What to watch: Week 9

The Week 9 schedule for AA begins on Thursday when the No. 9 Heard County Braves (5-1) travel to the No. 5 Callaway Cavaliers (6-0) in a key Region 5 matchup. Both teams are 1-0 in league play, and the winner will take a big step toward cementing a No. 1 seed. Spencer (4-2, 1-0) is the region’s only other team without a region loss.

The Braves are coming off a bye preceded by a 41-0 win over Temple, and the Cavs beat Lamar County 38-7 last week. It was the region opener for both teams. The Cavs have won the last three meetings against Heard County, including edging out a 20-17 win last year. That loss is surely singed into the minds of all Braves players still on the team, as Heard County had jumped to a 17-0 lead.

Maxwell projections have Callaway as a 24 point favorite, so if the Cavs live up to that standard there could surely be a new member in next week’s top 10 with Heard County exiting.

For more on this matchup, see previews from GHSF Daily and LaGrange Daily News.

The rest of AA’s ranked teams play on Friday. We’ll start at the top in Region 2, with the No. 1 Benedictine Cadets (6-0, 3-0) traveling to play the Toombs County Bulldogs (5-1, 3-0). While both teams have impressive records, Maxwell projects a 34-point win for the Cadets. However, the projections don’t factor in what the Cadets have endured over the past week-plus with Hurricane Matthew. It’s possible Matthew gives the Bulldogs an advantage to lean on over Benedictine, the Savannah-based school that remains closed, with its community displaced.

This game was originally slated to take place in Savannah and was to serve as Benedictine’s homecoming game. But Benedictine was still without power as of Monday and the school remains closed through this week, so the game had to be moved to Toombs. In case you missed it in Tuesday’s blog post, there’s a link of Toombs County athletic director Bill Benton speaking to ToombsNow about the decision to move the game from Benedictine and how that affects the teams moving forward.

It will be interesting to see how the Cadets respond to the adversity. They’re coming off a bye, and only returned to the practice field on Tuesday. Savannah was ordered to evacuate during Matthew’s tear through the city so the team has been fractured for most of the week. If there were ever a time the Cadets were vulnerable heading into a matchup they’re supposed to win, it would be this week.

Despite Matthew, Benedictine has played at an extremely high level this year and the closest a team has come to them is 14 points. And that was St. Pius X, which at time was AAAA’s No. 6 team. The Cadets have already beat another of Region 2’s top teams, Vidalia, 27-6 on Sept. 23. A win over the Bulldogs and the No. 1 seed is theirs barring an unforeseen collapse.

The Bulldogs have turned their program around after finishing 2-8 the last two seasons. They’ve had just one winning season since 2008 and are 5-1 for the first time since 2007. They’re coming off a 49-0 win over Jeff Davis, and their only loss was 24-17 to a highly-regarded Twiggs County team that’s ranked No. 6 in A-public.

The Cadets and Bulldogs have played twice and split those games, with the Cadets winning 51-13 in 2013 and Toombs County winning 14-12 in 2012.

For more on this game, check out previews from GHSF Daily (linked above) and ToombsNow.

Another game to keep an eye on will be played in Region 7, where the Rockmart Yellow Jackets (5-1, 3-0) travel to the newly-minted No. 10 Pepperell Dragons (4-1, 3-0). Most likely, at stake in this matchup is a spot in the rankings. But more importantly it’s a pivotal league game as these programs are the two remaining unbeatens in Region 7.

The Dragons are coming off a bye and beat then-No. 7 Model 28-14 the week before. They’ve bulldozed their way through league play thus far, outscoring Gordon Central, Coosa and Model a combined 142-24. They’re 15 point favorites over Rockmart in the Maxwell projections and beat them 50-13 last year.

Rockmart has also run up the score against league opponents Armuchee, Dade County and Chattooga by outscoring them 121-16, though the Chattooga game was a close 17-10 win. They’ve traded wins with Pepperell every year dating back to 2009, lasting winning 34-32 in 2014.

Other matchups involving ranked AA teams: Berrien (3-3, 1-1 Region 1) at No. 2 Fitzgerald (5-1, 1-0); Butler (2-4, 1-2 R4) at No. 3 Jefferson County (7-0, 4-0); Social Circle (2-5, 1-2 R8) at No. 5 Rabun County (5-0, 2-0); Albany (0-6, 0-1 R1) at No. 6 Brooks County (5-1, 1-0); No. 7 Vidalia (4-2, 2-1 AA) at Jeff Davis (1-4, 1-2); Westside, Augusta (1-5, 0-3 R4) at No. 8 Screven County (5-1, 3-0).

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