Saturday September 19th, 2020 5:51PM

ICYMI: Playoffs 1st round caps: Nine area teams begin playoff journey

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

It’s finally here.

The first round of the 2019 Georgia High School Association football playoffs get under way on Friday around the state and in northeast Georgia. The area covered by AccessWDUN has nine teams that will begin their treks toward trying to capture state titles ranging from Class 6A to Class A Public.

All nine teams are repeats from the 2018 playoffs with Rabun County in Class 2A and Jefferson in Class 3A going in as region champs. Three others -- Buford in Class 5A, North Hall in Class 3A, Union County in Class 2A -- take No. 2 seeds into the postseason. One area team, Flowery Branch, opens the playoffs against No. 1-ranked Cartersville in Class 4A.

Needless to say, area teams face challenges as they try to move into the second round.

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

(Games listed by highest classification and in alphabetical order of visiting team)
It will be a tough draw no matter where you sit in the bracket. The top 11 ranked teams all advanced to the playoffs, led by No. 1 Dacula. In fact, Dacula and No. 2 Lee County, the defending 6A state champ, are on course to meet in the quarterfinals. ... Last year’s state runner-up Northside-Warner Robins did not make the playoff field in 2019. A dozen teams not in the 2018 field made it in 2019. ... The toughest quadrant could the upper-left with four ranked teams among the 8 teams. However, the top 3 ranked teams all are on the same side of the bracket.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Allatoona Stadium, Acworth
-- RADIO: 94.5 FM The Lake
-- GAINESVILLE (5-5): No. 3 Region 8-6A
-- ALLATOONA (7-2-1): No. 2 seed Region 6-6A
-- NOTABLE: Allatoona leads series 1-0. The Buccaneers won 24-17 in 2014 in the Class 5A quarterfinals. ... This game will be won up front. Both teams like to run the ball, and when that doesn’t work they run it some more. ... The Red Elephants have pummeled their last four opponents for over 1,400 yards on the ground, including a season-high 402 last week vs. No. 5 Lanier, led by QB Gionni Williams (900-plus yards), Sr. RB Dez Brown (800-plus yards), and Sr. RB JD Brooks (600-plus yards). The Buccaneers are led by Sr. RB Alex Wilson (919 yards). ... Just 4 points separate the offenses (GHS, 298, 29.8 ppg; Allatoona, 302, 30.2 ppg). The key will be which defense can slow down the other offense. ... The Buccaneers have allowed just 136 points (13.6 ppg) while the Red Elephants have given up 279 points (27.9 ppg). Allatoona held Sequoyah, a team averaging nearly 200 yards a game, to just 41 yards rushing last week.
-- NEXT: Winner gets the Bradwell Institute-Stephenson winner next week in 2nd round


Much like Class 6A, this classification is loaded with the top 3 ranked teams all advancing to the playoffs. Carrollton and Warner Robins, 2018 state runner-up, share the top spot but defending champion Bainbridge is also back. Only 7 teams from 2018 did not make field this season. ... The toughest draw could be the bottom left quadrant, which includes Buford. Three of the top four ranked teams are housed there.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
-- DECATUR (7-3): No. 3 seed Region 6-5A
-- BUFORD (9-1): No. 2 seed Region 8-5A
-- NOTABLE: Buford leads series 14-1. The Wolves won 59-14 in 2011 when both were members of Region 6-2A. Buford has won 14 straight in the series. Decatur won the initial meeting in 1990. ... It is the first playoff appearance for the Bulldogs since 2005, snapping a 13-year playoff drought. Meanwhile, the Wolves are making their 21st consecutive appearance. ... It could be a defensive battle as both teams have been stout and stingy most of the season. Buford is yielding just 14.5 ppg while the Bulldogs have allowed only 13.3 ppg. Only once, in last week’s loss to Carver-Atlanta (36), has Decatur given up more than 21 in any game. But the Wolves also gave up a season-high 31 in their loss to Clarke Central last week. ... The Buford offense is averaging 36.5 ppg while the Bulldogs have scored 24.8 ppg on the season. ... This could be one of the toughest playoff draws the Wolves have ever faced.  They could possibly face one of the toughest road trips in the state in Ware County in the 2nd round, if they get by Decatur. If they can get past the Gators, No. 1 Carrollton looms in the quarterfinals. Then, it could be defending state champion Bainbridge, who knocked off Buford in the quarterfinals in 2018. ... The last time Buford did not advance to at least the quarterfinals was in 1999, a string of 19 straight appearances in the Elite 8.
-- NEXT: Winner gets the Ware County-Ola winner next week in the 2nd round


Another brutal classification as the top 13 teams, including Flowery Branch, advanced to the playoffs. Perhaps the three most intriguing first round matchups involve Region 7-4A teams. The No. 11 Falcons travel to No. 1 Cartersville while No. 8 Denmark heads to No. 5 Sandy Creek in the only games pitting two ranked teams against each other. No. 3 and defending state champion Blessed Trinity takes on Troup County in a rematch of last year’s semifinal game. ... All but 5 teams from the 2018 field advanced back to the playoffs in 2019.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Weinman Stadium, Cartersville
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (7-3): No. 4 seed Region 7-4A
-- CARTERSVILLE (10-0): No. 1 seed from Region 5-4A
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two schools. ... The Falcons face perhaps the toughest draw in the Class 4A field. Potentially looming after the Hurricanes, who were the 2018 state runners-up, are traditional power Thomson, then No. 2 Woodward Academy, and No. 3 Blessed Trinity in the semifinals. ... The Branch certainly has the defensive ability to stay in any game. The Falcons have given up just 12.9 ppg with four shutouts. The offense will be the key. In their 7 wins, they have averaged 37 ppg. In their 3 losses, they have scored just 31 total points (10.3 ppg). ... The Hurricanes are just as stout on defense giving up just 12.1 ppg but have surrendered 83 points (27.6 ppg) in their last three contests. The Cartersville offense, however, has been rolling of late. They are averaging 36.3 ppg but scored 41 or more in their last four games (45.7 ppg). ... Cartersville QB Tee Webb is 12th in the state in passing (2,198 yards) with 22 TDs and just 3 INTs on the season.
-- NEXT: Winner gets the Thomson-Hardaway winner next week in the 2nd round


The top 12 teams all advanced with three area teams all landing on the same side of the bracket. Jefferson, the Region 8-3A champ, however, has a favorable draw for once. The Dragons (5th) are the top ranked team on their side and would only have to face one of the top four teams, in the finals, to capture a state title. ... The two most compelling first round matchups could be a very good Morgan County team heading to No. 11 Calhoun and an improving Dawson County team traveling to No. 10 Westminster. ... The top two teams, Peach County and Cedar Grove, are set up to meet in the quarterfinals. That would be a rematch of last year’s championship game.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Wildcat Stadium, Atlanta
-- DAWSON COUNTY (7-3): No. 3 seed Region 7-3A
-- WESTMINSTER (6-4): No. 2 seed Region 5-3A
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two schools. ... A pair of teams that are battled tested with tough schedules. The Wildcats' four losses came to No. 1 Cedar Grove, No. 4 GAC, and Class 4A teams Woodward Academy (No. 2) and Marist (No. 3). The Tigers' three losses came to GAC, Class 4A No. 9 Denmark, and North Hall on the road. ... The key showdown should be the Tigers offense (37.4 ppg) vs. the Wildcats’ defense (14.7 ppg), which held Lovett to 68 yards rushing last week. .... Dawson County has scored 140 points (46.6 ppg) the past three weeks. Tigers’ WR Dakohta Sonnichsen  had 6 catches for 200 yards and 2 TDs last week. So. QB Zach Holtzclaw has passed for 1,546 yards with 16 TDs and just 5 INTs. ... The Westminster offense has sparked a final stretch of 5 wins in 6 games scoring 30.0 ppg after scoring just 56 total points (14.0 ppg) the first month of the season. The Tigers defense has played well yielding just 20.3 ppg on the season.
-- NEXT: Winner gets the Jenkins-Adairsville winner next week in the 2nd round

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Lynn Cottrell Stadium at The Brickyard, Gainesville
-- RADIO: WDUN FM 102.9 
-- LOVETT (7-3): No. 3 seed Region 5-3A
-- NORTH HALL (7-3): No. 2 seed Region 7-3A
-- NOTABLE: Lovett leads series 2-0. It’s the first meeting between the two schools since 1967, a 25-2 Lions win in Gainesville. ... The two current teams do share one thing: a common opponent in 2019. The Lions handed GAC its only loss of the season, 30-29 in overtime, in both teams’ season openers. The Trojans lost 45-21 to GAC during a stretch where they were battling injuries. ... A key element could be The Brickyard itself. The Trojans are 12-1 all-time at home in the playoffs. The current group is 4-1 at home in 2019 and 8-2 at home the past two seasons. ... There are interesting matchups all over the field. North Hall is averaging 33.2 ppg despite midseason injuries and has allowed just 17.4 ppg on defense. The Lions have averaged 30.5 ppg but given up 26.3 ppg on defense. ... Lovett Sr. QB  Blaine McAllister will be a tough matchup. McAllister has posted more than 2,000 combined yards and accounted for 25 touchdowns. But the Lions were held to just 68 yards rushing last week by Westminster. ... North Hall is 4-0 over the last month and has scored at least 38 points in each of those wins.
-- NEXT: Winner gets the Crisp County-Windsor Forest winner next week in the 2nd round

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
-- SONORAVILLE (5-5): No. 4 seed Region 6-3A
-- JEFFERSON (8-1): No. 1 seed Region 8-3A
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two schools. ... The Dragons are a big favorite over the Phoenix, who are just 1-4 vs. playoff teams in 2019. Jefferson is 5th in 3A in offense (38.2 ppg) and 2nd in defense (83 points, 8.3 ppg). Sonoraville is averaging 27.7 ppg and allowing 19.6 ppg on defense but has given up 29.6 ppg over its past three games. ... It is the first playoff appearance for the Phoenix since 2016 and they have won just 2 playoff games in their history. Jefferson is making its 9th straight postseason appearance and 19th in the last 20 seasons, including a state title title in 2012. ... The Jefferson offense is averaging 343 yards rushing a game. The Dragons also are a plus-14 on turnover ratio.
-- NEXT: Winner gets the Appling County-Westside-Macon winner next week in the 2nd round


This is another brutal classification as the top 15 ranked teams all advanced. The top four teams -- Rockmart, Rabun County, Callaway, Hapeville Charter -- all are in different quadrants which sets up the potential for a high-powered semifinals if all survive a tough field. ... The defending state champion, Heard County, comes in as a No. 3 seed and could face Rabun County in the quarterfinals. ... Defenses will be tested in this classification. Six teams are averaging over 40 ppg and another five averaging over 34 ppg coming into the playoffs. ... Two semifinalists from 2018, Callaway and Fitzgerald, could meet in the second round. Meanwhile, 2017 state champion Hapeville Charter, may have to face just one ranked team to reach the semifinals.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger
-- B.E.S.T. ACADEMY (4-6): No. 4 seed Region 6-2A
-- RABUN COUNTY (10-0): No. 1 seed Region 8-2A
-- NOTABLE: Rabun County leads series 2-0. The Wildcats won 35-2 in 2017 in the second round of the playoffs. Both previous meetings have come in the playoffs. ... The Wildcats are rolling coming into the playoffs after routing rival Union County in the Region 8-2A championship game. The offense has been the catalyst. They are 2nd in Class 2A (483, 48.3 ppg) in scoring but also bring in the No. 8 defense (115 points, 11.5 ppg). ... The Eagles biggest challenge will be trying to slow down Rabun So. QB Gunner Stockton, who has combined for 3,477 total yards (2,650 passing, 827 rushing) with 37 TD passes and 16 TDs rushing. Sr. WR and Georgia-commit Braxton Hicks is Stockton’s favorite target with 46 catches for 879 yards and 9 TDs. ... The Eagles had a 3-game win streak snapped last week in a 53-0 loss to Hapeville. They have been outscored 298 to 226 on the season.
-- NEXT: Winner gets the Toombs County-Hephzibah winner next week in the 2nd round

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Frank McClure Stadium, Blairsville
-- SOUTH ATLANTA (7-3): No. 3 seed Region 6-2A
-- UNION COUNTY (9-1): No. 2 seed Region 8-2A
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two schools. ... This should be another great matchup between one of the state’s best offenses against a solid defense. The Panthers are 6th in Class 2A averaging 40.9 ppg while the Hornets are 15th in defense in 2A yielding 16.5 ppg. ... South Atlanta has given up 19 or less in 7 games in 2019. But in their 3 losses to playoff teams Central-Carroll, Hapeville, Douglass-Atlanta, they allowed 102 points (34.0 ppg). ... The Union County defense sits 22nd allowing 18.3 ppg but has given up 21 or less in 8 games. The Panthers offense is led by Sr. QB Pierson Allison (2,586 yards passing, 27 TD, 4 INT), Jr. RB Jonah Daniel (1,375 yards rushing, 14 TD), and Sr. WR Sawyer Drake (60 rec., 1,038 yards, 9 TD).
-- NEXT: Winner gets the Metter-Screven County winner next week in the 2nd round


Seeds 9 to 16 will play host to seeds 17 to 24 in the first round. ... Irwin County, the 2018 state runner-up, is once again the top seed while Marion County is the No. 2 seed for a second straight season. Mitchell County is the No. 3 seed and defending state champion Clinch County is fourth. ... It is a stout field overall. Irwin County is the only undefeated team left in Class A Public. But three teams have just one loss and seven others, including Commerce, have just two losses.

-- WHEN: 8 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tiger Stadium, Commerce
-- TRION (5-5): No. 23 seed out of Region 6-A
-- COMMERCE (8-2): No. 10 seed out of Region 8-A
-- NOTABLE: Commerce leads series 7-0. This is the first meeting since 2007 between the two teams. The Tigers won 38-30 in Trion. ... All seven meetings came between 2000 and 2007. Three of the previous meetings also came in the playoffs. ... Two teams from a pair of power regions in Class A. Commerce is one of 5 Region 8-A teams teams (out of 10) while Trion is one of 9 Region 6-A teams (out of 15) in both Public and Private to advance to the playoffs, the most of any one region team in any classification. ... The key matchup will be the Commerce offense, which is 9th in all of Class A, 3rd in Public, in scoring at 38.8 ppg. The Bulldogs have allowed 21.5 ppg but have lost four straight, giving up 152 points (38.0 ppg) during that streak. ... Trion is just 2-4 in the playoffs since 2013. Commerce is looking to advance to the second round for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
-- NEXT: Winner will travel to No. 7 seed Lincoln County next week in the 2nd round

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