Class AAAA first round preview

Photo by Erin Sheppard

R6 T3 Columbia at R5 T2 Sandy Creek

This will be the first time that these teams match up and there is a considerable amount of talent on both squads. Highly-touted wide receiver Shadell Bell was a large contributor to an Eagle offense that averaged 29.7 points including five games of 40-plus points. Senior defensive back Brian Miller and defensive end Trent Sellers lead a Patriot defense that allowed 13.4 points per contest while running back Eric Swinney is the largest threat on the Sandy Creek offense. The senior gained 1411 yards rushing with 16 touchdowns.

R4 T4 Eagle’s Landing at R3 T1 Wayne County

Eagle’s Landing has only posted five winning seasons in its 23-year history and is a win away from a school-record nine-win season and first-ever playoff victory. Wayne County is the only No. 1 seed in the state with a 5-5 record and the Yellow Jackets are looking to catch fire in the postseason like last year when the team made a run to the state semifinals.

R2 T3 Baldwin at R1 T2 Worth County

First-time head coach Lee Hannah led Baldwin into the playoffs with a 6-4 record after the team sunk to a 3-7 record a year ago. The Braves last playoff win came in 2010. This marks the first time Baldwin and Worth County have met on the gridiron and Worth County has made huge improvements in the second year of head coach Jason Tone. Worth County went 3-7 last year and enter the postseason with a 6-3 record and No. 2 seed. Worth County fell to Cairo 27-20 in the Region 1 championship last Friday.

R8 T4 White County at R7 T1 Cartersville

The No. 7-ranked Purple Hurricanes earned their third straight region title after a dominant regular season that saw Cartersville outscore opponents by an average margin of 32.5 points. Their offense is led by freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence, who passed for 2,141 yards and 19 touchdowns while Kalin Heath roams the secondary for a defense that allowed just 85 points on the year. White County finished regular season play with a 6-4 record while averaging 30 points per game offensively, but boast no wins against teams with a record better than .500.

R5 T3 Whitewater at R6 T2 Marist

Quarterback Jay Ashley and running back Christian Wafford carry the load offensively for the Whitewater Wildcats. Ian McIntyre and Hunter Worley both make plays on the outside. Marist relies on its rushing attack and defense (7 ppg) to win games. Ian Gipson ran for 706 yards this season while quarterback Sam Phelts threw for 602 yards and rushed for 548. Offensive lineman and future Georgia Bulldog Sage Hardin leads the way up front.

R3 T4 Liberty County at R4 T1 Griffin

Griffin’s starting quarterback, Anforne Stroud, suffered a dislocated thumb on his throwing hand (left) in a passing drill last week in practice and is expected to miss three-four weeks. The undefeated Bears will rely on sophomore Tylan Morton. Liberty County is 4-6 and looking for its first playoff win since 2009.

R1 T3 Westover at R2 T2 Mary Persons

Mary Persons obtained an 8-2 record on the season, reaching the playoffs for the fourth straight season. The Bulldogs feature a dominant defense that allowed just 13.4 points per game, while logging three shutouts. The same can be said about Westover as they gave up the same number of points per contest but it may be there offensive stars that could be the difference maker. Juniors Emory McKenzie and Qundez Carter each ran for over 900 yards on the season while combing for 18 touchdowns.

R7 T4 Southeast Whitfield at R8 T1 Buford

Head Coach Sean Gray has led Southeast Whitfield to its first winning season in 28 years but have a tall task ahead of them. Buford has won six of the past seven state titles in this ultimate David vs Goliath matchup. Tyler Brown carries the Raiders offensively rushing for over 100 yards per game. The Big Bad Buford attack comes from both sides of the ball. Luke Humphrey distributes the ball through the air while Martin Mangram runs. Shug Frazier and Quay Picou clog up the line defensively.

R3 T3 Thomson at R4 T2 Eastside

Eastside fell 48-28 to Griffin last Friday in the Region 4 championship and take a No. 2 seed into the playoffs with a 6-4 record. This will be the first time Eastside and Thomson have ever faced each other. Former Glynn Academy head coach Rob Ridings took over the Thomson program this season and led the Bulldogs to a 4-6 overall record. Thomson started the year 1-4 but finished 3-2 in the second half of the year and grabbed a No. 3 seed.

R5 T4 Fayette County at R6 T1 St. Pius

A 0-2 start to the season is long forgotten as the Golden Lions have won 8 straight. A spread out rushing game with six players over 200 yards is headed by Dalton Wilson who has 595 yards rushing and 11 total touchdowns. The Tigers re-enter the post season for the first time since their 11-1 season in 2007. Robert Easterwood III impacts the game on both sides of the ball. The electric and elusive Daveion Nash is versatile on offense playing both quarterback and wide receiver.

R8 T3 Stephens County at R7 T2 Pickens 

Stephens County finished with a 5-2 record within a tought Region 8-AAAA along with going a perfect 4-0 in road matchups. Their run-oriented offense carries three Indians that ran for more than 500 yards on the season. Quarterback Mason Long can also sling the rock, passing for 1,313 yards and 15 touchdowns on the year. The Dragons averaged 39 points per game thanks to a tremendous season by running back Shannon Brooks. The senior ran for 2,159 yards with 30 scores on just 211 touches and looks to cause havoc alongside junior Marcus Byrd who compiled 894 yards and 11 touchdowns.

R1 T4 Bainbridge at R2 T1 West Laurens

Jeff Littleton has led Bainbridge into the playoffs in each of his two seasons at the helm. Bainbridge sits at 6-4 and comes off a huge 14-9 win over Thomas County Central last Friday. 7-3 West Laurens is guaranteed its first winning season since 2005 and the Raiders’ Region 2 championship this season was just the second time in school history that West Laurens grabbed a region title. West Laurens comes off an impressive 21-14 win over Mary Persons.

R4 T3 Locust Grove at R3 T2 Burke County

Clint Satterfield has been head coach at Locust Grove since 2009 and has won a career-best eight games this season as his Wildcats enter the playoffs. Locust Grove has key victories over Eastside and Jonesboro this year. Burke County edged Thomson 21-14 last Friday for the No. 2 seed out of Region 3. Burke County won the Class AAA title in 2011 and has won 51 games the past five seasons under head coach Eric Parker.

R6 T4 Lithonia at R5 T1 Woodward Academy

The Champ’s son Elijah Holyfield leads Woodward Academy into the post season after rushing for 1,244 yards and scoring 25 total touchdowns. Jes Sutherland has thrown for 1,411 and 14 touchdowns while ball hawking defensive back Marcus Hyatt has 5 interceptions. Arabia Mountain enters the state playoffs for the first time since 2002 after missing the playoffs last year with the same 6-4 record. Lithonia is 2-7 all-time versus Woodward Academy and last defeated the War Eagles 12-7 in 1986.

R7 T3 Gilmer at R8 T2 North Oconee

Gilmer is one win away from tying a school-record nine wins in a season. The Bobcats topped Heritage-Catoosa 27-20 last Friday for the No. 3 seed out of a solid Region 7 that includes Pickens and Cartersville. North Oconee is led by running back Kawon Bryant. The senior has rushed for 1,471 yards and 19 touchdowns this season.

R2 T4 Veterans at R1 T1 Cairo

Cairo’s last state championship came in 2008 and the Syrupmakers are hoping to ride a defense that allowed just 11.1 point per game this season deep into the playoffs. Veterans won a playoff game for the first time last season and finished 8-4 overall. This year, Veterans started 0-6 but finished the year winning 3-of-4 and snuck into the playoffs with a 3-7 record.


*Team history and information found via

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