Class A-Private/Public First Round preview

Photo by Terrance Johnson

Class A-Private

Friday, Nov. 21

#16 Christian Heritage at #1 Calvary Day

Christian Heritage is in just its fourth varsity season and was the last team that snuck into the Class A-Private playoffs. The Lions are led by third year head coach Preston Poag and have followed up last year’s school-record 8-3 season with a 5-5 record which includes victories over Walker and Fellowship Christian to close the year. Calvary Day remains undefeated and looks to make another run to the finals after falling 27-7 to Aquinas in last year’s state championship. The Cavaliers are averaging 36.8 points per game offensively, while allowing just 10 points per contest.

#9 Mount Pisgah at #8 Landmark Christian

Wayne Brantley led Landmark Christian to a 8-2 regular season in his third year at the helm. The Eagles lost to Class AAA Central-Carroll 21-7 and fell to ELCA 38-28 in the Region 5 championship game. Mount Pisgah beat ELCA 28-21 this season and fell to undefeated Mount Paran in the Region 6 championship. The Patriots finished 12-1 in Mike Forester’s first year as head coach last year and look to make another run in the playoffs.

#12 Athens Christian at #5 Eagle’s Landing Christian

ELCA opened the season 0-6 but handled its four region games and swept the Region 5 competition. The Chargers won the 2012 state championship and have won 48 games in the previous four seasons, so experience is a strength of this dangerous 4-6 team. Athens Christian rides a five-game win streak into the playoffs but the Eagles have lost their last five games to ELCA.

#13 First Presbyterian Day at #4 Prince Avenue Christian

First Presbyterian is in the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons and sits at 7-3 with losses to Lincoln County, Stratford Academy and Tattnall Square. That difficult slate of opponents prepared First Presbyterian Day for the intensity of the playoffs. Prince Avenue Christian is in its second season with former Camden County head coach Jeff Herron at the helm and finished the season with six straight double-digit victories. The Wolverines have outscored their opponents by an average 20 points per game this season.

#14 Stratford Academy at #3 Mount Paran

Head coach Mitch Jordan and Mount Paran enter the playoffs undefeated for the first time in school history. A talented roster that features 6-foot-9 center Zach Strong and running back Dorian Walker lead the Eagles. Stratford Academy is GHSA for the first time after spending decades dominating GISA competition. Stratford Academy fell 28-27 to defending champion Aquinas this season and there is enough experience on the team to challenge the unbeaten Eagles.

#11 St. Anne-Pacelli at #6 Savannah Christian

After posting losing records for five straight seasons, Randy Grace has led Pacelli to consecutive 7-win seasons and this year’s team is his best yet. Pacelli has key wins over Greenville, Schley County and Brookstone and suffered one-score defeats to Dooly County and Marion County. Savannah used a 15-0 season to win the 2011 state championship but after posting 62 wins from 2007-2011, Savannah Christian dipped to 8-4 in 2012 and 5-5-1 in 2013. However, the Raiders are 9-1 this year with 7-3 loss to Calvary Day as the only mark on their dominant season and are a favorite to challenge for this year’s crown.

#10 Pinecrest Academy at #7 Tattnall Square

Tattnall Square dominated its first season in GHSA and jumped to a 9-0 start before falling 49-21 to Aquinas in the Region 7 championship game in the season finale. Pinecrest Academy sits at 7-3 and is in the playoffs for the fifth time in school history and first time since 2009. Pinecrest was undefeated at home this year but went just 2-3 in road games.

#15 St. Francis at #2 Aquinas

Aquinas has not lost a game since 2012 and the 10-0 Fighting Irish are looking to defend their Class A-Private state title. Aquinas posted a one-point victory over Stratford Academy and survived a 15-13 victory over Lincoln County. St. Francis is in the postseason for the first time in school history and posted an impressive 21-0 win over Mount Zion-Carroll this season.


Class A-Public

Friday, Nov. 21

#16 Greenville at #1 Marion County

Marion County earned the top-seed with its undefeated regular season and the defending champs enter their first-round matchup riding a 15-game win streak. The Eagles posted three shutouts this season and held two more opponents under seven points. Greenville was 1-9 in Vex Farley’s first season last year but has reached the postseason with a 5-5 record in Farley’s second year.

#9 Emanuel County Institute at #8 Mt. Zion-Carroll

ECI won the Class A-Public championship in 2012 and after a 6-5 finish last year, the Bulldogs are 8-2 entering the playoffs. Mount Zion-Carroll was 0-20 from 2010-11 but have gone 17-13 ever since Keith Holloway took over the program in 2012. Mt. Zion-Carroll’s last postseason appearance came in 2005 and the Eagles have not posted a playoff victory since 2001.

#12 Lincoln County at #5 Charlton County

Charlton County posted three straight state titles from 2004-06 but have not reclaimed the title since, despite last year’s run to the state finals. Coincidentally, 14-time state champion Lincoln County’s last title also game in the 2006 season. The Red Devils are led by first-year head coach Kevin Banks and enter the playoffs with momentum after falling 15-13 to Aquinas and topping Stratford Academy 21-20 in the final regular season game.

#13 Jenkins County at #4 Hawkinsville

Hawkinsville fell to Marion County in the semifinals last year and its only loss of this season came to Marion County (13-6) on Oct. 17 .The Red Devils boast a defense that has allowed just 6.3 points per game. Jenkins County dropped three straight games in the heart of the season but finished on a high-note with a trio of victories. The Eagles have made a tremendous turnaround after a 1-9 season last year.

#14 Calhoun County at #3 Mitchell County

Calhoun County has won seven games in a season for the first time since 1993 and this is the first time 19-year head coach John Williams has finished a regular season with seven wins. The Cougars wrapped up their season with a 30-0 victory over Baconton Charter to move to 4-1 in Region 1. Their one loss came to their first round opponent, Mitchell County. Mitchell County opened its season 1-4 but went 5-0 in Region 1 play, including a 12-8 victory over visiting Calhoun County.

#11 Clinch County at #6 Commerce

Clinch County finished 15-0 and won the 2010 state championship but has not been able to replicate the dominant season since and capture the school’s sixth state title. Two-year head coach Michael Brown leads commerce and the Tigers’ only losses this year were Class AAA Jefferson (28-3) and region-opponent Prince Avenue Christian (48-27). The Tigers’ 8-2 record is the most wins since the 2006 season. Clinch County has an offense that has put up 32 points per game this year and Commerce will look to outmatch it with a defensive unit that has surrendered just 17 points per game.

#10 Dooly County #7 Claxton

After suffering losses to Marion County, Hawkinsville and Schley County, Dooly County got back on track and closed the season with three straight double-digit victories over quality opponents. Claxton lost region matchups to Calvary Day and Savannah Christian but was able to topple ECI (29-23) and Jenkins County (35-21) this year. This is the first time in school history that Dooly County and Claxton will face each other.

#15 Atkinson County at #2 Irwin County

Atkinson County snuck into the playoffs at 6-4, but the level of competition that the Rebels battled with has made them a dangerous team. Irwin County is aware of Atkinson County’s talent and snuck by the Rebels 21-14 on their Halloween matchup. The Rebels combined for a 2-28 record the three seasons prior to this year. Irwin County rides a seven-game winning streak into the playoffs and huge victories over Clinch County (47-7) and Charlton County (41-14) show how much talent is on the Indians’ roster.


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