GHSA Football First Round Previews by Class

The Drive to the GHSA State Title kicks off this weekend in what is sure to be two thrilling days of playoff action. Friday night will see six of the eight classifications take the field, while Class 4A and Class 2A will play on Saturday following the GHSA’s decision to move those games to help alleviate potential shortages with playoff-qualified officiating crews. Score Atlanta will be live from Roswell High School on Friday night as the No. 2 seed Hornets host Mill Creek in one of the most anticipated playoff openers in the state. That game will be broadcasted on PeachtreeTV and updates from around the state will be provided to keep fans and viewers up to speed on all the state playoff developments.

Class 7A

Georgia’s top classification is poised for a thrilling first round slate of games that will ultimately set the tone for the remainder of the postseason slate. On the left side of the bracket, top seeds Milton, North Cobb, Collins Hill and East Coweta lead the way, but a deep group of No. 2 seeds that includes Lowndes, Archer, Denmark and Parkview are battle-tested. Additionally, No. 3 seeds Camden County, Discovery, Gainesville and Newton and No. 4 seeds Pebblebrook, Peachtree Ridge, Alpharetta and Marietta will look to shake things up. The top matchups on the left side of the bracket to keep an eye are Gainesville at Archer, Camden County at Parkview and Marietta at East Coweta. Additionally, Denmark will host its first-ever playoff game against Discovery—which is making its playoff debut as a No. 3 seed. On the right side of the bracket, the state’s two highest ranked teams in terms of the national polls (Grayson and Colquitt County) are joined by fellow top seeds Norcross and West Forsyth. More powerhouses are found on the right side, including Roswell, Mill Creek, Newnan, North Gwinnett and Cherokee. According to the Maxwell projections, Mill Creek at Roswell (-1) and McEachern at Walton (+1) are the closest contests.

Class 6A

The Class 6A playoff field has five programs that have claimed state titles within the last five seasons (Lee County, Valdosta, Allatoona, Rome, Buford) and features plenty more title hopefuls. The left side of the bracket has top seeds Evans, Carrollton, Buford and Glynn Academy joined by talented teams like Valdosta Hughes, Kell, Northside-Warner Robins, Lovejoy, Statesboro, Sprayberry, Creekview, Winder-Barrow, Cambridge, Douglas County and Grovetown. The right side of the bracket appears to be equally daunting with the top seeds going to River Ridge, Lee County, Westlake and Allatoona. Among the strongest lower seeds on the right side are No. 2 seeds Dacula, Richmond Hill, Alcovy and Rome. Kennesaw Mountain is a No. 4 seed that will take on River Ridge in the first round. River Ridge is coming off a breakout regular season and Kennesaw Mountain is making its first-ever playoff appearance. The Mustangs closed out their season with a 60-7 win over Osborne that saw running back TJ Jenkins rack up 357 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

Class 5A

Newcomers to Class 5A will be the major storyline this postseason as three-time defending Class 4A state champion Blessed Trinity paces the field. The Titans occupy the right side of the bracket with top seeds Warner Robins, Jones County and New Manchester. The lower seeds strengthening the right side of the bracket are Decatur, Woodward Academy, Griffin, Eastside, Wayne County and Greenbrier. On the left side of the bracket, top seeds Creekside, St. Pius Clarke Central and Starr’s Mill will be challenged by a long list of contenders that includes Coffee, Ola, Cartersville and Ware County. Blessed Trinity is currently a 42-point favorite against Chapel Hill in the first round and has already posted a 34.5 average margin of victory over the course of this season. Cartersville is another heavy favorite in the first round with the Purple Hurricanes getting a 40-point edge over Jackson-Atl. in the Maxwell projections and Warner Robins is projected as a 41-point favorite against Union Grove.

Class 4A

When the latest reclassification cycle restructured the GHSA landscape this past offseason, it was clear that Class 4A was heavily impacted. That conviction of Class 4A’s dramatically new landscape is validated when looking at this year’s first round pairings. Out of the 16 First Round matchups, 13 of them will feature teams meeting for the first time in their histories. The entire left side of the bracket features first-ever meetings and the most recent contests between any of the three rematches on the right side of the bracket (Westside at Bainbridge, Westover at Perry, Central-Carroll at Marist) was all the way back in 2009. Here is a closer look at each of the matchups. Among the most intriguing first round matchups are No. 4 Troup at No. 1 Benedictine, Islands at Hardaway and North Oconee at Fayette County. Benedictine claimed Class 2A state titles in 2014 and 2016 and is making its 10th straight playoff appearance. Troup will appear in its fifth-straight postseason and is flying under the radar as a No. 4 seed. Troup’s two region losses were determined by a combined five points and the team nearly claimed a No. 1 seed this past week before Carver rallied for a 32-29 win. Fayette County is in the playoffs for the first time since 2015 and it has been the program’s dramatic defensive improvements that have led to their homefield advantage in the first round. Fayette County went from allowing 28.3 ppg this past season to this year’s 10.3 ppg. Their defense will be put to the test against North Oconee, which carries a 4-5 overall record into kickoff and boasts an offense with a 31.22 ppg average.

Class 3A

The most interesting aspect of the playoffs in 3A involves top-ranked Cedar Grove’s forfeiture of four games during the regular season for playing an ineligible player. The Saints, which were undefeated at the time, fell to 1-4 and lucked into the No. 3 seed from 5-3A after gaining a win against Douglass, which was deemed a forfeit and not a COVID-19 ‘no-contest’. Cedar Grove, in the bottom-right quadrant of the bracket, will likely meet No. 4 Crisp County in the quarterfinals for a rematch of last year’s championship game which Cedar Grove won 21-14. In the bottom-left quadrant of the bracket No. 3 Peach County and No. 2 Oconee County are the favorites. Oconee will be tested in the first round by the 5-3A four-seed, Westminster. Since 2014 Westminster has won a state title in 2015 and been to the quarterfinals three times and the semifinals once. The Wildcats are 10-3 in playoff games on the road since 2014 with seven road playoff victories over top-10 teams. Peach will have to go through Johnson-Savannah and either Thomson/Tattnall County before a possible quarterfinal matchup with Oconee, the 2019 4A runner-up.  In the top-right quadrant, No. 5 Pierce County is the favorite and is coming off a 28-21 victory over No. 7 Appling County, which gave the Bears the region title in 1-3A. Appling is favorited in the top-left quadrant alongside No. 6 Greater Atlanta Christian and an unranked Southeast Bulloch program which could cause a stir.

Class 2A

Two classifications – Class 2A and Class A Private – have already seen a COVID cancellation and in this class, Banks County was forced to cancel against No. 9 Callaway. Two programs – No.1 Fitzgerald and No. 4 Thomasville are favored by AJC’s Class 2A blogger Adam Krohn to meet in the championship game according to his yearly playoff predictions. Thomasville’s path, from the top-left quadrant – could go through Callaway in the quarterfinals. In the bottom-left quadrant, No. 2 Rabun County is likely to meet No. 10 Vidalia in the quarterfinals. According to Krohn’s predictions, Vidalia wins in an upset over Rabun, however, the AJC’s Maxwell projections have Rabun County meeting Fitzgerald in the finals — after beating Vidalia — as the most likely outcome. According to the AJC Maxwell Playoff Projections – out of 1,000,000 simulations of the season – Fitzgerald wins the title 653,992.18 times and Rabun wins the title 197,525.80 times. Then, there is a large drop off as Thomasville wins the title 58,180.71 times and Callaway wins 34,001.66. One program – South Atlanta – is trying for its first playoff victory for a school that began playing football in 1994 and is a 21-point favorite against Chattooga in the opening round. The Maxwell projections has South Atlanta advancing to the semifinals 100,782.52 times out of 1,000,000 season simulations.

Class A Public

According to the Maxwell Projections, No. 1 Metter winning its first-ever state title over No. 4 Brooks County is the most-likely outcome out of 1,000,000 playoff computer simulations. However, the numbers vary relatively equally between four programs – Metter, Brooks County, No. 5 Irwin County and No. 3 Dublin. Metter is the favorite to win the championship 272,424.56 times. Brooks County wins 239,949.94 times. Irwin County wins 220,424.69 times and Dublin, the 2019 2A champions, win the title 137,626.08 times. According to Maxwell, the most-likely semifinal matchups are Metter winning over Irwin County and Brooks County winning over No. 10 Chattahoochee County. Metter’s average depth in the playoffs is 3.11 rounds according to Maxwell while Irwin County has the deepest average depth at 3.14 rounds. Metter and Dublin should meet in the semifinals on the left side of the bracket. On the bottom-right quadrant of the bracket, Dublin and Brooks County should meet in the second round for a contest which will have a championship game atmosphere.

Class A Private

One game – Landmark Christian vs. Calvary Day – has been decided due to Landmark’s COVID-19 protocol and Calvary Day will advance. However, the main question in this bracket is the same as its been for the past five years — Can anyone stop No. 2 Eagle’s Landing Christian? The Chargers have won five consecutive A Private titles but, according to the Maxwell Projections, the ELCA will not even make the semifinals and top-ranked Prince Avenue will win the championship over No. 3 Fellowship Christian. Prince Avenue – led by five-star quarterback and Georgia-commit Brock Vandagriff — is a heavy favorite and wins the title 460,269.70 times out of 1,000,000 computer simulations. Fellowship Christian wins the championship 244,978.68 times ahead of ELCA’s 90,731.83 victories. However, computers do not account for a dynasty-like streak that ELCA has put together in the postseason. The Maxwell projections state that Prince Avenue will beaty Mount Vernon, Darlington, ELCA and No. 8 Savannah Christian before its title game against Fellowship. ELCA, however, is still favorited to win the championship 90,731.83 times ahead of No. 4 Athens Academy’s 81,457.12 times.



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