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Friday December 6th, 2019 5:32PM

ICYMI: Playoffs 3rd round caps: Trio of area teams look for Final 4 berths

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

We’re down to just three northeast Georgia teams left in the Georgia High School Association football playoffs as teams across the state vie for semifinal spots Friday night.

All three have recent history of making it to the Final Four and beyond. However, none of the three -- Buford in Class 5A, Jefferson in Class 3A, Rabun County in Class 2A -- has brought home a state title since the Wolves last did it in 2014.

And for that stat to change, all three will have to face huge road obstacles in the quarterfinal round.

Buford heads to No. 1 Carrollton in Class 5A; Jefferson travels to Crisp County in Class 3A; and Rabun County will take the longest road trip in the state with a 325-mile trek to Thomasville near the Florida border.

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

GHSA FOOTBALL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE FOR Nov. 29
(Games listed by highest classification and in alphabetical order of visiting team)
CLASS 5A
Offense has taken center stage in this classification. Seven of the top 10 offenses all advanced while just four of the top seven defenses are still around. ... Regions 2, 5, and 6 have been swept out while Regions 3, 4, and 8 each have two teams still alive. Five region champs advanced with a trio of No. 2 seeds (Buford, Griffin, Dutchtown) also moving on. ... The best matchup in the quarters certainly has to be Buford at Carrollton. Both offenses are in the top 4 while both defenses or in the top 7. The Trojans, however, have lost in the quarters each of the past three seasons. ... Dutchtown holds the top rated defense (115 points, 9.5 ppg) and will see if it can hold down the top-rated rushing attack of Starr’s Mill (246 ypg). Griffin’s No. 1 offense (469 points, 39.0 ppg) should be able to put up some numbers vs. Jones County’s No. 18 defense (217, 18.0 ppg). ... Clarke Central and Warner Robins bring a pair of big offenses into their matchup. But the Gladiators have just the 41st-rated defense (306, 25.5 ppg).

BUFORD at CARROLLTON
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Grisham Stadium, Carrollton
-- RADIO: WDUN AM 550
-- BUFORD (11-1): No. 2 seed Region 8; defeated Ware County 34-6 last week in 2nd round
-- CARROLLTON (12-0): No. 1 seed Region 7; defeated Veterans 21-10 last week in 2nd round
-- NOTABLE: Buford leads series 1-0. The Wolves won 34-27 in the Class 5A 2016 quarterfinals in Buford. ... The Wolves continue to be one of the most consistent programs in the state. They are into the quarterfinals for a 20th straight season, a state record. They had won 11 straight Elite 8 games until Bainbridge knocked them off last year. ... This is the 4th straight quarters for top-ranked Carrollton but the Trojans have not gotten past this round since 2013 when they lost to Griffin in the Class 4A title game. ... This will be only the fifth time over the past 20 years Buford has played multiple road games in the playoffs. They went 1-1 in 2017; 3-0 in 2012; 2-0 in 2009; and 2-1 in 2000. ... This will be a monster matchup up front between the Buford offense, which is averaging 231 yard a game rushing vs. the Trojans defensive front, which is allowing just 86.3 yards rushing a game. ... Gabe Ervin leads Buford with 1,095 yards and 12 TDs and Elijah Turner has 782 yards and 13 TDs for the Wolves. ... Buford is 4-5 all-time vs. No. 1-ranked teams. The Wolves’ last win over a No. 1-ranked team came in 2013 vs. Gainesville (38-14) at City Park Stadium. They have dropped their last two games vs. No. 1 teams (2015 vs. Cartersville in Class 4A finals; 2017 vs. Rome in Class 5A semifinals).
-- NEXT: Winner gets Griffin-Jones County winner in the semifinal round


CLASS 3A
This may be the most loaded field of the 8 classifications. Only Region 2 has been swept out and only Region 8 (Jefferson and Hart County) managed to push two teams through to the quarterfinals. Seven region champs advanced with Hart County as the only non-region champ to make it through. ... Cedar Grove, Peach County, and Jenkins are the only teams to make it back to the quarters from last season. ... Seven of the top 10 offenses and five of the top 10 defenses advanced. ... The marquee showdown will take place in Cedar Grove as the defending champion Saints take on Peach County in a rematch of last year’s state title game. ... Jefferson is the only team with both its offense (5th) and defense (3rd) in the top 5. But the Dragons, who lead 3A in rushing at 331 yards a game, head to face a Crisp County defense which shut down North Hall’s potent wing-T attack and held the Trojans to just a field goal.

JEFFERSON at CRISP COUNTY
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Cougar Den, Cordele
-- RADIO: WDUN FM 102.9
-- JEFFERSON (10-1): No. 1 seed Region 8; defeated Appling County 28-7 last week in 2nd round
-- CRISP COUNTY (9-3): No. 1 seed Region 1; defeated North Hall 41-3 last week in 2nd round
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two schools. ... This should be one of the better matchups of the quarterfinal round in any classification. Both defenses are in the top four in 3A (Jefferson 9.8 ppg, Crisp 10.6 ppg) while Jefferson is 5th in offense averaging 41.7 ppg and leads the classification in rushing averaging 331 yards a game. ... Something will have to give as well. Jefferson has not scored less than 26 in any game this season and Crisp has not allowed more than 21 in any game this season. The Cougars have given up just 16 total points over their last five games (3.3 ppg). ... The Jefferson defense has not allowed more than 23 in any game this year (Hart County) while Crisp, which is just 15th in 3A in scoring (29.0 ppg) has averaged 38.3 ppg during its current 6-game win streak. ...  Dragons’ QB Colby Clark has turned into one of the more dangerous rushing threats in the state of late. He rushed for 146 yards and 4 TDs last week and now has 1,153 yards rushing and 23 TDs on the season. ... Jefferson is 2-0 vs. ranked teams in 2019, including a road win at Hart County. ... Crisp County’s 3 losses have all come against playoff teams from higher classifications by a combined 10 points. ... The Dragons are just 3-4 in road playoff games going back to 2013.
-- NEXT: Winner gets North Murray-Jenkins winner in the semifinal round


CLASS 2A
This continues to be one of the tougher fields to win every year. There has not been a repeat champion in this classification since Buford won the last of four straight in 2010. And it is still a balanced field after the opening two rounds with only three of last year’s Elite 8 group (Callaway, Dublin, Rabun County) making it back in 2019. With Rockmart’s loss last week, both the finalists are gone. Only Callaway is still alive from last year’s semifinals group. ... Only Regions 4 and 7 did not have at least one team advance to the Elite 8. Regions 1 and 6 moved through two teams. ... Six of the eight region champions advanced (Rockmart and Jefferson County did not) with two No. 2 seeds (Brooks County and Douglass-Atlanta) advancing. ... Expect points to be scored in virtually every quarterfinal matchup. Six of the top 8 offenses advanced, averaging a whopping 43.4 ppg combined. Four of the top five defenses (Metter, Hapeville Charter, Rabun, Callaway) also moved through but each will be tested. ... Callaway, Hapeville Charter, and Rabun County each possess top five offenses and defenses.

RABUN COUNTY at THOMASVILLE
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Veterans Memorial Stadium, Thomasville
-- RABUN COUNTY (12-0): No. 1 seed Region 8; defeated Toombs County 34-14 last week in 2nd round
-- THOMASVILLE (8-4): No. 1 seed Region 1; defeated Pepperell 58-14 last week in 2nd round
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting between the two schools. ... Both teams are hot. Rabun County is the only undefeated team left in Class 2A after No. 1 Rockmart’s loss to Brooks County in the 2nd round. Thomasville is riding a 6-game win streak. ... Thomasville is the 4th-winningest program in Georgia history (725 wins) but hasn’t gotten past the quarterfinals since making the 3A finals in 1993. They lost to Heard County in the quarters in 2017 at home. ... Rabun is looking for its second semifinals berth in three seasons. The Wildcats have won 15 straight true road games since falling to Fitzgerald in the 2016 quarterfinals. This is their first playoff road game since beating Screven County in the 2017 quarterfinals. However, Rabun County is just 1-4 all-time in road playoff games. ... The Bulldogs are 5-2 at home in 2019, including two home playoff wins (losses to Class 4A Cairo and Class 3A Crisp County) and are 4-1 in their last five home playoff games. However, they have never won three straight home playoff games in a season in their history. ... The key matchup will Rabun’s high-powered offense (555 points, 46.2 ppg) against a Bulldogs defense that is last among the 8 teams left (291 points, 24.2 ppg). The Wildcats are led by the classification’s top passer in Gunner Stockton (3,146 yards, 41 TDs, 5 INTs; 1,019 rushing, 19 TDs) who knows how to spread the ball around. He has connected with 5 different receivers for 27 or more catches and with 7 different receivers for TDs this season. ... Another key may be the hawkish Rabun defense, which has 28 takeaways on the season. The Bulldogs have 24 turnovers on the season (minus-1 overall turnover ratio) including 16 fumbles. ... Bulldogs’ Jr. QB Ronnie Baker has 1,980 yards passing and 564 yards rushing with 23 combined TDs. But he also has accounted for 14 of their turnovers (7 INTs, 7 fumbles).
-- NEXT: Winner gets Hapeville Charter-Dublin winner in the semifinal round

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports, Friday Game Night
  • Associated Tags: High school football, Buford football, Jefferson football, Rabun County football
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