What to watch: Week 1

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Fitzgerald quarterback James Graham and the No. 3 Purple Hurricane travel to Atlanta to take on No. 2 Hapeville Charter on Friday in the season opener for both teams. (Jason Getz/For the AJC)

The top Class AA game of opening week is without question No. 3 Fitzgerald at No. 2 Hapeville Charter, a rematch of last year’s AA semifinals which the Purple Hurricane won 42-21. For more on the matchup, see Georgia High School Football Daily’s preview found in Top 10 games of Week 1.

Here’s more of what to watch in AA for Week 1:

Friday’s games

No. 1 Benedictine Cadets at AAAAAA’s No. 9 Glynn Academy Red Terrors
When/where: 7:30 p.m. at Glynn County Stadium (Brunswick)
2016 Records: Benedictine went 15-0; Glynn Academy went 11-2.
Last meeting: Benedictine won 24-7 in last year’s season opener for both teams.
Maxwell’s projection: Benedictine by 7
Notes: This is the second year in a row these two teams have started the season against each other and Benedictine leads the all-time series 41-20-1. The Cadets will look to build their win streak off of last year’s final record while the Red Terrors look to break a six-game losing streak to Benedictine. The Red Terrors last beat the Cadets in 1998.

No. 8 Brooks County Trojans at Cook Hornets
When/where: 7:30 p.m. at Cook Memorial Stadium
2016 Records: Brooks County went 8-4; Cook went 5-6.
Last meeting: Brooks County won 21-14 in last year’s opener for both teams.
Maxwell’s projection: Brooks County by 10
Notes: It took overtime for the Trojans to come away with a win last season, and the victory set the tone for their 4-0 start that progressed to a 6-1 record before they ended the season losing three of their last five. They’re hoping for a stronger finish than last season, when they were on track for a second straight region title before falling to third place. The Hornets are a long-time rival and the all-time series is nearly even, with a 27-23 edge going to Brooks County. Cook’s last series win was a 54-12 blowout in 2010, when the Hornets finished 12-1 — their last double-digit win season.

No. 6 Callaway Cavaliers at LaGrange Grangers
When/where: 7:30 p.m. at Callaway Stadium (LaGrange)
2016 Records: Callaway went 13-1; LaGrange went 2-8.
Last meeting: Callaway won 37-6 in last year’s opener for both teams.
Maxwell’s projection: Callaway by 14
Notes: These teams — located 5.5 miles apart — will open the season against each other for the fourth consecutive year. The rivals have alternated wins since 2014 and if that trend continues, the Grangers will win in an upset. That won’t be easy though, as a lot has changed since the Grangers beat Callaway 44-20 in 2015. The Cavs are on a 19-game regular season winning streak.

No. 9 Jefferson County Warriors at Savannah Christian Raiders
When/where: 7:30 p.m. at Pooler Stadium (Pooler)
2016 Records: Jefferson County went 10-2; Savannah Christian went 7-4.
Last meeting: Jefferson County won 40-7 in last year’s opener for both teams.
Maxwell’s projection: Jefferson County by 8
Notes: This is just the second time these two schools have met. This year, it’s the Warriors’ turn to make the 122-mile commute that distances the two programs. It will be a battle of two long-time coaches, with JB Arnold leading the Warriors since 2001 and Donald Chumley leading the Raiders since 2005. Chumley holds the distinction of being Mr. Irrelevant, having been the last selection in the 1985 NFL Draft out of the University of Georgia.

No. 10 Rockmart Yellow Jackets at Cedartown Bulldogs
When/where: 7:30 p.m. at Doc Ayers Field at Cedartown Memorial Stadium
2016 Records: Rockmart went 9-3; Cedartown went 5-5.
Last meeting: Cedartown won 35-7 on Aug. 26, 2016.
Maxwell’s projection: Cedartown by 7
Notes: The Yellow Jackets begin the season ranked thanks to a strong finish to 2016 that included a 42-0 playoff victory over Heard County. But to keep their ranking past opening week they’ll have to beat a crosstown rival that has absolutely owned them. Not only does Cedartown hold a 49-21-2 edge in the all-time series, but the Jackets are on a seven-game losing streak to the Bulldogs dating back to 2010. Cedartown has outscored Rockmart 222-90 during its current win streak.

Douglass Astros at AAA No. 3 Calhoun Yellow Jackets
When/where: 7:30 p.m. at Phil Reeve Stadium
2016 Records: Douglass went 8-4; Calhoun went 10-3.
Last meeting: Calhoun won 28-0 in last year’s opener for both teams.
Maxwell’s projection: Calhoun by 34
Notes: The unranked Astros will look to build off last season, which saw them reach the postseason for the first time since 2007 and win their first round game 28-7 over Elbert County. Facing perennial power Calhoun out of the gate may prove to be too tall of an order, but keeping the game close is a goal that could go a long way toward the Astros positioning themselves for another postseason run. They haven’t made consecutive playoff appearances since 2003-05.

Saturday’s games

No. 4 Screven County Gamecocks vs. Bluffton (S.C.) Bobcats
When/where: 8 p.m. at Paulson Stadium (Georgia Southern)
2016 Records: Screven County went 11-2; Bluffton went 12-1.
Last meeting: Blufton won 32-25 last year in the season opener for both teams.
Maxwell’s projection: N/A (no projections provided for interstate matchups)
Notes: The Gamecocks look to build on last season’s quarterfinals finish in which they came within seconds of reaching the semifinals if not for a miraculous Callaway rally. They’ve hit double-digit win totals the past three seasons and three of the last four. They’ll close out the Sixth Annual Erk Russell Classic — a two-day event — against the Bobcats, who enter the season as The Palmetto State’s No. 3 team in AAA according to The State. They also finished as state runner-ups in the AAA tournament.

 


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