Sometimes it just works out this way. Four of the best teams in the state actually reached the semifinal round.
No. 1 Buford, No. 2 Stockbridge, No. 4 Rome and No. 5 Kell are the participants. (No. 3 Carrollton had the misfortune of drawing Buford in the third round.) Buford and Stockbridge have held down the No. 1 and No. 2 spots all year. Kell has never been lower than fifth in the rankings and Rome has never been lower than ninth.
No. 5 Kell (11-2) at No. 1 Buford (12-1)
Playoff path: Kell d. Southwest DeKalb 31-22, d. Starr’s Mill 31-3, d. Woodland 52-29. Buford d. North Springs 45-7, d. Jones County 56-26, d. Carrollton 34-27.
Series record: This is the first meeting between the two teams.
Offensive strengths: Kell – The Longhorns have a balanced offense that features quarterback John Lampley (1,906 yards, 16 touchdowns) and running back Josiah Futral (1,103 yards, 11 TDs). The Longhorns average 152 yards passing and 199 yards rushing per game. Buford – Has two breakaway running backs in Anthony Grant and Christian Turner, the latter who ran for 276 yards and four TDs last week against Carrollton. The offensive line is big, strong and experienced.
Defensive strengths: Kell – Linebacker Solon Page III (a Tennessee commit) is one of the best at his position. He’s been involved with 161 tackles and has 22 tackles for loss. Jamontae Holt, another linebacker, is equally active with 125 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Ismail Dabdoub leads the team with 10 sacks. Buford – Linebackers are outstanding T.D. Roof (Georgia Tech) has a motor that won’t stop and Jake Simpson (Wake Forest) works the middle as good as anyone. Anthony Grant may be even better on defense.
Underrated players: Kell – Wide receiver Josh Blanco is the team’s most clutch receiver. The senior has good hands and leads the club with 33 catches and six touchdowns. Buford – Quarterback Mic Roof (East Carolina) probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his cool-headed play and ability to execute under pressure. Defensive lineman Zack Waters, finally healthy, is a load up front.
No. 2 Stockbridge (13-0) at No. 4 Rome (11-2)
Series record: This is the first meeting between the two teams
Offensive strengths: Stockbridge – They may run the triple option (just like Georgia Tech), but the Tigers are a run-only team. They run for 257.2 yards and pass for 110.2 yards per game. Quarterback Kenderick Duncan has thrown for 1,128 yards and run for 707 yards. Jalen Holston leads the team with 1,378 yards and 14 touchdowns. Rome – The Wolves come at you with two 1,000-yard rushers – Jalynn Sykes (1,092 yards, 16 TDs) and Jamious Griffin (1,264 yards, 22 TDs). Quarterback Knox Kadum has thrown for 1,626 yards and run for 556.
Defensive strengths: Stockbridge – There’s strength up front with Aaron Robinson, who has 12.5 sacks, and junior Brenton Cox, who has 18 sacks and 10 hurries. But the Tigers tackle well as a team with 10 players carding 37 tackles or more. Rome – Defensive end Adam Anderson (a Georgia commitment) is considered one of the best players in Georgia and is joined up front by Jaquon Griffin, who is considered by some to be the team’s best defensive player. Outside linebacker Jaylen Giffin has the size and speed to run the quarterback or drop back into coverage.
Underrated players: Stockbridge – Marquez Ezzard is dangerous as a kick returner – he averages 34.3 yards on kickoffs and 17.8 on punts – and as a receiver, where he averages 20.9 yards on 36 catches. Rome – Defensive tackle Jamarcus Chatman doesn’t demand the attention of his teammates, but is powerful, aggressive and physical.