The Georgia high school football playoffs hit the round of 16 this weekend as 128 teams remain in contention for eight state championships that will be played Dec. 9-10 at the Georgia Dome.
Here are is a look at some of the more intriguing players, teams and matchups as the playoffs move toward the quarterfinals.
*The favorites: Every No. 1-ranked team is in contention. They are Grayson (AAAAAAA), Valdosta (AAAAAA), Buford (AAAAA), Cartersville (AAAA), Greater Atlanta Christian (AAA), Benedictine (AA), Eagle’s Landing Christian (A private) and Clinch County (A public). A year ago, every No. 1 team made the second round, but only two (Colquitt County and Cartersville) finished on top.
*Top players: Nine of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s preseason Super 11 are still suiting up. They are DeAngelo Gibbs and Jamyest Williams of No. 1 Grayson in AAAAAAA, Aubrey Solomon of No. 8 Lee County and Deejay Dallas of No. 9 Glynn Academy in AAAAAA, Malik Herring of No. 7 Mary Persons in AAAA, Davis Mills of No. 1 GAC and Richard LeCounte of No. 7 Liberty County in AAA and J.D. King of No. 2 Fitzgerald and Nathan McBride of No. 8 Vidalia in AA. Out are Jake Fromm, whose Houston County team failed to make the playoffs, and Andrew Thomas, whose Pace Academy team lost in the first round to Mills and GAC.
*Cinderellas: There are eight football-playing public high schools in Chatham County. They had won only one playoff game in 20 years. This season, both Savannah and Jenkins won their first-round Class AAA games last week. Savannah (9-2) had not advanced, or even had a winning season, since 1993. Savannah plays at defending champion Westminster on Friday. Jenkins (10-1) won its first-ever playoff game against Dougherty and now plays No. 5 Cedar Grove at home. The last Savannah public school to make a quarterfinal was Groves in 1974.
*More firsts: Also in the second round for the first time are Arabia Mountain, Hapeville Charter, Heritage-Ringgold, Lambert, North Murray and Woodland-Stockbridge.
*Gone already: For the first time since 1996, when the GHSA expanded the state playoffs to 32 teams per class, every team ranked in the top eight made the sweet 16. Five top-eight teams lost in the first round last year, when No. 2 Stephenson (beaten by Rome) was the highest to fall. This season, four lower-ranked teams lost, most notably No. 9 Marist of AAAA. The War Eagles had been 52-4 in home playoff games under Alan Chadwick until beaten by Sandy Creek 23-20. Also out are No. 10 Stephens County in AAAA, No. 9 Pace Academy in AAA and No. 9 Thomasville in AA.
*Best second-round game: Seventh-ranked Lowndes (9-2) averages 46.9 points per game, the most in the highest classification, and won its first-round game against Hillgrove 92-61. Quarterback Michael Barrett has passed for 2,246 yards and rushed for 1,001. Fifth-ranked Norcross (11-0) has allowed just 118 all season, an average of 10.7.
*More gems: The top-left quarter of Class AAAAAA is loaded. It’s the only one with four ranked teams, and they’ll face off tonight when No. 6 Harrison (10-1) plays No. 4 Tucker (10-1) at Adams Stadium and No. 8 Lee County (8-2) plays No.3 Mays (10-1) at Lakewood Stadium. The winners will play for a berth in the semifinals next week. Region supremacy also is at stake. Lee County’s Region 1 and Mays’ Region 5 each went 4-0 in the first round.
*Title rematch: Also in AAAAAA, Allatoona is playing Glynn Academy in a championship-game rematch. In 2015, Allatoona became the first Cobb County Schools team ever to win a football state title. This time, Glynn Academy (10-1) is favored at home. Allatoona is 6-5.
*Other top games: Eleven others match Top 10 teams. They are No. 9 Loganville at No. 6 Ware County and No. 7 Woodland-Stockbridge at No. 8 Grady (AAAAA), No. 8 Burke County at No. 1 Cartersville (AAAA), No. 8 Lovett at No. 5 Crisp County and No. 10 Jackson at No. 4 Calhoun (AAA), No. 7 Jefferson County at No. 10 Hapeville Charter and No. 8 Vidalia at No. 4 Rabun County (AA) and No. 10 Twiggs County at No. 4 Manchester, No. 7 Taylor County at No. 8 Commerce, No. 9 Stratford Academy at No. 5 Tattnall Square and No. 10 Darlington at No. 6 Landmark Christian (A).
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