Sunday December 5th, 2021 12:08AM

ICYMI: 2nd round previews -- Gang of 6 look to advance in playoffs

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
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After some shocking results for area teams, both good and bad, in the opening round of the Georgia High School Association playoffs, only six Northeast Georgia area teams are left to fight in the second round.

The most stunning was former No. 1-ranked Jefferson being taken out in Class 4A. However, Dawson County stunned No. 6 Sandy Creek in Class 3A one week after the Patriots had knocked off No. 1 Cedar Grove.

In all, in the first round, there were 24 lower-seeded teams that advanced across the eight GHSA classifications, which is an average of three per class. However, of those 24, only three involved region champions, showing the parity that is starting to exist around the state.

The highest number of upsets was in Class 4A, where five teams were knocked off, including Jefferson at home. Flowery Branch was the only Northeast Georgia area team to pull an upset in 4A, beating Mays 33-28 with a touchdown in the final minute. Class 6A had four while Classes 3A and 2A just two each.

Which means, expect the unexpected when it comes to playoff time. Of the six remaining area teams, Buford (Class 6A), Cherokee Bluff (3A), and Rabun County (2A) will be at home. Flowery Branch (4A), Dawson County (3A), and Lanier Christian (GAPPS 8-man) will be on the road.

For a look at all of the weekend's 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, game stories and video highlights. You can also check for scores and highlights on our Twitter feed: @FridayGameNight

(Games listed by date and classification, highest to smallest)
(Games listed by visiting team in alphabetical order)
(All kickoffs at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Regions 4 and 8 each went 3-1 in the opening round. Regions 2 and 6 had just 1 team advance each while Regions 1, 3, 5, and 7 all split their four games. ... Four lower seeds won, the second-highest amount of the eight classifications. Only Class 4A (5) had more. ... Seven of the eight region champs advanced (No. 6 Rome fell to Johns Creek). ... Eight of the top 10 teams ranked at the end of the regular season advanced. This week at least one more ranked team will be gone when No. 2 Lee County plays host to No. 9 Cambridge. ... No. 1 Buford and No. 2 Lee County could meet in the quarterfinals, which would be a rematch of last year’s Class 6A state championship game won by the Wolves in overtime. ... The top six and 8 of the top 10 offensive teams advanced. ... Buford leads the classification in defense allowing just 7.0 ppg.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Tom Riden Stadium, Buford
-- LOVEJOY (5-4, Region 4, Seed 3): Defeated Richmond Hill 19-14 in the first round
-- BUFORD (10, 1 Region 8, Seed 1): Defeated Kell 38-17 in the first round
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting. ... Buford is 6th in scoring (405, 36.8 ppg) and No. 1 in defense (77, 7.0 ppg) of the playoff teams left. Lovejoy (196, 21.7 ppg) is the lowest scoring team left in 6A. But the Wildcats have allowed just 17.1 ppg on defense, which is good for 6th overall. ... Last week Lovejoy got its first playoff win since 2016. The Wildcats have not advanced past the 2nd round since making back-to-back state finals in 2011 (Class 6A) and 2012 (4A). ... Buford is into its 23rd consecutive Sweet 16 spanning six classifications, the longest such streak in the state. ... Buford had given up just 16 total points over its previous seven games before Kell scored 14 in the first half. But they outscored the Longhorns 17-0 in the second half. ... The 77 points allowed by the Buford defense through 11 games is their best since 2015. That team gave up just 75 points through its first 12 games.

This classification had the most lower-seed upsets of any classification (5) including watching former No. 1-ranked Jefferson getting knocked off at home. But it also had all 8 region champions move on. ... Overall it is still very balanced as six regions split their four games with only Region 1 getting three teams into the second round. Region 3 had just one team advance. ... The biggest Sweet 16 matchup will have No. 5 North Oconee playing host to No. 8 Spalding. Another interesting matchup will have Riverdale’s No. 1 defense (87, 8.7 ppg) going against Dougherty’s No. 5 offense (381, 34.6 ppg). ... No. 1 Marist and No. 2 Benedictine are on a collision course in the quarterfinals. ... No. 3 Carver-Columbus got a lot of help with the losses of Jefferson and No. 9 Riverdale in their quadrant. There are no more ranked teams left in their part of the bracket and they wouldn’t have to face another top 10 team until the semifinals or beyond. ... The top five offenses in 4A moved through while five of the top six defenses advanced. Perry is the only team with both offense and defense in the top 5 while Marist, Cedartown, and Carver all have both units in the top 10 in 4A. ... Hapeville Charter, Flowery Branch, Bainbridge, North Oconee, and Spalding all advanced without either offense or defense among the top 10 in the classification.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Herb St. John Stadium, Perry
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (8-3, Region 8, Seed 3): Defeated Mays 33-28 in the first round
-- PERRY (10-1, Region 4, Seed 1): Defeated Hardaway 31-12 in the first round
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting. ... Both teams come in hot with the Panthers riding a 6-game win streak and the Falcons a 5-game win streak. 
Perry is the only 10-win team in 4A. ... The Panthers secured their first-ever 10-win season last week and can match a program-best 7-game win streak with a win. However, they were in the exact same spot in 2020 with a 6-game win streak and fell in the second round to eventual state champion Marist. ... The Panthers will go to the air early and often. Perry Jr. QB Armar Gordon leads Class 4A in passing with 2,573 yards (28 TD, 12 INT). His favorite targets are Sr. Daequan Wright (50-956, 11 TD) and So. Dakarai Anderson (45-665, 5 TD). As a team, Perry has just 996 total yards rushing, led by Sr. Perell Lowe (395 yards, 4 TD).  ... Branch is more balanced averaging 180 yards/game on the ground and 156 yards/game through the air. ... Sr. QB David Renard could be the difference for the Falcons. He had 171 yards passing, 114 rushing and put the team on his back last week engineering a game-winning drive in the final 2 minutes. ... Jr. Miles Ivey leads the Falcons with 910 yards rushing with 12 TD and 4 100-yard games. ... The Panthers defense, which is 5th in 4A (109, 9.9 ppg) is hawkish having generated 24 turnovers so far (10 INT, 14 FR).

The offenses will be tested this week as the top eight and 9 of the top 10  defenses advanced into the second round. ... And for just the second round, there are some monster showdowns that will greatly alter the landscape in this classification. ... A huge matchup between 2020 state runner-up Oconee County taking on 2020 semifinalist Crisp County in Cordele. The winner of that one will get the Southeast Bulloch-Cedar Grove winner. That game will feature Cedar Grove’s No. 1 offense against the No. 6 SE Bulloch defense. ... Cherokee Bluff plays host to Appling County, which is the only official matchup between ranked teams. And both teams are the only ones with both their offenses and defenses among the top 6 in 3A after the first round.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Yonah Field, Flowery Branch
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM WDUN
-- APPLING COUNTY (10-1, Region 1, Seed 2): Defeated Johnson-Savannah 42-8 in the first round
-- CHEROKEE BLUFF (11-0, Region 8, Seed 1): Defeated Greater Atlanta Christian 38-17 in the first round
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting. ... There will be tremendous matchups all over the field no matter who has the ball. The Bears are 2nd in 3A in scoring (43.3 ppg) while the Pirates are 3rd in defense allowing just 8.3 ppg. But Bluff is 4th in defense yielding just 9.6 ppg and Appling is 6th in scoring at 35.7 ppg. ... Bluff Sr. RB Jayquan Smith is now 2nd in 3A in rushing with 1,673 yards with 22 TDs. They are averaging 245 yards/game on the ground as 5 other players have 100 yards or more on the season. Sr. QB Sebastian Irons is also efficient in the passing game completing 62% of his passes for 1,385 with 16 TDs and 7 INTs.  Sr. WR Marlion Jackson has 35 rec., for 636 yards and 10 TD and can break a game open on any play. ... Bluff has just 8 turnovers on the season, just 1 fumble. They have generated 21 turnovers (12 INT) on the season. ... The Pirates are into their third consecutive Sweet 16 and are looking to get back to the quarterfinals for a second straight season. They have given up 20 points in a game just once, against Pierce County in a 20-0 loss in the Region 1-3A championship game.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Bearville Stadium, Blackshear
-- DAWSON COUNTY (7-4, Region 8, Seed 2): Defeated Sandy Creek 36-27 in the first round
-- PIERCE COUNTY (9-2, Region 1, Seed 1): Defeated Windsor Forest 42-0 in the first round
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting. ... The Tigers make the long trek to the swamps and face a supreme challenge in a Bears team that has been ranked in the top 3 most of the season and is the defending 3A state champion. ... Dawson County is 3-8 all-time in road playoff games but is 2-4 on the road under Sid Maxwell. However, Pierce County is 15-1 in its last 16 home playoff games going back to 2013. ... The Tigers pulled off the biggest upset in 3A last week, and perhaps in the state, and did it with defense despite being the lowest-rated defense left in the field at 23rd. They held Sandy Creek, which came in as the 3rd-best offense in 3A, to its 2nd-lowest output of the season (27) and forced three turnovers. They have given up just 120 points (15.0 ppg) over their last 8 games, which would put them 12th in 3A. During those 8 games they are 7-1 and have averaged 38.0 ppg after scoring just 43 points (14.3 ppg) during a 3-game losing streak to open the season. ... The Bears have been otherworldly since losing 28-21 to Class 2A No. 1 Rabun County in midseason. They have given up just 12 points, including their last three by shutout. They have the top-rated defense in 3A allowing just 73 total points (6.64 ppg). Pierce is plus-15 on turnover ratio. Sr. twins and LBs Danarius Johnson and Donelius Johnson are a devastating combo on defense. They have 207 combined tackles, with 43 combined TFL and 13 sacks. ... However, offense may be the key for both teams. Pierce is just 1-2 when scoring 20 points or less. Dawson County is 0-4 when scoring 26 or less. ... The Bears will look to run the ball. They have 2,446 yards rushing and just 589 yards passing on the season. ... Dawson is more balanced averaging 183 yards/game passing behind Sr. Zach Holtzclaw, who became the program’s all-time leading passer last week. They average 127 yards/game on the ground but last week had over 200 yards rushing behind Conley Dyer and Jackson Grindle. Sr. WR Bailey Dameron still leads 3A in receiving.

This is a powerhouse classification where 9 of the top 10 ranked teams (No. 9 Dodge County lost to No. 4 Fitzgerald in the first round) and all eight region champs moved through. ... The 16 teams left averaged 9.1 wins to this point with 6 10-game winners and 2 teams who are a perfect 11-0. Only one team, Heard County (6-5), has less than 8 wins. ... There are two matchups in the Sweet 16 involving a pair of ranked teams. No. 3 Bleckley County plays host to No. 7 and defending state champion Callaway while No. 8 Northeast travels to No. 6 Haralson County. ... Every matchup, however, involves a top-ranked defense against a top-ranked offense. The top 9 offenses and every top 10 defense in the classification all advanced. ... Three of the four quarterfinals could involve ranked teams vs. each other, including No. 1 Rabun County and No. 2 Thomasville on a collision course for the quarterfinals.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Frank Snyder Stadium, Tiger
-- JEFF DAVIS (10-1, Region 2, Seed 2): Defeated Jefferson County 40-0 in the first round
-- RABUN COUNTY (10-1, Region 8, Seed 1): Defeated Pace Academy 63-14 in the first round
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting. ... Rabun is into the 2nd round for the 8th consecutive season. ... The Yellow Jackets are into the Sweet 16 for a 2nd consecutive season but have not made it past the 2nd round since 1990. After missing out on the playoffs every year from 2002-2016, they have made the postseason 4 of the last 5 years. ... Last week’s win gave Jeff Davis its first 10-win season since 1997. ... This is the classic showdown. The Wildcats have the No. 1 offense in 2A (552, 50.1 ppg) while the Yellow Jackets have the stingiest defense in 2A, giving up just 54 points on the season (4.9 ppg). ... But the Rabun defense is 9th in 2A (141, 12.8 ppg) and the Jeff Davis offense is 7th in 2A averaging 34.0 ppg. ... The Rabun offense  is led by Georgia-commit Sr. QB Gunner Stockton, who leads the state in passing 3,530 yards, 49 TDs, and just 1 INT on the season. Jr. WR Jaden Gibson leads the state in receiving with 72 rec., 1,578 yards, 14 TD but they have 3 others with 30-plus receptions and 500-plus yards in Lang Windham, Ethan Clarke, and Baxley O’Brien. ... The Yellow Jackets have 7 INTs on the season as a defense and have 19 sacks as a unit. ... The Rabun defense is hawkish with 25 turnovers (2.27/game), including 14 fumble recoveries. ... Jeff Davis does almost all of its damage on the ground. The Jackets average over250 yards/game rushing and have just over 300 total yards passing on the season. ... Jeff Davis is 0-8 vs. ranked teams on the road since 1991. Rabun has won 6 straight 2nd round home playoff games.

GAPPS 8-man

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Macon
-- LANIER CHRISTIAN (9-2, Region 2-2A, Seed 2): Defeated Sherwood Christian 80-8 in the first round
-- COVENANT ACADEMY (10-0, Region 1-2A, Seed 1): Defeated New Christian Academy 58-18 in the first round
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting. ... This is the semifinal round in GAPPS 8-man so the winner will move to next week’s state championship game. ... Both teams can score at will but also have been stingy on defense. The Rams average 48.5 ppg on offense while LCA is giving up just 6.1 ppg on defense. The Lightning are averaging 45.2 ppg while Covenant is allowing just 8.6 ppg of defense. ... Turnovers and penalties are the key for LCA. In both of their losses they were negative on the turnover-ratio. ... They have two common opponents in Covington Academy and Sherwood Christian. Both teams went 2-0 against both with LCA outscoring the two teams 147-8 and Covenant outscoring the two teams 128-6. ... With two high-powered offenses and two stingy defenses, look for the defenses to dictate a little more of the action at this level.

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