Class AAAAAA Quarterfinal previews

Photo by Sonny Kennedy

The 2014 state playoffs have been a spectacle across all six classifications, but the Class AAAAAA field has been especially intriguing. Out of the eight remaining teams, only Colquitt County and Tucker have won state titles before. The upsets have led to one of the most surprising quarterfinal matchups in any classification between Newton and host Etowah. The winner will advance to the state semifinals for the first time and history has already been made heading into the matchup. Etowah is the first Cherokee County school to ever host a quarterfinal matchup.

Neither team has been ranked once this year but have collectively knocked out Valdosta, Central Gwinnett, South Forsyth and Westlake this postseason. Newton quarterback Romario Johnson has passed for 418 yards while rushing for 146 yards in the Rams’ two playoff wins. Etowah is paced by sophomore running back Tyray Devezin, who rushed for 152 yards in a 23-6 victory over Westlake last week.

The winner of Etowah and Newton will face the winner of Hillgrove at Archer. This is an epic battle between two of Class AAAAAA’s newest programs and most explosive offenses. Hillgrove played its first full varsity season in 2007 and Archer opened its doors for the first time in 2009. Hillgrove is in the quarterfinals for a third time in five years and looks to advance to the semifinals for the second consecutive season. The Hawks topped Douglas County and Roswell in the playoffs and have averaged 50.7 points per game the past six weeks. Archer rides a 9-game winning streak after starting the season 0-3 and have posted 42.3 points per game the last six weeks. Archer eliminated two-time defending champion Norcross 38-22 in the first round and then pounded Lee County 56-13 last week. Archer quarterback Gabe Tiller has tossed nine touchdowns in the Tigers’ two playoff victories. Hillgrove quarterback Matthew Wilson has thrown four touchdowns in each of the Hawks’ playoff victories.

Tucker hosts McEachern on Friday after pulling off a huge 26-23 victory over Grayson in the second round. Tucker defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter, who is committed to Georgia, returned a Grayson fumble 45 yards for the winning touchdown in. Tucker averages 294.6 yards rushing, 86.0 passing and Delvin Weems paces the backfield. Elijah Sullivan is an Auburn commit that plays both ways and he scored a pair of touchdowns in last week’s win over Grayson. McEachern has caught fire in the playoffs and the biggest improvement has come on the defensive side of the ball. After falling to Hillgrove 42-37 in the Region 4 championship, the Indians have given up 8.5 points per game in the playoffs. Offensively, Bailey Hockman continues his breakout sophomore season under center. Hockman has thrown 36 touchdowns this season including 17 to fellow sophomore Tyler Smith and 16 to Duke-commit T.J. Rahming.

The winner of McEachern at Tucker will face the winner of Milton at Colquitt County. This is the first time Milton and Colquitt County have ever met on the gridiron and the undefeated and No. 1-ranked Packers are heavy favorites. Colquitt County has scored 113 points in its two playoff victories and will test a Milton defense that has given up just 14 total points in the first two rounds. Milton is allowing just 75 yards rushing per game and held Hughes to 28 last week in a 17-14. Eagles’ linebacker Quarte Sapp (committed to Auburn) is one of the best players in the state. The Milton offense is led by Micco Brisher, who has rushed for 1,139 yards on the season. Brisker is the strongest kid in the state and a state champion power lifter that runs right at defenders.

Colquitt County is led by running back Sihiem King. The senior scored six touchdowns in a 51-30 win over Dacula last week and ran in five more scores in the first round. The Packers are the only remaining undefeated team in Class AAAAAA and have topped their opponents by an average 30.6 points per game this season.


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