Playoff field shuffles in reclassification’s second year

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Marist QB Chase Abshier (11) is brought down by Blessed Trinity defender JR Bivens during a high school football game, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, in Roswell. (John Amis)

The regular season concluded its 12-week run and the Class AAAA playoffs are HERE. Four region champions defended their titles (Mary Persons, Woodward Academy, Cartersville, Ridgeland) and four new region champions took top seeds (Americus-Sumter, Burke County, Marist, St. Pius). White County and Howard made the playoffs a year after finishing last in their respective regions.

Region 1’s champion Americus-Sumter used a school record 8-2 season to take the top seed and its current 7-game winning streak is the result of sweeping the only eight-team region in this classification clean.

In Region 2, Howard has rebounded from a 1-9 season in 2016 to a 6-4 record this year and a first round trip to Americus-Sumter this Friday. Upson-Lee mirrored Howard by earning last year’s fourth seed and finishing in the bottom of the standings this year.

In Region 3, Burke County spoiled Thomson’s region title defense and has made it look easy with a perfect 10-0 season and 28.3 average margin of victory. Region 4 champion Woodward Academy clinched its fourth straight region championship with its second straight 9-1 regular season. The War Eagles have won eight playoff games in the last three seasons. and will face Richmond Academy in the first round, which has just eight postseason wins since its 1956 state championship.

Two-time defending state champion Cartersville is the classification’s predominant favorite to take this year’s crown and will represent Region 5 in its bid for the three-peat.

In addition to Cartersville and Burke County, Region 6 champion Ridgeland and Region 7 champion Marist will also enter the playoffs at 10-0. Ridgeland has demolished its opponents this year with 47.1 points per game and just 7.7 points per game allowed. Marist has battled arguably the toughest schedule of any of the 10-0 teams and that type of experience is known to serve well. Marist has posted key wins over Lovett (31-14), Baylor (TN) (31-6), St. Pius (17-14), Woodward Academy (34-17), Gainesville (39-14) and Blessed Trinity (25-24) on its path to a perfect regular season.

Region 8 champion St. Pius emerged as the top seed after a punishing start to the season. The Golden Lions lost to Blessed Trinity (35-21), Benedictine (41-13), Marist (17-14), Greater Atlanta Christian (42-14) and Lanier (36-33) to conclude the first half of the season and non-region play winless (0-5). That experience underpinned the a perfect second half of the season and a sweep of Stephens County (27-13), Oconee County (41-13), Jefferson (43-29), North Oconee (56-21) for the top seed.


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