Here are the 16 first-round games in the high class, at a glance –
Archer at Peachtree Ridge – Certainly one of the more evenly matched first-round games, it’s a rematch of an Aug. 26 game that Archer won 20-19. These are teams that lost some all-state transfers. For Peachtree Ridge, that would be Breon Dixon and DeAngelo Gibbs. For Archer, that’s Jamyest Williams and Isaiah Pryor. Pryor went to IMG Academy, the rest to Grayson. Wouldn’t bring that up except that they’re playing each other. Both are probably much better than their records – Archer 4-6 and Peachtree Ridge 5-5.
Pebblebrook at Roswell – Pebblebrook is in the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Congrats to Kevin Saunders and his staff as the Falcons have reached a level of respectability. Saunders is the coach who had won a state title in Virginia and came to Georgia, stopping at Cross Keys for one season. This shouldn’t be close, though. Roswell is favored by 40, per the Maxwell Ratings.
Tift County at North Cobb – Always interesting to see how the isolated South Georgia Region 1 does in the first round. This one should be good. Both have excellent QB’s – Tift’s Griffin Collier (2,491 yards passing) and North Cobb’s Will Lovett (1,787). For more on that game, see GHSF Daily’s Top 10 Games of the first round.
Central Gwinnett at Lambert – Lambert is a region champion for the first time, but Region 5 doesn’t get a lot of respect, so the ‘Horns have something to prove. Central Gwinnett averages 36.1 points and gives up 34.1. Jarren Williams has thrown for 2,460 yards. Lambert’s Richie Kenney has thrown for 1,788.
North Gwinnett at South Gwinnett – Maxwell pegs South as a three-point favorite. For more on this game, see GHSF Daily’s Top 10 Games of the first round.
Etowah at Westlake – This is the best game of the first round, per Maxwell, who rates Etowah as a 1-point favorite. Etowah’s Tyray Devezin is the classification’s leading rusher (1,517 yards). Westlake has major D-I recruits Jaden Hunter and A.J. Terrell on defense.
Hillgrove at Lowndes – Hillgrove has won playoff games at Camden County twice, including last year, so South Georgia trips are no extra worry for the Hawks. But they are 5-5 this season and facing their first losing season since playing a full varsity schedule. Lowndes’ Michael Barrett is the best dual-threat QB in the highest class with about 2,000 yards passing, 920 rushing.
Milton at Norcross – Milton (5-5) won three straight games down the stretch to save its season, but Norcross is playing really well. The Blue Devils have the No. 4 scoring offense (38.8 ppg) and No. 5 scoring defense (10.8). QB Baron Radcliff (1,943 yards passing) would be a top football prospect but is head to Georgia Tech for baseball.
Woodstock at East Coweta – East Coweta is in the playoffs for the 20th straight year, but looking to advance for the first time since 2012. Woodstock is going to throw the ball around. Watch for preseason all-state WR Louis Hall.
Mountain View at Grayson – Mountain View is making its first playoff appearance, and it’s expected to be short. Tough draw for a team that tied for second in its region. For more on that game, see GHSF Daily’s Top 10 Games of the first round.
West Forsyth at Brookwood – West Forsyth’s Kiernen Hamilton has thrown for 2,186 yards, seventh-most in the high class. Hard to believe its Brookwood’s first home playoff game since 2010. Brookwood is favored to move on.
North Paulding at Colquitt County – Rematch of the 2015 first round, which Colquitt County won 48-16. This is a much better North Paulding team. It went 7-3 behind QB Ben Bales (2,005 yards passing) and all-state WR Chad Terrell (58-1,099-16).
Wheeler at Cherokee – They’ve played each other 34 times, more than any other first-round pair. Wheeler has won 25 of those, but is the underdog here. Cherokee’s Montrell Washington has having a dynamic year – 584 yards rushing and five touchdowns and 917 yards receiving and eight touchdowns.
Newton at Mill Creek – Mill Creek ranks third in scoring offense (39.8) and third in scoring defense (10-3) and hasn’t come close to losing since the 34-27 win over Colquitt County in the opener. Newton has some weapons, though. Jeremiah Holloman is considered by some the top WR prospect in Georgia.
Parkview at South Forsyth – Both of these teams have spent time in the Top 10. Each has a strong passing game, and the over/under is probably 60-something. Parkview’s Caleb Mitchell has thrown for 2,482 yards, third-most in the high class. South Forsyth’s Davis Shanley has thrown for 1,669 and rushed for 471.
Lassiter at McEachern – Lassiter is a fifth-place finisher and the first GHSA wild card, or at-large berth, as the GHSA is calling it. McEachern has the fourth-rated scoring defense (10.5 ppg) and a veteran QB, Bailey Hockman.