Road to the Georgia Dome about to get bumpier

FootballIt’s been easy street to the quarterfinals for many of Georgia’s best high school football teams.

For the first time in history, every team in the top four of the final Atlanta Journal-Constitution regular-season poll has made it to the elite eight. They went 56-0 in the first two rounds.

Now, it’s about to get interesting as 25 of 32 games Friday night pit Top 10 teams against each other, and No. 1-ranked teams face their most dangerous games so far.

Grayson, No. 1 in the highest classification, must travel to two-time defending champion Colquitt County, where the home team is 9-0 in the playoffs under coach Rush Propst.

No. 1 Buford of Class AAAAA gets a visit from No. 3 Carrollton, while No. 1 Cartersville of AAAA travels to No. 3 Woodward Academy.

In the Class A private-school division, No. 1 Eagle’s Landing Christian, the reigning champion, faces Wesleyan, a team that the Chargers narrowly escaped 34-31 in the regular season.

Here’s a look at more facts, figures and forecasts of the third round as Georgia moves a step closer to the state championships Dec. 9-10 at the Georgia Dome.

*As expected: Teams ranked in the top four have made the quarterfinals only 74.5 percent of the time over the past 10 seasons. This year, all 32 made it. Only two unranked teams, Coffee and Irwin County, made the quarterfinals when they had a ranked team in their path.

*New to all this: Woodland-Stockbridge (AAAAA), Liberty County (AAA) and Hapeville Charter (AA) and are in the quarterfinals for the first time. Pierce County (AAA), Chattooga (AA), Rabun County (AA) and Fellowship Christian (A) have been in the quarters but never moved on to the semifinals.

*Old to all this: Buford has made the quarterfinals for the 17th consecutive time. They’re 14-2 in the previous 16. Colquitt County is trying to reach the semifinals for the eighth straight time. No other team in the highest class has made the semifinals more than four times in a row.

*Underdogs: Chattooga is the only team left that hasn’t been ranked at least one week this season. The Indians have beaten Lamar County 44-14 and Region 3-AA champion Washington County 38-7 on the road after just a 6-4 finish in the regular season. They play at No. 10 Hapeville Charter on Friday.

*Hot spots: Roswell, Blessed Trinity and Fellowship Christian – located within a mile of each other in Roswell – are in the quarterfinals. So are Stockbridge, Woodland of Stockbridge and Eagle’s Landing Christian, which are within five miles of each other in Henry County, and all are at home Friday night.

*Best games: The most intriguing matchup is probably the Colquitt-Grayson game. Another gem is No. 4 Tucker vs. No. 3 Mays in a AAAAAA game at Lakewood Stadium. No. 3 Mill Creek travels to No. 4 McEachern in the highest class. It’s also early to be seeing No. 2 Peach County at No. 3 Westminster (AAA) or No. 4 Rabun County at No. 2 Fitzgerald (AA). All those teams are region champions, and coin tosses decided the home teams.

*Top performers: Lowndes quarterback Michael Barrett has averaged 311.0 yards passing and 207.5 rushing in two playoff wins. Greene County running back Devin Wynn has scored 11 touchdowns in two rounds and rushed for 2,241 yards on the season after a 306-yard game last week against Pelham. Rabun County quarterback Bailey Fisher has passed for 423 yards and four touchdowns and run for 220 yards and six scores in two playoff wins.

*Record-setters: Griffin quarterback Tylan Morton needs 247 passing yards to break Hutson Mason’s single-season record of 4,560 set in 2009. Morton stands at 4,314 as his team gets ready to play at second-ranked Stockbridge in AAAAA. Macon County quarterback K’hari Lane has thrown 47 touchdown passes, seven short of Mason’s record of 54.

*Marquee players: The AA game between No. 1-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian and No. 7 Liberty County pits the state’s top two college prospects. GAC quarterback Davis Mills (committed to Stanford) is the consensus No. 1. Liberty all-purpose man Richard LeCounte (Georgia) is No. 2.  Of the state’s 33 players rated four stars or above by consensus, 18 are still playing, five at Grayson alone: Chase Brice, DeAngelo Gibbs, Jamyest Williams, Tony Gray and Breon Dixon. The others are Tre Shaw and Netori Johnson of Cedar Grove, DeeJay Dallas of Glynn Academy, Bailey Hockman of McEachern, LeAnthony Williams and Xavier McKinney of Roswell, William Poole III of Hapeville Charter, Markaviest Bryant of Crisp County, A.J. Terrell and Jaden Hunter of Westlake and Malik Herring of Mary Persons.

*From here: Only 32 teams will survive to next week’s semifinals. Coin flips will take place late Friday and Saturday morning to determine home teams in the event that region champions and other same-seeded teams are paired in the semifinals.

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