Three northeast Georgia teams are in the 2019 Georgia high school football state quarterfinals. All three teams captured second round wins Friday night that were impressive for different reasons.
Here's what we learned in the second round of the playoffs:
Buford has its swagger back
Last Friday's win for Buford in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs felt like so many playoff victories the Wolves racked up in the program's peak years that first-year head coach Bryant Appling is looking to return them to. If a nearly-300 mile road trip to Waycross, a hostile environment and a strong Ware County team were to be considered speed bumps on Buford's 2019 playoff run, the Wolves launched past them like a stunt jump. The 34-6 win over Ware County put Buford back in the state quarterfinals once again, but it was the fashion in which Buford won that likely raised eyebrows across the state. The Wolves led 21-0 early in the second quarter and it was only a mop-up-time touchdown by the Gators that broke a shutout attempt. Buford's road to its first state championship since 2014 will not get any easier as they now travel to face top-ranked Carrollton this Friday, but if the same Buford team that showed up in Waycross shows up this week, it may be the Trojans who will need to be on alert.
Jefferson can win in a cage match
Jefferson head coach Gene Cathcart said prior to last week's Class 3A second round matchup with Appling County that the matchup would be a battle decided in the trenches, with the Pirates featuring possibly the strongest lines of scrimmage the Dragons had faced all year. He was right, as the game developed into a slow, low-scoring slugfest that was tied at 7 at the half. Jefferson proved to be comfortable in the ring, dominating Appling County in the second half and winning 28-7 to make it back to the state quarterfinals. Most of Jefferson's wins this year have come in dominant fashion, with a couple of tight battles thrown in for good measure, but Friday night they quite literally flexed their muscles. It was a good test, as the Dragons now travel to Cordele to take on another physically imposing team in Crisp County, who routed North Hall in the second round 41-3.
Rabun County can take a punch
It's hard to be more impressive than Rabun County was through its first 11 games of 2019. The Wildcats tore through every opponent on their schedule, winning by at least 21 points in every game and never trailing at any point in the season. The only question that was left unanswered was how would the team respond if and when someone gave them a good, clean punch. That scenario presented itself in Rabun County's second round matchup against Toombs County Friday night when a second quarter punt return by the Bulldogs' Derrick Mincey put Toombs County ahead 14-7, putting the Wildcats behind for the first time in 2019. Rabun County responded about as well as one could hope, scoring the game's final 27 points for a 34-14 win. The ability to respond to in-game adversity is a tool that any team will need if it hopes to win a state championship, and Rabun County finds itself firmly in the hunt for the Class 2A title. Their toughest test so far this season will likely come this week, as they travel from the northern edge of the state all the way to the southern edge to take on Thomasville.