already than they did the entire 13-game season last year. ... Rabun Sr. QB Bailey Fisher cracked the all-time top 10 in passing yards earlier in the season and last week became just the fifth QB in history to throw 100 TD passes in a career. He is just three behind former Wilcox County QB Nick Marshall (103) and just 16 behind Houston County’s Jake Fromm. If the Wildcats can make a deep run he has a chance to finish third all-time. The top two are Cartersville’s Trevor Lawrence (156) and former Gainesville signal-caller Deshaun Watson (155).
-- WINNER PLAYS: Temple (R5, S3) at B.E.S.T. Academy (R6, S2) winner in the second round
 

CLASS A
Eagles Landing Christian in Private and Manchester in Public are the top seeds. ... Three Region 8-A teams -- Athens Academy and Prince Avenue in Private and Commerce in Public -- received first round byes. Towns County is making its first playoff appearance in its 44-year history. ... Three of the top seven scoring teams in Class A -- Taylor County 42.9 ppg, Emanuel County Institute 38.8 ppg, Pelham 38.1 ppg -- are on the same side of the bracket as Towns County and Commerce. ... Montgomery County is making its first playoff appearance since 2003 and has not won a playoff game since 1987. ... Telfair County is making just its third playoff trip since 1993, which also was the last time the Trojans collected a playoff win. ... Perennial power Lincoln County comes in as the No. 15 seed, the lowest ever for the Red Devils, who also have not advanced past the second round since making the semifinals in 2012.

TOWNS COUNTY at PELHAM
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Hornet Stadium, Pelham
-- TOWNS COUNTY (5-5, Region 8, No. 23): Defeated Providence Christian 42-21 last week
-- PELHAM (8-2, Region 1, No. 10): Lost 22-0 to Mitchell County last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two teams. ... Towns County is making it first-ever playoff appearance in program history so a big key will be how they respond after a seven-hour bus ride in what is sure to be a very hostile environment. ... Pelham is no stranger to the playoffs making its third-straight appearance. However, they have not gotten past the second round since 1982 and fell in the second round in 2016 despite being a No. 3 overall seed. ... Pelham is one of four 1-A teams, all in Public, and Towns is one of six 8-A teams in Public (2) and Private (4) combined. ... The Hornets are seventh in scoring in Class A (381, 38.1 ppg) and have allowed just 150 points (15.0 ppg) on defense, which is 14th in Class A. ... The Indians are averaging 24 ppg on offense but yielding 26.8 ppg on defense. ... Sr. RB Zach Davenport leads Towns County in rushing. ... The Hornets are balanced, averaging 179 yards passing and 157 yards rushing behind So. QB Kendrick Patterson (1,579 yards, 26 TD, 2 INT; 65 car., 358 yards, 8 TD) and Jr. RB Javoris Williams (55 car., 510 yards, 6 TD). ... Pelham is plus-13 in turnover-ratio.
-- WINNER PLAYS: at Macon County (S7), who has a first round bye

Members of the Buford football team take the field before a game played earlier this season.

http://accesswdun.com/article/2017/11/603245/playoffs-1st-round-19-teams-embark-on-state-title-quests

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