What to watch: Round 2

2nd-rount-2016-class-aa-football-playoff-bracket-with-predictions

Friday kicks off the second round of the AA playoffs and the field will shrink from 16 to eight. There are some intriguing matchups and GHSF Daily takes a look at all of them. To see the previews, go here. For the Maxwell Projections, go here.

When comparing the Maxwell Projections for Round 2 to my predictions, you’ll notice a few differences. Again, the projections are computerized with no human input and rely strictly on data. My predictions are my opinion based on how the season has unfolded.

Perhaps the most notable difference is the projections have the No. 10-ranked Hapeville Charter Hornets advancing to the quarterfinals, where I had them losing in the first round. I stated my reasons for Hornets’ early exit on Tuesday, and it’s clear I missed the mark pretty badly. Now, the Hornets, a No. 1 seed from Region 6, will host the No. 7 Jefferson County Warriors, a No. 2 seed from Region 4.

Everything the Hornets do in the postseason is history. They’ve only had their football program since 2011 and set a record for wins with a 57-6 win over KIPP in the regular season finale, which crowned them region champs for their first-ever playoff berth. Their first playoff game was a shutout victory at home over Monticello, 42-0. Even if they lose, that’s history because it will be their first loss in the playoffs.

Before the playoffs began, I pegged the Warriors to reach the semifinals. They still have a shot, but nothing has come easy for them in their past two games. The Warriors appeared to be on their way to their first undefeated regular season since 2009 before they lost by two scores at home to No. 5 Screven County, a loss that cost them the No. 1 seed. Screven County jumped to a 21-0 lead and was up four scores at one point. Then last week against Swainsboro, the Warriors appeared on their way to a convincing win, leading 29-8 heading into the fourth quarter but didn’t keep their foot on the gas as Swainsboro closed the final margin to a touchdown.

Maxwell Projections have the Hornets as a six-point favorite at home over the Warriors. I’ll stick to my guns and go with Jefferson County as a favorite with its playoff experience — the Warriors have reached the playoffs every year since 2002 – and the presence of longtime coach JB Arnold, who is now in his 16th season with the program.

Another team Maxwell Projections has reaching the quarterfinals that I didn’t is the No. 6 Pepperell Dragons. I had them losing in the second round to Thomasville, a team I thought was on the rise heading into the playoffs. But the Bulldogs lost to the Dodge County Indians in Round 1. If I had to guess now, the Dragons will win this week, as they are a 20-point favorite over the Indians and are coming off a 46-14 win over Spencer that extended their win streak to eight.

The projections agree with me on all other teams I pegged to reach the quarterfinals, and all of those teams are favored to get there with double-digit wins except for the Washington County Golden Hawks. The Hawks, a No. 1 seed from Region 3, is only a two-point favorite over the Chattooga Indians, a No. 3 seed from Region 7.

Before the season began, I labeled the Indians as a dark horse to keep an eye on. They kind of backed into the postseason with a 35-10 loss to Pepperell, and as a result I changed course from the preseason and had them as a first-round exit with a loss to Lamar County. The Trojans were a three-point favorite, but the Indians put their dark horse hats back on and crushed Lamar County 44-14.

Washington County had earned its way into the rankings late in the season, having clinched Region 3 before an inconsequential 27-26 loss to Dublin in the season finale bounced them from the top ten. The Hawks cruised to a 49-22 first-round win over Berrien, so I’ll stick with my pick that they reach the quarterfinals by winning at home.

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