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What to watch: Week 12

Before we get into this week’s top matchups, a few errors were made in Tuesday’s megablog that need corrections:

  • Lamar County’s region record is 2-2.
  • Then-No. 10 Heard County lost to Lamar County 14-11.
  • The current top 10 posted was incorrect. Here is the top 10:

1. (1) Benedictine (9-0)
2. (2) Fitzgerald (8-1)
3. (3) Jefferson County (9-0)
4. (4) Callaway (9-0)
5. (5) Rabun County (8-0)
6. (7) Vidalia (7-2)
7. (8) Screven County (8-1)
8. (9) Pepperell (7-1)
9. (NR) Washington County (8-1)
10. (NR) Thomasville (5-3)
Out: No. 6 Brooks County (6-3), No. 10 Heard County (6-3)

Apologies for the confusion.

Now for the best AA matchups for the final week of the regular season. We’ll look at three games that will serve as region championships. Two of those games feature a matchup of top 10 teams.

In Region 1, the newly-minted No. 10 Thomasville Bulldogs (5-3, 4-0) play at the No. 2 Fitzgerald Purple Hurricane (8-1, 4-0). It’s been stated more than once in this blog space that a Bulldogs win would represent one of the 2016 football season’s top story lines regardless of classification, but it bears repeating. And make no mistake, a Bulldogs win is a long, long shot. This week’s Maxwell Projections don’t give them a chance – Fitzgerald is a 22-point favorite – but the projections also had them losing by 13 points to then-No. 6 Brooks County last week. The Bulldogs won that game 32-16.

Of course, Maxwell’s projection didn’t factor in all the injuries that have depleted a Brooks County has suffered. The Trojans have been making adjustments basically all season after falling into a perpetual next-man-up predicament. So the Bulldogs caught a break by facing a Trojans team that was far from full strength. In addition, the other three region wins came against Berrien (2-2 in league play), Albany (0-4) and Early County (0-4). So the Bulldogs haven’t faced a region test like the one Fitzgerald will bring. That would make a Bulldogs win all the more impressive.

The Purple Hurricane, on the other hand, are on a mission to return to the Georgia Dome, where last year they came within a win of the state championship. They’re locked in and on a mission, riding a four-game win streak, all against region opponents, in which the average score has been 42.5-5. AJC Super 11 running back JD King surpassed 5,000 rushing yards for his career last week and he’ll be eager to add to that total against Thomasville. While it’s the Bulldogs hopes that this game be competitive, if last year – Fitzgerald beat Thomasville 41-14 – is any indication, it won’t be.

(For more on the Thomasville-Fitzgerald matchup, see Glendon Poe’s write up in the Valdosta Daily Times and David Almeda’s in the Thomasville Times-Enterprise.)

In Region 4, the No. 7 Screven County Gamecocks (8-1, 6-0) will play at the No. 3 Jefferson County Warriors (9-0, 6-0). The Warriors are seeking their third 10-0 regular season and first since 2009, when they reached the quarterfinals. No team has come closer to the Warriors than Laney, which lost 24-8 to the Warriors in their region opener on Sept. 16. They’re winning at a 42.6-16.5 average and put up a season-high 65 points last week against Josey. Maxwell Projections have the Warriors continuing their dominance, as they are a 21-point favorite over Screven County. The Warriors also won last year’s matchup over the Gamecocks 44-20.

However, the Gamecocks will easily be the best team the Warriors have played this season. Only two of Jefferson County’s opponents (Savannah Christian, Laney) have winning records. On Aug. 20, the Gamecocks lost their season opener 32-25 to a Bluffton team that’s ranked No. 2 in South Carolina’s AAA. They haven’t lost since. In their last three games, they’ve earned back-to-back shutouts  over Westside-Augusta and Josey and won last week 35-9 over Glenn Hills. Before last year’s blowout loss to the Warriors, they won 12-7 in 2014. Keeping the game close will be a challenge, but the collision course both of these teams are on suggest that’s at least a possibility.

(For more on the Screven County-Jefferson County matchup, the GHSF Daily’s preview.)

In Region 7, the Chattooga Indians (6-3, 5-1) play at the No. 8 Pepperell Dragons (7-1, 6-0). Before the season began, the Indians were picked a dark horse in the first AA blog of the season. By positioning themselves for a region title, they’ve lived up to that billing. They have twin brothers quarterback Isaac and running back Isaiah Foster, who are largely to thank for the team’s success. They do have three losses on their record, including two blowout defeats to non-region opponents Ridgeland (48-7) and Dawson County (30-8). And in region play, Rockmart beat them 17-10. Last year’s game with Pepperell was close however, though the Dragons won 23-18. In fact, the last time the Indians beat the Dragons was in 2004. They’re 0-8 against Pepperell since then.

The Dragons have dominated region play this year, including shutout wins over Gordon Central (69-0) and Armuchee, a 57-0 win that came last week. They also beat then-No. 7 Model 28-14 and knocked it from the rankings, then rocked Rockmart, which was the only other undefeated team in the region, by a score of 31-10 the very next week. Maxwell Projections have the Dragons beating Chattooga by 18 points, and that would mean their first region title since 2006. They’ll look for a big game from Tae Hammond, who had 158 rushing yards on eight carries in the first half of last week’s win.

Other matchups involving ranked AA teams:

  • No. 1 Benedictine (9-0, 6-0 Region 2) at Jeff Davis (2-6, 2-4)
  • Jordan (0-9, 0-4 Region 5) at No. 4 Callaway (9-0, 4-0)
  • No. 5 Rabun County (8-0, 5-0 Region 8) at Monticello (3-6, 3-2)
  • No. 6 Vidalia (7-2, 5-1 Region 2) at Bryan County (3-5, 2-4)
  • Dublin (7-2, 3-2 Region 3) at No. 9 Washington County (8-1, 5-0)

Follow the AJC’s Class AA coverage on Twitter.

Football, Four


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